Despite the increasingly popular trend of working from home and flexible work schedules, Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer has taken her company a step back towards a rigid and inflexible work environment by banning telecommuting.
Yahoo human resources chief Jackie Reses wrote in a memo that “We need to be working side-by-side,” explaining about the importance of “decisions and insights” that can arise from impromptu meetings.
While we certainly don’t disagree with this, we think that employees should be treated like responsible adults and should be given the discretion to decide for themselves the optimal amount of time they should be physically spending at their office.
According to Mercury News, “Others said they saw hypocrisy by Mayer, who is both a new mother and a wealthy CEO — and who reportedly used her own funds to install a nursery next to her office, according to All Things D, which noted that other employees don’t have that option.”
Researcher Rune Kvist Olsen has submitted another research paper in which he introduces “The Equal Dignity Organizational Concept.”
The research paper can be accessed here.
Tom Sutcliffe, a columnist at The Independent, makes an interesting comparison between the dictatorial conditions that people in the Middle East are currently protesting and the similar atmosphere which we westerners willingly work under work each day.
Sutcliffe mentions that “it seems odd that people will endure, within the framework of a firm or an institution, a degree of subjection and speechlessness that would strike them as insufferable at the level of citizenship.”
He concludes by hinting that “office tyrannies” might end up becoming the target of mass uprisings not unlike those that we have been witnessing in the Middle East.
In an interview with Fast Company, Mark Pincus discussed the meaning of his philosophy of “making everyone the CEO of something.” Pincus is founder and CEO of Zynga, a popular online gaming company whose products include FarmVille and Mafia Wars.
Here is how the Zynga CEO explained his “making everyone the CEO of something” democratic management philosophy:
When I entered the workforce, I was frustrated. When you’re starting your career, somebody else is “The Man” or “The Woman.” They go into a room and make the decision, not you. You don’t feel empowered. I wanted to break through that. I wanted to push the ownership and decision making to the people who were closest to the features, problems, and opportunities and empower them to go for it, to take risks and make mistakes.
Not everybody has a lot of real management training. One way to get around strong or weak managers is clear lines of ownership. If you have clear goals and people know they own them, it makes up for a lot. No one likes to be given a list of tasks. You want to know what hill you’re supposed to take and the fun is figuring out how.
One of Warren Buffett’s best-kept investment secrets might be that he practices workplace democracy in managing his subsidiary companies. Few people may be aware that this innovative management strategy has contributed to the phenomenal success of Berkshire Hathaway’s holdings.
Unlike most other conglomerates, whose executives exert tight control over their subsidiary companies and often make the major financial, operational, and strategic decisions their subsidiaries, Berkshire Hathaway apparently entrusts their subsidiaries with a high degree of discretion and with broad decision-making powers.
Berkshire Hathaway’s annual Letter to Shareholders from February 2010 states:
“We tend to let our many subsidiaries operate on their own, without our supervising and monitoring them to any degree. That means we are sometimes late in spotting management problems and that both operating and capital decisions are occasionally made with which Charlie and I would have disagreed had we been consulted. Most of our managers, however, use the independence we grant them magnificently, rewarding our confidence by maintaining an owner-oriented attitude that is invaluable and too seldom found in huge organizations. We would rather suffer the visible costs of a few bad decisions than incur the many invisible costs that come from decisions made too slowly – or not at all – because of a stifling bureaucracy.”
Stanley D. Truskie, a program professor at the Fischler School of Education, Nova Southeastern University, and author of Leadership in High-Performance Organizational Cultures, wrote an opinion in the Miami Herald where he called for a new, “enlightened” style of management.
Truskie recommends the following leadership practices to help companies quickly adapt and stay at the forefront of their industries:
- Lead from the center.
- Focus on culture.
- Implement 3-C planning.
- Move swiftly.
Truskie argues that “old-style, top-down” management is outdated and that rigid, hierarchical organizations run the risk of falling behind in today’s rapidly changing competitive environment.
