Forgot your password?
typodupeerror
Businesses Databases Open Source

Former MySQL CEO Mårten Mickos Talks About Managing Remote Workers (Video) 100

Posted by Roblimo
from the some-can-do-it-and-some-can't dept.
Millions of pixels have been used to talk about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting and her reasons for doing it. Today's interviewee, Mårten Mickos, built MySQL AB into a billion-dollar company with 70% of its workers, all over the world, telecommuting instead of working in offices. Now he's CEO of another young open source company, Eucalyptus, and is following a similar hiring pattern. Mårten says (toward the end of the video/transcript) that he believes people working out of their homes is entirely natural; that this is how things were done for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.

Robin: Marten, what percentage of your MySQL workers work from home?

Mårten: We had 70% working from home when we were 500 employees in total.

Robin: Okay, okay. 70%?

Mårten: We were based in 32 countries across 18 time zones.

Robin: 32 countries, 18 time zones.

Mårten: Yeah.

Robin: How did you manage those workers?

Mårten: I wonder if I did, meaning I mean something with it, I think when you manage a distributed team, you cannot manage through command and control; you must manage through vision and culture.

Robin: Okay.

Mårten: You must get the vision across to everybody. You must agree on how you behave, and what the company culture is. And then you let them do what they know they need to do. And that is how it works. But if you think you must observe them and monitor them and command them, and control them, then it won’t work for you.

Robin: Okay. So you need very self-motivated people, that you are telling me.

Mårten: Very true. I call it the fishing village analogy. Meaning our people at MySQL and now at Eucalyptus are like fishermen. They live in a fishing village and are very social together, but every morning before the sun dawns, they go out in their small boats to sea and they are all on their own, and they come back only when they have caught fish.

Robin: Okay, now recruiting these fishing people, (that’s a beautiful analogy) recruiting these independent workers, is it different from recruiting people you are going to be able to watch at their desks?

Mårten: Yes and no. First you have to interview them like you do with anybody, you have to post your open reqs like you do with anybody, but of course you must check that they truly belong to the portion of the world population that is capable of working from home, because not everybody is. It is not for everybody. It is for some of the best people in the industry but it is not for everybody.

Robin: Okay, and in the industry, what jobs work best filled by remote workers? And what works worst?

Mårten: As main rules I would say if your product is an intangible product, then it works well. And it so happens that software was the first industry to do it, but you can do it in politics, medicine, science and arts as well. The second rule is that for this to work, people need to be able to go all in online. They need to be able to live not just their professional life, but convey their personality online as well. Because the argument against distributed teams is that body language doesn’t work, and you don’t get the sort of the closeness, but on the contrary, we say no, that is not true. You can bring your personality and even your body language online if you decide to do so. And that is how you make it work.

Robin: Now you are talking about creative people, programmers, scientists, the artists; what about people like finance and marketing? Are they good, as good remotely?

Mårten: They are. And I would say their job is increasingly creative. But we had people working from home in every part of the company. We had accounts receivables, which was operated as a home operation, marketing was done, some of the accounting as well; of course, there are functions where you have to be in an office, you have to put things on real paper and store them in a real cabinet. So I am not saying you can live completely without it. But I don’t see any part of the organization that couldn’t be at least partly distributed among people who work from their homes.

Robin: How much money does it save if you have a quantification, how much does it save with all these people working from home?

Mårten: We never did it for the purpose of saving money. And we told ourselves that what we saved in office costs, we spent in travel costs. And that is probably more or less true. Maybe we saved a little bit but not much. A benefit we got and whether that is a saving or not I don’t know, but we managed to hire some of the best people in the world, people who would have refused to move to big cities to work for another company. So in the job market, we got access to just amazing talent who had offers from Google and Yahoo! and other companies of three times the salary, and they just didn’t take it, because for them, their life and their home, and the locality where they were were so important that they refused to move; they would rather work for an amazing open source company from home.

Robin: Okay, well that was an amazing open source company too. Plus, you had first David and Monty and then forever Monty. I mean working with Monty, for a whole lot for a certain kind of person, the chance to work with Monty is just hot stuff, right?

Mårten: Yes, I think like with any employment you have if you really love it, it is because you love the people you work with and you work with smart people and you learn something every day. And I think that was the case with MySQL.

