Frei – who joined Uber from Harvard Business School in June 2017 – discussed this subject during a session at Advertising Week 2017.
And she reported that her first impressions of the firm had been in stark contrast to a range of negative headlines, which have included questions about senior management practices and overly aggressive business tactics.
“When I got to Uber, I found just extraordinarily good people at every turn,” said Frei. (For more details, read WARC’s in-depth report: Uber gets a strategic management makeover.)
“I was trying to figure it out. Why was all this bad stuff happening? … There were more than 14,900 really, really good people there who wanted to change the world [in] earnest. What the heck was the problem?”
Among the issues highlighted by Frei was an organization that operated in silos, inexperienced managers and the need for a shared vision to guide decision-making – all common business problems that were placed into a unique context at Uber.
“I looked at those three things and said, ‘If we fix those, this thing can be a rocket ship.’ I had seen every one of the problems before, it’s just the Uber context of hyper-growth that was unusual,” she said.
The more recent roadblocks facing Uber have included the news that its license will not be renewed in London, and a brewing legal tussle with Phunware, an ad-tech company.
Frei, who is implementing a leadership development program for all Uber employees, believes a central element of driving progress at the firm will be to avoid playing “Whac-A-Mole” by trying to excel in every possible area of the business.
“Organizations that try to be great at too many things tragically end up with exhausted mediocrity. This well-intentioned desire to get better, and better, and better, almost always leads to exhaustion, and not to enduring excellence,” she said.
“Pick the things that you’re going to be great at, and be super-duper comfortable with the things you’re going to be bad at … You need to be bad in the service of great.”
Data sourced from WARC