The wonderful Hugh McLeod does it again and shows one side of the story that many people will respond to because it's true. It is easier to work at an office than to work at home with the kids close by.
MM's desire is to get her staff to work better together. She fears that when so many are not face to face, that they cannot. I think that she is partly right here but also wrong.
In this post I am not going to knock her. I deeply sympathazie. I am going to offer an exciting work out for her real problem. And a workout for any who wish to have a successful workforce in the future.
We do need lots of time face to face to get really close. But the office culture does not accomplish this - as it is today.
At the office you are encouraged to leave every part of you outside that is not part of the task at hand. You are mainly in your cubicle with your head down and your earphones on. You attend endless pointless meetings that are all about control and status - not yours. You are stressed by the gap that opens up between this world and your other life. The Cable guy is a reality. Your kids in daycare are a reality. Your commute is a reality. The fact that you have to have a more expensive house, is a reality. The fact that you have to dress for work and eat outside for work is a reality.
You are not fully present at the office.
Nor do you know your colleagues that well. You don't share their lives. You have few opportunities to hang out. Most people eat at their desk alone and spend less than 20 minutes doing this. You may be in teams. But you were ordered to be in this team. You owe nothing to the others in the team. It is like softball at kindergarten. You don't know your boss either - who spends so much of her time reminding you that she is your boss. You often know more than she does too!
How the office is set up as a culture - as factory with you doing piece work with a foreman - is not the setting for collaboration.
But, because most organizations spend no time, thought or effort on culture, working at home can be no better.
Most people who work at home have had no experience in not being a supervised factory worker. This all starts at school where the teacher sets the schedule and the work. If you have worked in an office, you have been cultured to work like this too. I am sure that MM is correct in her observation that many of her home workers are not very productive.
But this is not their fault. It is the culture.
Real freelancers are measured and valued by results. They are hired to pull something off. How they do it, is their business not the client's. But home workers in a traditional organization are measured on how much effort they put in, in time and in the how. They are in effect still in a factory culture.
The issue for Yahoo and others is not who works at home or not but culture. That is the CEO's job.
You cannot have collaboration or innovation from domesticated pets. They have to act out because they have been made into small children.
They also hang out all the time with each other. They know everything about each other.
Real Freelancers do this too. They hire each other for gigs. They hang out on Twitter and Facebook with each other all day and night. They visit each other. They fly across the world to spend days, night, weeks and even months with each other. They don't do 9 - 5 and run.
If they get no work, they starve. If they do bad work, they starve.
The alpha in a project is the one who got the gig. Or the one who knows the most for that gig. There is a hierarchy but it is a real one. There is one at the bottom too. And he or she is there to learn. In time they grow to be core members or leaders in their own gigs.
The pack goes hunting. The gig is the prize. The pack feeds on the gig.
The pack get gigs because they do a good job. They give the client the result that the client wants They are not hired to spend time or to fit into a work protocol. They are hired to get hard things done in a set time.
So if I was MM I would do this.
I would start to move Yahoo's culture in this direction. I would set up an inner core that had responsibility for key results and fucntions. Some I would keep inside traditionally - you don't outsource your core processing etc. But all other work I would shift to networks. At the core of each would be a set of Facilitators. They would surround themselves with circles of packs of freelancers. There would be a gradient. The inner circle would get work most of the time. As the rings moved out to the periphery, less. But the core would keep a close eye on the edge for that will be where the novel will emerge.
The packs/teams would self organize. Yahoo would not set them up. They would hire on the basis of the task and the capability. It would be up to the team leader to hire the team. She would pay them from the contract.
Yahoo would set up the world's best closed social network so all can be in constant ouch with each other. Skype have open screens in all their offices. A person in Redmond can look up and talk to a co worker in Estonia as if she was next to him. The entire network would be able to talk to each other and help with problems. The full power of the full crowd would be available.
Periodically Yahoo would organize and pay for face to face events that would last for several days and nights where many teams would get together and hang out. Just as tribes used to do. These would mainly be powows where partying and doing fun things with each other would be central. Alcohol, dancing and food would be vital. People will get layed.
The point is to build real relationships in face time to lubricate the virtual.
The cost of this would be payed from the fact that Yahoo's office costs would be cut by millions. So would their salary and benefit costs.
But they also would set up a Yahoo Freelancer health insurance plan that would give their freelancers access to a group. They do as much to empower the group as possible.
Yahoo then will have to do that most vital of things. Yahoo have to know what it is that they want to do. Process no longer needs to be measured. Results have to be measured.With an online workforce this is easy to do.
The core inner circle skill will be facilitation and project scoping. The core executive skill will be in keeping ther network healthy and in noticing important movement that will show them where to focus on next. They will have to be skilled Hackers!
Now Yahoo have a Darwinian ecology of a workforce. Talent rises to the top naturally. Good new teams enter naturally. Now Yahoo can hire from a pool of 7 billion people. This would be exciting and worthy of a turn around.
So why not? What do you have to lose?
PS In my old life I was SVP HR for a company with 45,000 employees whwre my focus was culture and for the last 20 years have been writing about the network - my book You Don't Need a Job: The Rise of the Network is here.