Robin: So here is a question, a backwards question on that, from Yahoo! Now I’ve heard that they are bringing in not thousands of people but hundreds; it is not that big a deal, but if they are bringing people into offices, who are used to working at home, doesn’t that mean they may be losing their best people?

Mårten: It is difficult for us on the outside to know. On the one hand, I can understand Marissa, a relatively new CEO, she has to make serious changes, and maybe this was a good decision to make. I can’t judge that. But generally speaking, demanding that people who successfully worked from home, that they would come into an office probably won’t really work very well. That would be my guess. But I think we can’t know the situation there, and Yahoo! is a company that needs to reinvent itself. So they would need to take some drastic action even beyond what is rational and useful for others.

Robin: Now I am not saying, that I have heard anything, because I haven’t but if you were offered a chance to become CEO of Yahoo! as an example or similarly large but not too squared away company, would you do it?

Mårten: Thanks for the question of it. I don’t speculate about those things. And I haven’t thought about it. I have no idea. I like being with difficult challenges, that if they succeed will give a big upside, sort of against common perception and common belief, I do like that. Maybe it is my Finnish roots that make me look for seemingly impossible tasks but I don’t know.

Robin: Marten, where is Eucalyptus's headquarters?

Mårten: Eucalyptus started in Santa Barbara, California. That is where we have our headquarters.

Robin: And you live in?

Mårten: I live in the San Francisco Bay Area, which is five hours north by car from Santa Barbara.

Robin: And obviously you don’t commute every day?

Mårten: Nope. I go there for about a day or two or three per week, depending on the situation, and then I travel around to other places of course.

Robin: Yes. And you visit your remote workers often?

Mårten: I do. But I haven’t visited everybody. We have employees at Eucalyptus whom I have never met in person. We have two people in India whom I haven’t met, and we have a guy in Dhaka, Bangladesh whom I haven’t met in person. But I look forward to doing it.

Robin: But have they met each other, do they have contact with some of their coworkers?

Mårten: They do. Yes they do, and they will be coming over here so I can meet them here as well. So we try to connect people in many different ways.

Robin: Now with MySQL I remember you having I don’t know, I guess annual big company-wide meetings.

Mårten: Correct. Yes. And we have the same tradition at Eucalyptus, we have at least an annual all-hands meeting typically in Santa Barbara but we may do it elsewhere as well, where we bring everybody together to the degree it is possible. We have had challenges with visas for everybody so we actually have employees who didn’t get visas to the US which is very sad. That was the reason we didn’t do the MySQL meetings in the US, the last one we did here was in Orlando.

Robin: I was there.

Mårten: Yeah.

Robin: You went swimming with dolphins.

Mårten: Yes.

Robin: It was a great meeting.

Mårten: It was fantastic. But before that, we did St Petersburg, Russia, Budapest, we had one in Helsinki, we had one in Cancun, Mexico which was just an amazing staff meeting.

Robin: So nowadays you are saying that even if you are based in the US, with a seriously international... well we are both saying it, you can’t have an international meeting in the US, can you? Hardly.

Mårten: It is difficult given the way we are set up. But whatever you do in business and in life, there will be challenges that you have to overcome, so we are just taking it as a challenge, and seeing how we can figure it out.

Robin: I am sure that the-world-is-flat thought, the Thomas Friedman situation, does it matter where you are headquartered anymore? I mean your headquarters is in the US, but it couldn’t it just as easily be Finland or Cancun?

Mårten: It could. And the world is flat for software development, but the world is not flat when it comes to taxation, or legal systems, and so on. And you could even argue that it is more favorable to be registered in, say Luxembourg, than the US as a company. We haven’t tried to optimize for that. But the reality is the world is flat in some dimensions but in many dimensions it isn’t.

Robin: Interesting. But on the whole, you are saying Eucalyptus is, what is your percentage again of in-house versus remote workers?

Mårten: I think we have 35 percent in Santa Barbara in offices, and then another probably 15 or 20 percent elsewhere in the US, and then the rest are outside of the US in Europe, in India, Bangladesh and China.

Robin: So the way you are describing it, you are not choosing people on where they are located, you are not looking for the lowest cost help, I mean you say you have one guy in Bangladesh, and a few in India, and so on, and a few in China, but you are also saying Europe, you are just looking at what, just the best people, period?

Mårten: Yes, we choose the best people. Sure there are some things where you are dependent on location but mostly we just try to hire the best people we can find.

