Watts (chipotle) wrote,

Nebulously bad feelings

The afternoon at work was more than a little frustrating--an endless battle to run what should have been very simple queries. Excel locked up. Access locked up. Mozilla locked up, when I was trying to download a demo version of Crystal Reports, ironically.

This was capped off by a surprise all-hands meeting to reveal information that was supposedly very confidential, but which I see now has already been officially posted on company forums: CEO Tom Melcher resigned today.

Now, speaking generally it isn't necessarily bad when a CEO leaves a startup. There's a perception that people who are good at founding companies aren't necessarily as good running them, and there's some truth to that--particularly in the tech world, there's a stark difference between a company's design and implementation phase and the maintenance phase. For a company that's as big as an IBM, people can gravitate to their best location--visionaries can be in charge of the R&D group. For a small company, it's not always that easy. Sometimes "vision" just isn't what a company needs as a direction.

The flip side of that is, of course, that sometimes vision is what a company needs as a direction. While There's implementationhas been by a small team of brilliant people that's completely intact, There's original vision and design was by two people. One of them all but left the company a few months ago to work on what could be described in a non-NDA-breaking way as a related but independent project. The other left today. There's absolutely no question that the overall thrust of the company's product/service is a reflection of the CEO's vision and enthusiasm; this is, as he told interviewers, something he's been dreaming of since he was a teenager.

So the question is, is this the right time in the company's history to make that shift? Sometimes changing even a good leader takes you to great places. Coming from Tampa, I can tell you that fans there screamed loudly when the Bucs sacked coach Tony Dungy and replaced him with Jon Gruden--and of course, Gruden led the team to its first Superbowl in his first year.

Nobody would have described Dungy as a visionary, though, so maybe that's a bad analogy. You'd describe Steve Jobs as a visionary, perhaps--but also a man who fostered a terrible management culture at Apple. That led to him being pushed out by Jon Sculley, which of course led to...

Maybe that's not an analogy we want, either.

I don't know that this directly affects my position, but today as a whole left me feeling uncertain again. Earlier this year, a friend found himself both being uncertain about whether his supervisor wanted him to stay and not being too enthusiastic about staying himself. I'm particularly sympathetic to that right now.

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