Sunday, March 10, 2013

Significance of working in the same proximinity

Best Buy and Yahoo have started their own initiative to remove the ability to work from home. Incidentally, for the past few years, I've been a big advocate for autonomous, remote working in teams. Great examples of amazing work cultures including Github and 37signals (Basecamp). In the best conditions possible, we should all be able to trust each other to pull their weight; however, it has become a huge dampener for Yahoo as the culture has become stagnant. It is the gradual deceleration over a number of months that kills the company's ability to innovate and ship great products.

For me, I prefer to work in an office with my teammates, perhaps, this is because in my past experience, I was part of teams shipping software on fast deadlines (3-week projects including design, development, testing, and user acceptance) -- you need that face-to-face interaction to show a number of things
  • confidence in your teammates
  • optimism on hitting targets
  • validity on progression 

If I saw a teammate working late to finish something, I would get back in there, redistribute the workload, and help out. Truthfully, I am not saying I'm an expert in death marches, but I've been in a few to know that instinctive feeling of "do or die"; where you're in the trenches with other teammates, sleep deprived, and clients keep changing requirements. Welcome to the world of software -- this is how it is. There are certainly other ways of shipping fantastic products without much hardwork (or at least it seems that way on the outside) but I truly believe that in order to exceed the expectations of your customers, you need to put in an order of magnitude of effort upfront.  

Bob Fitch is the hero who saved Blizzard Entertainment from uncertainty -- when their customers called Starcraft "Orcs in Space" -- he invested countless hours to rewrite Starcraft so it would go beyond the expectations of its users. Starcraft went on to have a massive legacy -- people in Korea are still playing the game even after a decade.

We can try to sugar coat things as much as possible on tight deadlines but at the end of the day -- we're all here to do the best we can. Sometimes your "best" isn't good enough, which is why it is important to take the necessary steps to set yourselves up for success (even if it means less work freedoms like remote working). This is why I side with Marissa Mayer's decision to all workers to a Yahoo office to get shit done. When Yahoo! emerges as a successful internet technology company as it once was, I'm sure they will give back remote working to specific employees who have proven themselves. For Yahoo!, in an optimistic and determined tone, it's time to go to war.