Robin: And if you were building another company, would you do the same thing, with a heavily distributed workforce?

Mårten: I do believe it completely. I think I know how to manage it. I think it works wonderfully well. I don’t think it is suitable for everybody on the planet, but nearly everybody. And let’s remember that the whole notion of going to an office or a workplace and having work hours is a new invention. It came with the industrial revolution.

Before that, people worked wherever they were, they didn’t have a distinction between free time and work time. They did the work they had to, and if they could take time off for a harvest feast or something, they did. And I think this modern distributed organization is modeled based on what has been working for thousands of years.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Former MySQL CEO Mårten Mickos Talks About Managing Remote Workers (Video)

Comments Filter:
  • by djl4570 (801529) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @02:31PM (#43107017) Journal
    All you need is a method to accurately measure productivity.
    • by Aviancer (645528) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:01PM (#43107441) Homepage Journal

      Pfft. Everyone on any given team knows who is good and who is dead weight. Listen to people, and make appropriate decisions. Yes, metrics are good to show improvement over time, but a weak, immature and cowardly way to identify poor performers.

      • by djl4570 (801529)
        Within the scope of a team I agree with you except for the "weak, immature and cowardly" part. Metrics allow management to document performance. This is important when the recently dismissed dead weight sues for wrongful termination.
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by Anonymous Coward

          unless the recently dismissed was able to game your metrics to show they were the highest performing member of your team, and uses that data against you to win their case.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          In this context, management gets creative with numbers, and will have "dead weight" transferred to their most remote location until they terminate themselves wrongfully. Sort of applying "Rand Corporation Metrics Guidelines To Managing People".

        • Within the scope of a team I agree with you except for the "weak, immature and cowardly" part.

          Yes and no. Team impressions can be gamed too. Some people can be unfairly given a bad rap. Others may be given more credit than they are due. It isn't unusual for some managers to be duped.

          • by ILongForDarkness (1134931) on Friday March 08, 2013 @12:27AM (#43112979)

            Also a lot can be team dynamics. A person can be a great worker but for whatever reason a few other team members decided that they don't like talking to them. So they are never included in conversations aren't seen as helpful when problems come up etc. But is it due to a real personality fault in that employee or that employee just having a different way of communicating, work style heck even extra curricular interests can come into play (people will generally go to the person that they can chat with for a half hour about the latest sports drama than the guy that is say a dungeon master (when sports are their interest and not role playing) or vis versa). That is part of the issue with remote work that needs to be considered not just individual work performance but how well will the team communicate without the queues you get from in person interaction? It can work and it can not work but you need to at least leave the option of going back to a work from the office model if the telecommute doesn't work for the employee (or you find other people's performance goes down because they aren't as available for helping out with random questions etc).

      • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:35PM (#43107891)

        Indeed. And metrics are easily gamed or done wrong. The results are usually strategic mistakes, sometimes severe, as Yahoo will likely find out.

        There is no replacement for a competent manager with high personal integrity that actually has a well-founded expert opinion about all of the ones he manages. I see a primary task of a manger to create the environment where those in his/her care can work with the least amount of trouble from outside and at their most productive. This means that a manager actually serves his/her "underlings", not the other way round. Every good manager understands that.

        • by mcmonkey (96054) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @04:07PM (#43108325) Homepage

          There is no replacement for a competent manager with high personal integrity that actually has a well-founded expert opinion about all of the ones he manages.

          Right on. If you don't trust your managers, or don't know which managers to trust, you've already lost and all the metrics in the world won't help.

          To me this is the same issue as standardized tests. If you don't (or can't) trust your teachers, testing won't change that feeling. But how does the governor of a state know which teachers can't be trusted or should be replaced? She doesn't and shouldn't need to.

          The teacher in the classroom identifies which students are falling behind and need more help. The department head gets summary reports on student performance and monitors teachers. The school head gets summary reports on teacher performance and monitors the department heads. The head of the district gets summary reports on department performance and manages the school heads. And so one up to the governor, president, etc.

          No one other than the teacher in the room and that student's parents should be involved with an individual student's day-to-day performance. Not that the department head doesn't care about students, but the best way to express that concern is by putting the best teachers in place and giving those teachers the resources they need.

