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US West playing hardball in the majors

Sun, 08/31/1997 - 8:00pm
Roger Brown
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Yes, it's true that the abrupt change of strategy within US West Media Group (the parent company of Media One) will throw some lives out of kilter and force some hard decisions among MediaOne employees who are native Bostonians faced with relocation. After all, when the media giant acquired the former Continental Cablevision last fall, company CEO Bud Hostetter was assured the company headquarters would remain at the unique and newly-renovated Pilot House (the problem is, the contract never specified how long that would remain to be the case).

Hostetter became so angry he resigned. Others certainly won't be making the trip West to what is now inarguably the Cable Capital, and their talents will be sorely missed. The old Continental HQ team was a good one — it set new standards for how a cable company should be run. The public relations team was in a class of its own. Industry associations and trade publications all regularly heaped awards on either Continental individuals or the company in toto.

But in this age of instant communications — where e-mail, fax, videoconferencing and the telephone mean we're never an island unto ourselves — the physical separation of the Mother Ship in Denver and its newest prized possession in Boston simply became too much to bear. Decisions that used to be made at the Pilot House suddenly needed one more sign-off — from Denver.

The result was stagnation. Decisions were taking longer. Even the shortest face-to-face meetings took at least two days after travel time was factored in.

Now that relocation has been mandated, the real challenge begins. The company has already demonstrated it won't tolerate management gridlock or unwarranted delays, indicative that it understands that form of thinking is a prescription for failure in the future. But can US West foster the same chemistry and offer the same environment that obviously worked so well in Boston? As MediaOne shifts from being a technology-driven company to a marketing-driven entity, can it win consumer loyalty? Or will US West's well-documented history of customer service snafus infect those at MediaOne? Those questions will be key as MediaOne struggles to gain a national identity and play ball with the other big boys on the block.

Contact Roger via e-mail at: RBrowner@aol.com

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