Most of you are aware of the leadership challenges and changes at Uber, the company some of us love or hate.
It all started with founder Travis Kalanick, who rose with the company as its first CEO and really defined the hard knock culture that ultimately took him down. Things got too crazy and Kalanick was out, replaced by the Uber board by former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi - primary to bring grown up leadership to the company that defined an entirely new business segment (ridesharing).
And for the most part, Khosrowshahi has done that. If you've watched any TV recently, you've seen him featured in Uber commercials saying that the company is rebuilding itself in a responsible way.
Khosrowshahi is the equivalent of a dad in this rebuild. And sometimes Dads try to be hip and it all goes to hell. Such was the case recently at Uber, when Khosrowshahi penned a memo asking "WHO HAS THE D", which immediately sent everyone with Snapchat (and perhaps even Instagram) loaded on their smartphone snickering. More on this memo from Gizmodo:
"When he took over the company in August of last year, Dara Khosrowshahi was tasked with rehabilitating the fratboy image of Uber—a company where harassment was rampant, and internal memos had to advise employees how not to have sex with their coworkers. But based on a leaked memo, less than a year into the new CEO’s tenure, Khosrowshahi has been giving “the D” to staffers in meetings.
Fortunately we’re not talking about any sort of sexual impropriety (to the best of our knowledge). The memo, obtained by Business Insider, outlines a method to avoid bureaucratic bloat, where Khosrowshahi writes:
You may hear me say in meetings ‘[insert name] has the D here’. This is about being clear on who is the decision maker; I’d encourage you to do the same."
“they must [...] elevate the issue to the person with the D.”
“the person with the D needs good business judgment”
“The buyers were given the D”
“there may be good reasons to locate the D”
“the D resided with headquarters”
“who is responsible for providing valuable input and who has the D”
“The theme here is a lack of clarity about who has the D”
Urban Dictionary cites “the D” as a synonym for penis—and by synecdoche, a form of sex—going back to 2004. Uber’s worst days may be behind it, but perhaps this is a sign the company is entering a golden age of public gaffes that are fun instead of deeply upsetting.
Yes. Uber is run by your dad. And when Dads act cool and trendy, bad things can happen.
When Dads are CEOs and their communications leaders/PR/HR people are older Dads and Moms, memos like this happen.
Somewhere in the last month, Dara brought up "the D" in a leadership meeting. He was frustrated by decision speed and the amount of meetings he saw in the company. He thought they had grown to0 bloated in their concerns not to make mistakes.
He remembered the HBR article, and informed everyone on the leadership team that somebody "had to have the D". He said he was going to send a memo the entire company.
No one stopped him, or said that aloud to themselves later and googled it. Hilarious.
If this isn't a theme in the next season of HBO's Silicon Valley next year, I'm canceling my subscription.