          Likewise, if the CEO is concerning herself with the day-to-day productivity of individual contributors, sounds like a company with one foot in the grave and the other on a banana peel. The CEO should be able to pick trust-worthy executives. Those executives should be able to pick able department heads. Department heads should oversee managers. Managers should manage people.

          That there may be a few slackers here and there is not a moral failing. But for the issues in a company to be so wide spread as to require a policy change of the magnitude we're seeing at Yahoo, you've got bad managers no able to motivate or replace bad workers, and bad department heads not able to identify bad managers, and bad executives not able to identify bad department heads, and a bad CEO not able to identify bad executives.

          Now that may be the case with Yahoo, which is why there is a new CEO and that CEO is making these changes. But she is bound to fail. The CEO should be concerned with getting the right executives in place. Those executives can retrain/replace department heads as needed. The department heads can get the managers on the right track. And then those managers can decide who needs to be in the office and who can work best remotely.

          A CEO jumping over a half dozen (or more) layers of management to tell a worker how to do their job makes as much sense as having the Secretary of Education sit down with each individual 3rd grade to check their sums.

          • by Synerg1y (2169962)

            In a properly managed system from the start, I would completely agree, but once you start slipping, sometimes the only way is to "restart", go back to the traditional model and expand from there.

            My comparison is Jeans in the workplace, they're preferred by most employees and a lot of places just don't have a business need for business casual so employees wear Jeans, but when employees start showing up in faded Jeans with chains & logos, they're going to lose that privilege because at this point their dr

            • by Bucc5062 (856482) <bucc5062&gmail,com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:47PM (#43109661)

              That comparison would only seek to enforce what the OP stated. If employees have a dress code, whether it is Business casual or jeans then it is up toe the immediate management to enforce that policy. If it gets/got out of hand then it is the immediate manager's problem, not hte company. To change that example, I come to work every in my clean, un-holed jeans wearing a decent shirt and shoes. Around me folks attire is failing so my reward for others bad behavior is to be punished for following the existing rules and required to go back to wearing a suit, because a manager could not enforce a rule. That is just wrong thinking.

              The same then applies in telecommuting. There are ways to measure performance, be it completion times, lines of code or some other metric. If management fails to measure shame on them. If they measure and fail to act again shame on them. That is their job thus the term Management. take away my telecommute, because others are irresponsible is throwing the baby out with the bath water, a poor management practice and like the OP said, a company that is rotten in the core and will soon fall.

              • by Synerg1y (2169962)

                There's departmental policies and company policies, when a problem exists across all departments, a company directive is typically what is issued. I do however completely agree, that in the perfect world, the managers should be held by the tie on this, and fired alongside their unproductive remote workers, while everybody else is left as is. Unfortunately, this can also be considered corporate culture decline. Yahoo just took a huge hit on attracting new prospects and talent.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        i am old enough to know that this is bull shit

        how people view you counts for more than what you do. how people view you is determined by how you present yourself, speak, etc.

        i don't think of my self as a star performer and get good reviews every year. in my 20's i thought i was the most knowledgeable in what i did but i can tell you for a fact that others didn't think so. in the last 20 years i learned to be more outgoing and talk about things people like. it counts for a lot.

      • Pfft. Everyone on any given team knows who is good and who is dead weight. Listen to people, and make appropriate decisions. Yes, metrics are good to show improvement over time, but a weak, immature and cowardly way to identify poor performers.

        Or you could just generate metrics that do a better job of showing who is good and who is dead weight. If you have accurate metrics, there is no need for a debate on the topic.

        • What metrics will tell you that someone is doing good work?

          Suppose I mostly review other people's code and make suggestions for improvement, answer lots of random questions about obscure corners of various specifications, work on really tricky bugs that take a long time to track down, look at upcoming roadmaps and figure out how they're going to affect us, etc.. What objective metric do you use to measure my performance? Lines of code submitted doesn't work, bug closure rate doesn't work--there is no sim

          • What metrics will tell you that someone is doing good work?

            Suppose I mostly review other people's code and make suggestions for improvement, answer lots of random questions about obscure corners of various specifications, work on really tricky bugs that take a long time to track down, look at upcoming roadmaps and figure out how they're going to affect us, etc.. What objective metric do you use to measure my performance? Lines of code submitted doesn't work, bug closure rate doesn't work--there is no simple numerical statistic to measure.