Click here to read the entire opinion article.
Bob Moore, the owner of Bob’s Red Mill Natural Foods celebrated his 81st birthday by giving the company that he founded to his employees. Moore announced the new Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP) at an all-company meeting at the headquarters office in Milwaukie, Oregon.
Moore said, “It’s been my dream all along to turn this company over to the employees, and to make that dream a reality on my birthday is just the icing on the cake. To me, this is the ultimate way to reward employees for their contributions to our ongoing success and growth. We have many loyal and long-time employees who I expect will be joined by many new faces over the years to run the company.”
Operations VP Dennis Vaughn, said, “The partners could have sold this company many times for a lot more money, but to them this company is about so much more than the money. I’m just proud to wear the Bob’s Red Mill logo because anywhere I go in this country people say nice things about the company.”
Bob’s Red Mill, a leading provider of whole grain natural foods, has averaged an annual growth rate of 20%-30% over the past 10 years and in that time their mostly North America distribution has expanded internationally.
Contrary to most companies, the vacation policy at Netflix is quite simple: “there is no policy or tracking.” Netflix CEO Reed Hastings referred to vacation limits and face-time requirements as “a relic of the industrial age.”
Several years ago, employees had argued that it wasn’t logical for the company to track vacation days since employees’ hours worked per day or per week were not being tracked.
Netflix executives agreed and did away with vacation policy after the legal issues were taken care of. In a presentation that was leaked to the media, Neflix realized that they “should focus on what people get done, not how many hours or days worked. Just as we don’t have a 9-5 day policy, we don’t need a vacation policy.”
Netflix employees are encouraged to take as much vacation time as they want as long as it doesn’t interfere with their work.
To executives who might worry about such a policy vacuum being taken advantage of by employees, Brian Carney, the author of Freedom, Inc., responds “In a large enough organization, there might be a couple of people who would take two or three months’ vacation–but if a vacation policy is the only thing holding them back from that, they’re probably ‘vacationing’ at their desks anyway.”
In his Management 2.0 blog, Gary Hamel shares some thought-provoking questions about counterintuitive, yet common, IT policies that seem to discourage productivity and innovation:
- How is it that companies are willing to trust employees with their customers, their expensive equipment, and their cash, but are unwilling to trust them when it comes to using the Web at work or loading their own programs onto their workplace PC?
- Do IT staffers really believe that conscientious, committed employees turn into crazed, malicious, hackers when given a bit of freedom over their IT environment?
- If leading edge IT tools are, as many claim, essential to unleashing human creativity, why would any company force all of its employees to use the same computers, phones and software programs?
Hamel recommends giving employees more freedom over their IT tools. We agree. One of the best ways to cultivate innovation and engagement is to empower people with the ability to decide how they can best do their jobs.
A story published earlier this month on the Economist discussed the recent trend of companies preferring “anonymous” bosses to the “rock star” CEOs who were popular in previous decades. “The corporate world is increasingly rejecting imperial chief executives in favour of anonymous managers.”
We believe that this shift represents another stage in the ongoing evolution in the typical organizational structure – from a top-down, hierarchical system to a decentralized, democratic organizational model.
“The fashion for faceless chief executives is part of an understandable reaction against yesterday’s imperial bosses, many of whom were vivid characters. Some, such as Jeff Skilling of Enron and Tyco’s Dennis Kozlowski, broke the law and helped inspire a dramatic tightening of government regulation, in the form of the Sarbanes-Oxley legislation. Others, such as Home Depot’s Bob Nardelli and Hewlett-Packard’s Carly Fiorina, paid themselves like superstars but delivered dismal results.“
Talented, motivated, and innovative professionals are no longer willing to work for arrogant dictators in exchange for a sizeable paycheck. Instead, employees are becoming more and more selective about the quality and type of work environment that their employers offer, and they are increasingly seeking award-winning employers that share decision-making powers and that do not tolerate workplace jerks.