Yahoo, Innovation and High Performance Teams
By Jim Lundy
The announcement about the change in the Remote Work policy last week at Yahoo by CEO Marissa Mayer was met with howls and screams by many. Yet for companies that are growing and innovating, why do they make people show up at an Office? Can’t Collaboration Technologies solve everything? Not when it comes to Innovation.
To start off, there are many jobs that can be done successfully by working remote. We can debunk that myth now. Customer Service, Tele-sales and even Research Analyst jobs can be done remotely. However, for the groups that are creating new products and services (e.g. the teams that are Innovating), it is a very tall order to do it via remote work.
Innovation and Work – The Amplification Effect
Why is this so? For people that are involved with creating new Innovation, it is imperative to have them working together in an office. An Aragon Research Associate, Research Editor Lou Latham, and I were discussing this today. There is something intrinsic in face-to-face work – an amplification effect that happens. This amplification often happens repeatedly when developing and then trying to launch a new product or service. Lots of formal and informal meetings and lots of discussions on an ongoing basis. It doesn’t stop and it often means long hours in an office. High Performance Teams that are innovating need time together to develop a winning product or service. It isn’t any more complicated than that.
Innovation and High Performance Teams
In most cases around the world, look at any new Innovation and most often it result of a dedicated team working together, at a specified location. High Performance teams seem to do better working together versus working apart. This is at the crux of the issue facing Yahoo.
Yahoo has issues that need to be dealt with. One of the biggest is that it stopped innovating. Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is hard at work addressing that. Could a hybrid policy have been initiated to allow for partial remote work to be accomplished? Sure. Do many firms offer that today? Yes. It came down to her assessment about where Yahoo is right now in 2013. There is no doubt that Yahoo needs to move faster, much faster. It appears that Marissa and her team discovered that there was too much slack in the system. Many former Yahoo associates are now coming forward in support of the remote work ban at Yahoo.
Yahoo isn’t the only firm that has Remote Work Issues
There are many enterprises, governments and Universities that have remote work challenges that need to be dealt with. It often has to do with lax policies or lack of enforcement of a telework policy. For managers that are not trained in how to manage remote employees, it can be a daunting task. It can also be a daunting task for associates who can never track down their manager. Some Universities have issues with professional staff, particularly professors, who only show up to teach their class and then leave. Of course this gets at a fundamental issue – how can enterprises motivate employees to work and work hard, no matter where they are. I’m willing to bet that at the best Universities, the Professors are there to teach and motivate – just look at Stanford University in Silicon Valley.
Social Networks, Remote Work and Speed
Social Networks can help with some of the issues of remote work – particularly connectedness and speed. They won’t solve the high performance innovation dilemma, but they can and do connect remote teams more effectively than traditional tools such as email. Enterprises that don’t have a Social Network for their workforce shouldn’t wait… More on this later.
Remote work – Keeping a Balance
There are many firms, particularly in the Bay Area that allow people to work from home on Fridays. They keep a balance in perspective. No matter what the polls show, remote work policies that are too flexible end up reducing productivity. Clearly, for performance based jobs that are service related, it all comes down to meeting the expectations – fixing the machines at a customer office, or making external sales calls.
However for the firms and their staffs that want to Innovate – and that want to win in the marketplace – it starts with a team that works together. They often gain the Amplification effect. The product or service is better because they solve the problems faster and they get that minimum viable product out the door. Yahoo is taking heat for their remote work policy reversal, but there is no doubt that going forward, they will have a more productive approach to innovation.