Yahoo Calls In Steve Jobs to Inspire VPs

Instead of the rumored mass firing expected to take place at last week's all-day meeting of top Yahoo execs in Sunnyvale, attendees were treated to real goals and concrete plans from company leadership, and a guest appearance from Apple CEO Steve Jobs to provide an extra burst of inspiration, according to Kara Swisher.

What do you do when you want to inject a little inspiration into a company that needs a lot of it? Do you hold an all-day meeting of top execs where you actually outline specific goals and exhibit better leadership? Do you admit your corporate culture is a little weak and promise to focus on strengthening it? Do you trot out all the senior execs and let them talk about their concrete plans (and, better still, actually prepare them to deliver their spiel with some level of quality)? Do you do some post-lunch touchy-feely group exercises to get people talking?

Best of all, if you really want to send things over the top, do you bring out an icon so beloved as to give goosebumps to explain to the troops how he managed to turn his once-beleaguered and now-soaring company around?

All that and more occurred on Friday at Yahoo HQ as CEO Jerry Yang and President Sue Decker really put on a show that seemed to resonate with the 300-plus top Yahoo executives (vice president and above) gathered there, capped by an appearance by Apple's Steve Jobs, who is apparently now Silicon Valley's equivalent of Oprah.

The company is 76 days into the return of Yang as CEO, following the departure of Terry Semel from that role in June. While Yang had promised a "100-day review," he has since backed off from a concrete timetable. Regardless of the timetable, it's clear that changes are already afoot, and more are planned at Yahoo, the perennial second-place search engine.

According to Swisher, much of the focus of Yang's plans revolve around an "ecosystem" that centers on the interplay of advertisers, publishers, and consumers. Plans include building out Yahoo's ad network, using its "consumer insights" to improve ad targeting, creating a corporate culture open to new ideas, and a more open developer network, Swisher said.