Firing or keeping Yang not the key to Yahoo's future

Yahoo's Jerry Yang gets roughed up by the blogosphere after his latest appearance. But the fate of the company depends less on any single person--including the CEO.

Brutal.

That's the only way to describe the reviews of Jerry Yang's time on stage for his interview with John Battelle at the Web 2.0 conference in San Francisco.

Everyone, it seems, had a piece of advice for Yang.

Forbes' Elizabeth Corcoran suggested he develop an "iron fist" approach to enforce corporate discipline.

GigaOm's Om Malik suggested that Yang suffered from "a sense of tragic self-delusion."

TechCrunch's Michael Arrington was in an off-with-his-head mood and concluded: "It's long past time for change. Yang must go."

Some or all of the above may be true. But is the digerati missing what's happening on the ground at Yahoo? It's easy to pick on Yang as the face of feckless incompetence in the face of the mother of all financial storms. But the focus on personality misses the bigger story of what's getting done on the ground. The question is time.

Does Yang--or whoever inherits his seat--have that luxury? While Yahoo gets rewired and redone in anticipation of a grand morphing into its next incarnation, the upheaval in the economy has narrowed management's room to maneuver. With the stock bouncing around near all-time low levels, the pressure from shareholders to do something drastic mounts.

Such is the problem of any publicly traded company during a time of crisis: what's the right balance to strike between long-term planning and short-term attention to the needs of the ultimate owners, the shareholders?

The answer to that question will decide the fate of the company, whether it makes it or gets put out of its misery. Jerry Yang at the helm or no Jerry Yang.

 

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