            Well, if it was a programmer I was trying to measure I think I'd start with some combination of output and quality. Does the person meet deadlines consistently? How many bugs requiring rework are found etc. Combine them to develop a metric and refine the metric over time as best you can. Determine good ways to measure performance is one of the functions of a manager. Or you could have a bad manager that just rates employees on how much he likes them. If that's the case it's in the employees best inte

            • by RabidReindeer (2625839) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @05:00PM (#43109073)

              Lies, Damn Lies and Metrics. Metrics are what you use so that you can be blind to things that can't be/aren't measured.

              Lines of Code is a classic. If I rip down an algorithm and replace it with one that's faster, more reliable, and 1/3 the size, I have negative LOC. And if LOC is all of the above that got metrics, I'm a loser.

              I have a great respect for being able to measure things (where it's possible and meaningful), but unlike the legendary Statistical Bikini, it's what isn't covered that's as important as what is. Metrics should be a guide, but when you have people spending all their time fiddling with metrics, and other people spending time fiddly ways to look good under the metrics you're losing a lot of your productivity to metrics. And unless you are in the business of producing metrics, that's not good.

              • Better stated: you need to know the context in which the metrics are stated.

                • Better stated: you need to know the context in which the metrics are stated.

                  That's only a small part of the problem. Factories in the 1960s were quite aware that they were spewing sulfuric acid. Their metrics failed to consider just how outraged people could become. You can fail because you didn't measure something critical or you can fail because you gave the wrong weight to something you did measure. And you can fail because you attempted to extrapolate a metric using the wrong functions.

                  If we ever actually managed to obtain truly accurate and meaningful metrics that actually map

            • by seebs (15766)

              So, you're saying, the guy who solves the hardest problems that no one else could reasonably attempt is the worst employee? Because that guy's going to take more time to solve things, is gonna have more things that need to be reworked, and so on.

              Think it through! If you have a simple task that any reasonably competent engineer could do, an average programmer should be able to do it quickly and reliably, right? So then you have stuff that's basically new research and trying to solve problems that no one's y

          • What objective metric do you use to measure my performance?

            Peer stack ranking. If your peers think you are deadweight, they you probably are. You can brown-nose or snow-job one manager, but you can't fool a whole team.

            • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:06PM (#43109933)

              Works while you have functional teams. When the team is dis-functional, not so much. Then it becomes a popularity contest.

              • Works while you have functional teams. When the team is dis-functional, not so much. Then it becomes a popularity contest.

                There are methods to keep it from being a popularity contest. For starters, you need to keep it anonymous. We have an outside consultant come for a day to administer it. All reviews are turned in directly to the consultant, and neither peers nor managers see them. Then the consultant throws out any "paired up" outliers to prevent backscratching. Managers only see the data in aggregate. Team members are only told which third (top, middle or bottom) they are in.

                Another thing we do is make sure everyone

                • Sounds like your team is functional.

                  What I am saying is you will never turn a bad team into a good one with this method. When air thieves outnumber producers, producers get down rated for making the air thieves look bad.

                  Put more bluntly: When a team is busy circle jerking you don't ask them to vote for who gets raises/promotions.

          • by Anonymous Coward

            What metrics will tell you that someone is doing good work?

            Hey Sam, if we had to let Ted or Wally go from the department, could you and would you be willing to do all his work for an extra $5k a year?

            If Sam's answer is yes, re-assign Ted or Wally. If Sam was mistaken, put Ted or Wally back and fire Sam.

            If Sam says no, repeat the process with Ted about Sam's job, etc, and everyone else in the group. Vary the $5k figure as needed.

            When you have good people working together, no one says yes. If you have bad people working together, you're screwed anyway unless you clea

      • by Synerg1y (2169962)

        Wait what? This dynamic changes very quickly with remote teams, when you don't see the people you're working with, you many not recognize the lame duck till the project's about to fail and take you with it. Performance metrics are a way to circumvent & try to prevent that, especially on a per milestone basis.

        Simple ex. You're working with Joe on a year long project, Joe says he's going to do parts D, F, G, & X as his duties, he creates the UI and says he'll add functionality later, 1 month to fini

        • by HornWumpus (783565) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:07PM (#43109965)

          Remote workers have nothing to do with integration testing.

          What you say could just as easily happen in the office.

