Yahoo’s “Physically Together” is Management Failure

I’m awaiting boarding at SEATAC and browsing the news. I suggest you read “Physically Together”: Here’s the Internal Yahoo No-Work-From-Home Memo for Remote Workers and Maybe More and consider the quote below.

“… Speed and quality are often sacrificed when we work from home  …”

If I was working for Yahoo I’d be jumping the ship. That mentality just doesn’t compute. If anything I have seen the working conditions become worse and worse in offices over the past decade. All the new open/flex work office plans with the continuous interrupts, office chit chat & gossip, noise and countless never ending meetings (I guess partially to escape the lousy desk experience) are probably very good for the bottom line but all the rest of it seems to be working out a lot less well.

Granted, part of that is because of bad execution. It works if you can and will adopt that culture. But more often than not they just transplant the old ways into the new office environment with disastrous results. But the savings are there; so they don’t really mind. Just like they don’t mind outsourcing or consultants. Those don’t come into the office either but they do help reduce head count and CAPEX, whatever helps the Excel sheet look better. Speed and quality can often suffer as well in these cases but then the response is to have better governance and processes, not to drag them all into the landscape office meadow.

And as far as speed and quality … I’ll be crystal clear, I’m not buying that for one second. If I had not been responding to alerts (we have no on call) on weekends the company would no longer exist. It would have lost it’s entire infrastructure a couple of times with little or no hope of recovery. If they force me to be at the office between 08:30 and 17:30 every day they would not get that commitment and I would work a lot less hours. The same goes for my team. We expect a lot and we give a lot. Checks and balances. How are you supposed to build a top notch team on mediocre management practices is beyond me. We put in the effort because that’s what we give back to our employers in return for a lot of flexibility and freedom on how we organize ourselves and the team.

Some middle management that wants hot bodies in the seats to respond to every question they have is very worrying to me and those people have no sense of real priorities. Perhaps of self importance, yes, but not priorities Look organize yourself any way you need to to deliver what ever it is but the above quote executed across the board is sad in it’s simplification and denial of realities.

But go ahead. Sacrifice your agility and flexibility to be able to keep operations going during snow storms, flu pandemics and go on wasting time and resources commuting during peak traffic hours. The trick to making all of this work is to make it part of the normal way of working. The ratio of type of flex and telework might change during such times but that’s it. Any organization who cannot see this, act on it and leverage the new possibilities technology offers us is a victim of management failure. These across the board decisions are a clear sign of that and make me list Yahoo on the “Unsuitable Employers” list. Their speed and quality may very well suffer from this decision.

Are you perhaps saying your employees are goofing of at home and are under performing? Well if physical presence is the only way to make sure they are doing a good job you’re really in trouble. You have many other and more serious problems I think and good luck to you if you think pulling then back into the office will fix this. Probably this is really the issue. They’ve lost insight in who does what and why. End states are not defined, lack of accountability, … or otherwise put: management failure.

Or are you a serious professional who can’t stand the idea of your senior engineer sitting in his pajamas writing code or building a cluster at 10:00 or 22:00 hours? You think he needs to be in khakis and shirt? If it’s the pajama image you could consider hiring super models as engineers, the idea will become a lot more pleasant,  I guarantee it Winking smile. Or are you worried about the odd working hours and the impact on the well being of your employees? Changes are they’ll do that anyway or even more when having to be in the office. They can’t get the real work done when having to sit in that sub optimal cube all day and dealing with all the senseless interrupts.

What if people don’t flee you because of this policy but just zone out. They show up for whatever mandatory time they need to. When shuffled like cattle into their cubicles and or pastures (open landscape offices) they’ll put on their noise cancellation headsets, run of to meetings (anything to escape the chaos and interrupt hell the modern office environment has become. Their talent, engagement, motivation and zeal will go to what they love to do and those organizations will end up as mediocre players putting in the bear minimum. Well played. Look, today we’re expected to be able to work from anywhere at any time and indeed technology has enabled this for a significant amount of people. A lot of us do that and we’re very flexible about it as we commit to our jobs and working lives in ever more flexible ways. Now on top of that they expect us to show up on the clock and proof attendance in a rather than creating a win-win situation?

On top of that they do this in a time where managers claim that talent will flee companies that do not allow BYOD or other consumer IT.  Really, but having old school office organizations wont? Flexibility works both ways. Employees can be very efficient and committed. But any manager looking to extract every last ounce of profit or plays power games because they can’t deal with end state management will loose more then they will ever gain. A BYOD device policy cannot attract and retain the best of the best. Trust me, those fine employees will figure out very fast that they’ll choose flex time, telecommuting, better pay and extra paid holidays over that stupid iPad or iPhone. Consumerization of ICT means they don’t need your technology and devices. They’ll buy their own and use it for their own advancement and interest and you’ll be left in your holding the short end of the stick. You shouldn’t care that your  employees make you money while stepping on a cross trainer at home or even from their bath tub.

I really don’t buy into the fact that this is all complicating the creation of products or the delivery of services. It also doesn’t ruin any long term supportability. People will go where they think they are best off.  So what is this move? A need to reduce head count and trying to achieve this by people calling it quit voluntarily? So basically you’re even unable to fix performance issues with your feedback/planning and evaluation system? Oh boy. So what if your best quit and the worst show up at the office? Yahoo’s in a pretty bad state it seems.

