3-2-13 Hodgepodge

Saturday, March 02, 2013

Where to Work?

Marissa Mayer, the new CEO of struggling Yahoo, has come under heavy fire for her recent decision to end working at home company-wide in favor of everyone coming in to offices to work. Scott Berkun writes the most insightful commentary on the subject I have seen anywhere in a post titled, " In Defense of Remote Working (And Marissa Mayer)". I'll excerpt his defense of Mayer, because that side of the story has been nearly ignored in some quarters:

In Mayer's defense, she is the CEO and knows more about what's going on in her company than we do. We're on the outside looking in. A shock to the system might be precisely what Yahoo needs and targeting remote work was a specific way to get her message of "wake up and shape up" heard loudly. There are reports of remote work abuse, but it's hard to know if this is more than what's typical at any large company. Who knows what the real problems are or what her real agenda is. Step one of forcing an issue, getting attention and raising debate has been played well by her. Remote work may very well be something that returns to Yahoo in the future after whatever problem she's focused on has been solved. [link dropped]
That said, Meyer could well be making a big mistake, as Berkun notes earlier in the rest of his post.

In my opinion, we certainly have the technology to make collaboration among distributed workers feasible, but I am not sure we have the culture, at least in general. For one thing, many people are not used to the idea. For another, there is ample room for debate regarding which kinds of work are well-suited to distributed collaboration and which aren't.

Weekend Reading

"Kristol seems to regard fantasizing as a valid method of planning." -- Wendy Milling, in "William Kristol's Acceptance of the Mess Is Wholly Unacceptable" at Forbes

"As a result of the era's mounting productivity, the statistics show steadily rising wages and steadily declining working hours--long before the government intervened to 'protect' workers." -- Yaron Brook and Don Watkins, in "Capitalism In No Way Created Poverty, It Inherited It" at Forbes

"After a major life-change, there is often a 'cleaning out' of one's personal relationships." -- Michael Hurd, in "Not Everybody Welcomes Change" at The Delaware Coast Press

"[E]ven life-changing decisions can result from a [non-sacrificial] compromise." -- Michael Hurd, in "Compromise in Love and Marriage" at The Delaware Wave

"But although the government should not promote any specific national fertility rate, it can take some positive steps to address the concerns of those warning of a 'baby bust'" -- Paul Hsieh, in "Freedom, Not Fertility, is the Key to a Thriving Economy" at Forbes

My Two Cents

Wendy Milling's piece on William Kristol should be required reading for conservatives and pro-capitalists alike.

So Close, and Yet So Far

Matthew Iglesias of Slate gripes about how poorly central planning has been working out for Amtrak without ever once considering an alternative.
The Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington metropolitan areas, for example, account for about 44 percent of total boardings and departures in the whole system. What's more, the Northeast Regional and Acela Express routes that serve those cities (plus Providence, New Haven, Trenton, Wilmington, and a few others) generate enough operating surplus to offset the operating losses at all of Amtrak's other short routes.
He goes on to complain about "a whole bunch of huge money-losing long-distance routes that official national rail policy treats with kid gloves" in order to firm up political support for Amtrak. Then he observes:
In the main part of the country [sic] where people actually ride intercity trains and where intercity trains form an important part of the transportation infrastructure, we have operating profits. In a decent national rail policy, those operating profits could finance infrastructure improvements in the northeast corridor where rail is important and useful.
Quite true. But such a policy would entail the one thing Yglesias seems to refuse to consider: A return to private ownership and operation of Amtrak. Profit and loss, and not inappropriate government power, should determine whether a given area has rail service and how good that service is. Government officials -- and voters! -- who know nothing about railroads have no business attempting to run them.



mtnrunner2 said...

Yahoo: can you say "death spiral"?

This reminds me of many clamp-downs I've seen in desperation as businesses are failing -- and flailing -- for something to prevent their eminent demise.

My take is a company's ethic and success or failure comes from the top down, not from office work policies. Yahoo, stop punishing your workers on the ground for management failure.

And is she admitting that Yahoo Messenger is totally useless as an enterprise collaboration tool? Seriously. I work all day long on MS Lync with a colleague in China, who is excellent. Nobody is telling him to commute.

Gus Van Horn said...

"Yahoo, stop punishing your workers on the ground for management failure."

While I can understand why Mayer is doing what she's doing, this is precisely why this is a big gamble: She will certainly lose lots of talented workers and risks alienating the rest.

Jim May said...

You would think that Matt Yglesias, who is already on record as espousing one key principle of fascism, would know better than to complain about train schedules.

Gus Van Horn said...