          • by Synerg1y (2169962)

            There's always some quirks when integrating modules, but let me clarify, I'm talking complete failure... Joe doesn't know what he's doing and has been collecting a salary for a year. In the office, Joe not knowing what he's doing would be spotted by his co-workers / bosses relatively quickly and people would see Joe everyday and eventually single him out as the weakest link rather than take his word for it that it's going to be done correctly.

            What I would argue though is that at some point you gotta have s

            • You start integration testing earlier.

              In the office or out, if they aren't even looking at the alpha builds of one of their team they aren't managing, much less testing.

              Unless the modules are completely independent the team will have spotted the air thief. It might take longer when telecommuting, but incompetence speaks loudly.

            • Joe doesn't know what he's doing and has been collecting a salary for a year. In the office, Joe not knowing what he's doing would be spotted by his co-workers / bosses relatively quickly and people would see Joe everyday and eventually single him out as the weakest link rather than take his word for it that it's going to be done correctly.

              [Sniff] Well, if that's how you feel about me. But I'll have you know that I do an excellent job! [Sniffle.] You get all up and arms because I ask you to explain something that is not obvious from time to time... like how to use if-then statements and why functions have those parameter things. That's hard stuff, man! I don't know why you're going to back stab me like this! In a public forum nonetheless!

        • by Xest (935314)

          "Simple ex. You're working with Joe on a year long project, Joe says he's going to do parts D, F, G, & X as his duties, he creates the UI and says he'll add functionality later, 1 month to finish, you find that parts D, F, G, & X don't work with the rest of the system & the project fails. In a workplace, a manager would see that Joe isn't doing what he's supposed to, remotely, not so easy."

          What? No source control to check what's been submitted and by whom?

          No wonder your theoretical company is do

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Pfft. Everyone on any given team knows who is good and who is dead weight. Listen to people, and make appropriate decisions. Yes, metrics are good to show improvement over time, but a weak, immature and cowardly way to identify poor performers.

        But that's because you work next to them. When all you know is the work in front of you, that kind of goes out the window. Some types of jobs are well-suited for working remotely, for various reason. But some types of jobs are not, and especially with large groups of people it can be tricky to make sure everyone is pulling their own weight and not gaming the system. Some types of jobs are well-suited to metrics, provided the metrics are written properly... but that's usually the problem with them. In the ab

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      Which is exactly the same thing you need with in office workers. It changes nothing.

      • by firex726 (1188453) <firex726.yahoo@com> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:27PM (#43107789)

        And therein lies the problem with what Yahoo was doing.

        They had few performance metric and feel that by having the seats warm they will get more productivity.

        So they just moved the slackers from the home to the office.

        • by gweihir (88907) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:38PM (#43107923)

          And therein lies the problem with what Yahoo was doing.

          They had few performance metric and feel that by having the seats warm they will get more productivity.

          So they just moved the slackers from the home to the office.

          Indeed. This will not help. On the other side, they will severely inconvenience and anger a lot of those that worked productively from home. And these can easily get other and (now) better jobs. All this move does is to consolidate the low performers and make them the core of the workforce of Yahoo.

          • Indeed. This will not help.

            Actually, it almost certainly will help. Some people are marginally more productive at home. More people are drastically less productive. So on average, moving everyone back to the office will be a win. People are beating up Yahoo about making people come to the office, but they are ignoring Google which has always been much more stringent about telecommuting.

            they will severely inconvenience and anger a lot of those that worked productively from home.

            The people most inconvenienced and angry will be those using their "day off" to skimp on daycare fees and catch up on Desperate Housewives.

            All this move does is to consolidate the low performers and make them the core of the workforce of Yahoo.

            You a

            • by gweihir (88907)

              Actually, it almost certainly will help. Some people are marginally more productive at home. More people are drastically less productive.

              I would dispute that for knowledge workers that want to work from home. It does not make any sense. There are those that do not want to work from home, and they certainly should not be forced to. But knowledge work is all about putting oneself in the right frame of mind and for some, that is easiest at home. There is also the factor that you cannot get quite a few of the ones in the higher competence range to work for you if that means moving.

              The people most inconvenienced and angry will be those using their "day off" to skimp on daycare fees and catch up on Desperate Housewives.

              No, the ones most inconvenienced will be those that took the job

              • Actually, it almost certainly will help. Some people are marginally more productive at home. More people are drastically less productive.