Is it a power play and about limiting options for people to see how obedient they are? If all the “our employees are our biggest and most important resource” is true some things would be really different. For one your employees would tell you to stop considering and treating them a resource to move around at will. After all this is not an national crisis and this is not the military at war. In a real war for talent employees would interview you whether to see if you’re even worth working for. Most companies don’t like the power to shift to the employees to far. They have seen this for short periods of time in certain professions and they still haven’t recovered from that shock to their system. They’d rather have less of it, not more. It’s all way to complicated for them to handle and manage. It also costs them more.

The Dilbert® Life Series: Enterprise Architecture Revisited One Year Later

The Dilbert® Life series is a string of post on corporate culture from hell and dysfunctional organizations running wild. This can be quite shocking and sobering. The amount of damage that can be done by "merely" taking solid technology, methodologies, people and organizations, which you then abuse the hell out of, is amazing. A sense of humor will help when reading this. If you need to live in a sugar coated world were all is well and bliss and think all you do is close to godliness, stop reading right now and forget about the blog entries. It’s going to be dark. Pitch black at times actually, with a twist of humor, if you can laugh at yourself that is. And no, there is no light to shine on things, not even when you lite it. You see, pointing a beam in to the vast empty darkness of human nature doesn’t make you see anything. You do realize there is an endless, vast and cold emptiness out there. This is not unlike the cerebral content of way to many people I come across by in this crazy twilight zone called “the workplace”. I believe some US colleagues refer to those bio carbon life forms as “sheeple”.

Last year my very first blog post (https://blog.workinghardinit.work/2010/01/16/hello-world/) was about the one and only meeting I ever had with the Enterprise Architecture consultants that came in to help out at place where I do some IT Infrastructure Fu. Now one year, lots of time, money, training and Power Point slide decks after that meeting, the results on the terrain are nowhere to be seen. Sure there were lots of meetings, almost none of which I attended unless they dragged enterprise architecture into an IT related meeting on some other also vague action items like the IT strategy that was never heard of again. They’ve also created some new jobs specifications and lots of lip service and they’ll probably hire some more consultants to help out in 2011. But for now the interaction with and impact of any Enterprise Architecture on their IT infrastructure is nowhere to be found.

We put a good infrastructure plan in place for them. It’s pretty solid for 2011, pretty decent for 2012 and more like a road map for the time span 2013-2014. Meaning it’s flexible as in IT the world can change fast, very fast. But none of all this has come to be due to insights, needs, demands or guidance of any enterprise architecture, IT strategy or business plan.  No, it’s past experience and gut feeling, knowing the culture of the organization etc.  Creating strategies, building architectures is difficult enough in the best of circumstances. Combine this with fact that there is a bunch of higher pay grade roles up for grabs and the politics become very dominant. Higher pay grades baby? What do I need to get one? Skills and expertise in a very critical business area of cause!  Marketing yourself as a trusted business advisor, taught leader and architect becomes extremely important. As you can imagine getting the job done becomes a lot more difficult and not because of technical reasons. My predictions for 2011 are that by the end the year those pay grades will have been assigned. Together with a boatload of freshly minted middle management, who’ll be proud as hell and will need to assert their new found status, they’ll start handing out work to their staff.  Will that extra work materialize into results or only hold them back from making real progress? Well, we’ll need to wait for 2012 to know as 2011 will be about politics.

Basically from the IT infrastructure point of view and experience we have not yet seen an Enterprise Architecture and I don’t think they’ll have one in the next 12 months. Perhaps in 24 to 36 months but by then the game plan in IT infrastructure will be up and running. So realistically, I expect, if it leads anywhere against expectations, the impact of an Enterprise Architecture will be for 2014 and beyond. Which means an entirely new ball game and that will need a revised architecture. The success of the effort will no doubt be that they detected the need to change. This sounds uncomfortable similar to the IT strategy plan they had made. So for now we’ll do for them what’ we’ve always done. We’ll work with one year plans, two to three year roadmaps combined with a vision on how to improve the IT infrastructure. The most important thing is to stay clear of ambition and politics. Too much of that makes for bad technical decisions.

You got to love corporate bull. They don’t lie, no sir, they just sell bull crap. Which is worse, truth or lies don’t even matter, just the personal agendas. Liars at least, by the very fact of lying, acknowledge the value of truth, so much in fact, they’d rather have you not knowing it. Most consultancy firms send out kids that are naïve enough to believe the scripts and don’t even realize they are talking crap. They are told over and over again they are right, the best and they like to believe this so much they really do. It’s a bit like civil servants at the EU. Pay people double their market value, sweet talk their ego’s all day long and they will become prophets for the religion of the day. No, I’m not saying Enterprise Architecture is bull crap. I’m saying that way too many people & companies claiming to do enterprise architecture are turning it into exactly that. IT strategies, architectures that are so empty and void of content that all those binders are thrown in a drawer never to be seen again. A fool with a tool is still but a fool. Agile methodologies or tools don’t make your programmers agile gurus just like owning a race car doesn’t make you a race car pilot. All of this has happened before, and all of this will happen again. Every new, innovative process, methodology or concept falls victim to this. The money grabbing sales crowd gets there paws on it and starts selling it as competitive advantage or even innovation in a bottle to the corporate sheeple & management failures that should know better. They end with less money, loads of wasted time and a shitload of dead trees. As a side node, this whole “* Architect” thing  has runs it’s inflationary course. We need a new professional status currency once more. Take care and keep laughing clip_image001!