Marissa Mayer has caused a disturbance this week with the comments about making her workforce come into the office.
In a digital world where we are always on and always connected, the idea of locking someone to a desk seems backwards and not in keeping with a company trying to create itself a new future. When trying to balance up the value behind the Yahoo CEO’s moves, seeing Donald Trump backing these moves confirms the action is more aligned to industrial thinking than the digital era.
You would expect in our social age with a glut of collaboration and communication tools that we don’t need to be in the same location to do great work. The 37 Signals guys are spread all over the world and anyone who works for a tech company pretty much expects to be remote. We’ve got Hangouts and Skype for a focused ‘synchronous’ exchange and circles, yammer and email for all the other bits. There are plenty of ways to be ‘glued’ these days.
The bigger question here is what has Mayer found that needs fixing – not the choice of action.
We know we do our best work when fully engaged when we’ve got great colleagues, great products to work with and customers that are believers in what we do. That can happen whether we’re in the same office or virtually – its about having a purpose to what we do. So whats missing at Yahoo?
What’s missing in the mindset to makes it a creative and collaborative environment – a place that’s action-oriented and start banging out products ad services that people need, want and want to talk about. What have Yahoo got in their ‘unwritten rules of the game’ that is blocking the CEO’s progress – when she is putting a stake in the ground I wonder what it is that she is trying to stamp out. And what happened to the trust – the T-word that is at the centre of all collaborative work – whether near or far.
When looking into collaborative climate in organisations one piece of research that my professor on Knowledge Management pointed me towards captures the core of what is needed to be effective. These guys – Sveiby and Simons – set down a number of key dimensions to being collaborative and having people pull together.
Older is better – connecting the right people to act requires social networks within organisations that junior staffers don’t yet have
Power is knowledge – junior ranking staff do not have the influencing skills to shape their environment
Big is Better – SME’s are not as good as large firms as finding and distributing knowledge within the company
Distance is bad – initiatives that bring us closer should be profitable investments
Private is better – Public institutions are simply not as effective at knowledge sharing as private companies
Social networks, influence, sharing knowledge, proximity and effective connection of resources – at a macro level all these themes resonate with the wider digital and social environment we live within today. The goals of a collaborative climate resonate with the best digital behaviours of the social media savvy. We live in collaborative times.
And yet “Distance is Bad” does not sit so easily. And when Mayer brings her staffers back to HQ this is what she is eliminating. Surely technology has bridged this gap – is distance really a blocker these days. Trust is built through micro-interactions, project sharing is effective through Yammer conversations and the water cooler conversations are now replaced by instagram ‘likes’ and twittersphere downtime.
The Sveiby research was conducted 10 years ago – but has our Social Era technology blown away that point?
Or is it the case that you can only do great collaborative work when a group of folk are ‘connected’? Joined by a leader, a purpose or a vision – and maybe supported by common geography.
Are we getting distracted by the ‘What’ and ‘How’ of Marissa Mayers actions and not yet know the ‘why’? There has got to be a reason behind her choice. What is missing in Yahoo right now that needs recalibrating before the trust and climate come back.
And thinking laterally…. if I had the chance to be in an office with Marissa Mayer I would be taking it – wouldn’t you?