                I would dispute that for knowledge workers that want to work from home. It does not make any sense.

                It may not make sense, but that is the way it is. My company allows telecommuting on a case-by-case basis, and for many people it does not work.

                But knowledge work is all about putting oneself in the right frame of mind and for some, that is easiest at home.

                Zoning out in front of the TV is also easiest at home.

                You are assuming that the drop in performance when telecommuting is correlated with being an inherently low performer in the first place.

                It is not obvious to you?

                No, it is not obvious, and it does not mesh with my experience. Some high-performers do better at home, some don't. Some not-so-high-performers do better from home, some don't. My experience is that the best predictor of how well telecommuting will work are:

                1. Does the employee have young children? Bad.
                2.

        • They had few performance metric and feel that by having the seats warm they will get more productivity./blockquote>From the other article, the "metric" was that the new CEO thought that the parking lot was too empty.

          So it isn't even "performance" but more like "attendance".

    • by Kenja (541830) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:08PM (#43107543)
      How about "do they do their job". This metric can be applied to everyone, not just those telecommuting. Now I work from home, writing software for very dull business processes. I do not think I would be nearly as productive at a desk 9-5 simply because some of my best ideas and breakthroughs happen at night when I'm winding down.
      • by Vancorps (746090)

        There is more to productivity of the company than just your productivity to consider. You and I are alike that we do our best work at night or later in the day. If you are not around for people that have their ideas during the day then you will miss out on getting potentially valuable information.

        Personally, I don't think anyone should telecommute 100% of the time, they should at the most make it 50/50 so that you can get input from other stake holders. If all of your stakeholders are night owls then you c

      • by aaarrrgggh (9205)

        The telecommuting does often make it difficult to determine if their job is actually worth doing though. I imagine the purpose of Yahoo's change is to cull 10-20% of the workforce and become leaner in the process. Sure, it will be a rough couple years, but hopefully they can focus the energy on the things that provide the most value to the company.

        Happy to not be going through that myself, and I am sure they will lose some good people. At the same time, the company is a disaster.

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      All you need is a method to accurately measure productivity.

      I really hate it when people just casually blurt that out as if it solves everything. Usually its an MBA or a manager saying that too. I am a QE team lead for two different small QE teams. I personally have an incredibly hard time to come up with any objective way to measure my personal productivity, especially on day-to-day granularity. Even for my testers, how am I supposed to objectively measure their productivity? By how many issues they test and close off? As ludicrous as measuring a developer on lines

    • Really hard to do. (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Chirs (87576) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @04:08PM (#43108331)

      What do you use for measuring "productivity"?

      Lines of code? My happiest work days are when I end up removing more code than I put in. Also, this is really easy to game.

      Bugs fixed? I usually end up working on the really nasty bugs...intermittent, only occur in customer sites, and under no circumstances can you shut down the system to debug it. Some bugs take weeks or months to track down.

      Hours worked? Pointless, doesn't track if you're actually being useful during those hours.

      While it's easy to measure productivity if you're making widgets, its *really hard* to measure productivity if you're doing creative stuff.

  • one difference (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <delirium-slashdot@@@hackish...org> on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:08PM (#43107539)

    These companies did it on purpose and planned for it, while it sounds like it just sorta "happened" at Yahoo, with management neither having a plan for how to manage it nor (apparently) really paying any attention at all to what remote workers were doing and how they were doing it.

    • Additionally, they are now admitting that they can't manage it, now that they have it. So now they are going to just scrap everything and start all over again.

      I would hope that at least some managers there were doing a reasonable job about managing their home office workers. Why not look at how they were successful, and try to emulate that? Instead it just seems like they are tossing the baby out with the bathwater, throwing in the towel, and giving up on a modern worker model that functions well at oth

  • Admittedly much of it do to the mechanisation, but this seems like a poor comparison. It's basically saying something is good because just it worked for a long time, not because it's actually better. We lived in caves for thousands of years too, but I wouldn't want to go back just because it's "entirely natural".

  • Engaging work (Score:4, Insightful)

    by s1d3track3D (1504503) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @03:19PM (#43107679)
    If you have a cool product, interesting things to do and hire interested people, you will have good employees.
    Many technical people work in the field because they enjoy it, how many people work on FOSS in their spare time anyway?

