We’re better than that. Seriously.
I find it quite disingenuous when people give advice to others without a full understanding of their situation. The truly skilled people at conflict resolution are popular for their ability to listen, not just say the right words. But we, the hacker community, have quite a problem. It’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s completely natural, but it is something that I think we should strive to improve.
We generalize too much. Yahoo recently stated it was not allowing remote work anymore and David over at 37Signals promptly posted his pro-remote working blog article. I respect David immensely and indeed I think overall remote working is a very healthy practice. But let’s get straight to the facts: every process – whether engineering or operational – has both pros and cons. The environment in which it’s applied has significant impact on it’s effectiveness and value-add to the end corporation and user.
Plain and simple: Remote working did not work at Yahoo.
It didn’t. People familiar with the organization constantly talk about how it led to increased numbers of engineering failures among teams. It drained productivity. It pushed people to be so individualistic that they had no sense of team. Marissa and the executive team at Yahoo aren’t stupid and they deserve a little more compassion from us. We don’t have the metrics they were looking at. We don’t truly understand the Yahoo culture. And even if remote work wasn’t the cause of these problems, stopping it might be part of a solution.
Instead of hammering Yahoo for such a “blind” and “clueless” decision, we should be asking questions to facilitate a better understanding.
- Why did remote work not work as effectively for a large organization?
- What aspects of Yahoo’s culture led to the decline in productivity through remote work?
- What data do we assume the executive team was looking at? What should they have been looking at?
This is not black and white. This is grey. As Nate Silver puts it: let’s be more like foxes and less like hedgehogs.