    Working on new, interesting, challenging things is fun! Maintaining 'legacy' stuff, not as fun. No disrespect to Yahoo but Flicker, Yahoo Mail, YUI, OMG! (please), for me it would be hard to be excited about maintaining these.
    Additionally, working in a smaller company where one person can really help shape things is huge, being just another worker bee in a huge corporate environment can be depressing. (especially one with a declining public image)

    Obviously, just my opinion.
  • by Anonymous Coward

    roblimo is a moronpus

  • But Yahoo! wasn't Some 500 out of 11000 employees teleworking is a bit different than 70% of your staff teleworking. MySQL was designed to work remotely, while it sounds like Yahoo! was shoe horned into it. Not saying Yahoo! can't adapt, but it is clear how Yahoo! has been dying that - something is critically wrong in the culture there. I don't see killing teleworking as bad - simply because, well, there is just a lot wrong with the company that needs to be fixed. Time will tell if it was a wise decision...
    • Well put. I would add that working remotely works well for some companies and not others -- regardless of the industry. One might think Yahoo! being a tech giant would automatically mean remote-friendly. But as you said, it depends on culture and planning. I'm willing to bet Ms. Mayer did her homework before coming to this conclusion. Perhaps the majority of their remote workers really were either not pulling their weight or were becoming hermits.

  • I've found the best way of doing it is to work at the nearby home of my parents or mother-in-law. Some separation of your work life from home life is necessary

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      I'd absolutely hate working from home. My home is not a great place to work. My internet sucks compared to the office, the refrigerator is always empty, I have no one to talk to (and no, I will not skype or IM anyone), the place is a complete mess, there's no room on my desk for equipment, my office chair can get uncomfortable after a few hours, and I have no air conditioning.

      Sadly, I dont' drink coffee, so I can't even go hang out at the coffee shops with the pretentious unemployed yuppies pretending to

  • Good for Mr. Miklos! Only the stodgiest, most anachronistic and paranoid manager would not consider telecommuting. When implemented by competent management, it cuts costs to the company and increases employee productivity.
    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      For some employees, they will be productive at home. Maybe even more productive than at the office. But for some different employees it will be worse. People actually do slack off at home, they will try to get only the minimum done, they will try to game the system. It is only a minority of employees who are self starters who are willing to work as hard as they can without self supervision as long as someone waves a stock option on a stick. But I see a lot of companies who mistakenly assume that most e

  • I worked for MySQL in about the 2006 timeframe for about 6 months. Yes most employees telecommuted including me. I found out in those 6 months that telecommuting wasnt for me. I couldnt focus on work very well. It was ok for short time periods like a week. But I would start drifting and my productivity dropped. I'm not against it, it just isnt something I was good at. Most emplyees there didnt have any issue with it.
  • Are things going back to normal?

  • "how things were done for thousands of years before the industrial revolution."

    So that is how the pyramids were built. Thousands of quarry workers, stone masons, and laborers all working from their condos.

    • I believe that Mårten was referring to useful work, not to make-work vanity projects. The Pyramids are impressive, but they don't really do anything useful.

  • That's like, many monitors full of discussion!

  • Yahoo is more corporate. Their profit is coming from advertisers and all the account management and business contact that comes with it. MySQL is a software company that has many of the same elements, but when you've got a product used internationally the folks translating documentation into Farsi somewhere in Asia don't need the same kind of close contact.

  • by westlake (615356) on Thursday March 07, 2013 @06:23PM (#43110205)

    he believes people working out of their homes is entirely natural; that this is how things were done for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.

    Divide and conquer.

    If you were producing for a market, home work was piece work --- with no labor laws or labor unions to prevent abuses.

    When the textile mills of New England began opening jobs to young women --- their first taste of independence, education, organization and a real, substantial, pay check --- girls abandoned the rustic life and never looked back.

    In union they found strength.

  • I can see why Yahoo would not want their workers collaborating using, say, a Google hangout, or Microsoft Skype.

  • Instead of actually attempting to manage the lazy way out is to apply blanket rules when a case by case situation makes more sense. While I do too much stuff with hardware to be able to work from home there are others in the org I work for that can very effectively do work in batches from anywhere out of the rain with an electricity supply. One of the most productive people lives six hours drive away from the workplace, and at 65+ he's proved many times over that he can be trusted to get the job done with

It is much easier to suggest solutions when you know nothing about the problem.

Working...