Challenge Norms: Movin' and Shakin'

No more email. Unlimited vacation. Offices designed to keep employees away. I've been reading a lot of articles lately about companies that are overturning sacred apple carts. In each case it turns out that the only serious justification for the status quo was that it was the status quo.

Atos banned email. They've decided to know as a company what we all know individually: email stinks. Last year decided to delete all email that wasn't critical, without reading it if possible. I turned off my inbox notifier, too. After a few months I found that nothing bad happened as a result. So then I set up rules that wiped out about 80% of my email before I ever new it was there. Still, nothing bad. People use email as a file system and as a CC weapon. Atos decided to employ social networking tools that are appropriate for the task instead.

Red Frog has an unlimited vacation policy. As an organization they chose to understand what we all know: good employees want to work and don't abuse time off. Most of us don't use our 2 or 3 weeks as it is. Even when we do, we make sure that all of our work is done before we leave and we stay late catching up when we get back. Somewhere an HR policy guru is twitching and drooling in the corner over Red Frog's policy, but why? Really, why?

Plantronics wants their employees to work from home. They designed their office to keep employees away. They seem to have figured out that if they hire the right employees it really doesn't matter where they work. Of course we all know that, but Plantronics chose to know it as an organization.

Here's what's so interesting about these and similar situations: the companies decided to believe in the aggregate what they all knew individually. They chose to replace traditional thought with contemporary facts. That should seem like a no-brainer, but for some reason it seems that we have to know things for a long time before we are willing to believe them as a group. There is something comforting about structure that keeps us clinging to it long after it ceases to be beneficial. Kudos to these companies for taking off the blinders.

This is what movers and shakers do. They challenge things. They don't do it for sport or to breed contention. They just aren't afraid to ask, "Why?" when something doesn't make sense.

I've written about a few things in the IT realm that generally don't make sense in their current form (see "5 broken things that IT continues to embrace") including:
  • many IT processes
  • most IT documentation
  • corporate IT SLAs
  • team silos based on skill sets
  • HR's performance review process

I also have talked about rules and why they are generally ineffective in numerous posts.

I've found a few other things that simply don't seem to be necessary:

1. Voice mail. I've been in Korea for a year and a half. I've received 3 voice mails during that time. Each one was preceded by an email and included a followup email. The voice mails were unnecessary. People in Asia don't use voice mail. They use text messages and they're always concise. I wonder what would happen if a company decided to ban voicemail! You're probably reading this thinking "Heresy!" But hey, Atos just banned email, right? Just think about it.

2. Big, centralized offices. With video conferencing capabilities, why have one big office in the middle of the city and force everyone to commute in? You're not paying people enough to live close to the office, and that office costs a fortune. Why not have three smaller, strategically-located offices and let people go to the nearest one? The leases would be cheaper. You'd get "green" press. You might get green tax breaks depending on where you're located. You could probably offer lower pay to new applicants since they would save two hours each day on their commute. Having worked for a globally-distributed company that relied on video conferencing for day-to-day business, I know that it works. Plus, if worse comes to worse, you're only an hour away.

So here's a request: I know that you have ideas about things that we all know don't work. Yet corporate consciousness hasn't grasped it yet. Please leave your ideas in the comments. I'll write another post aggregating them and I'll even do some research to see whether anyone has addressed them yet.

Let's move and shake a little. Hope to hear from you...

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1 comment:

JRHelgeson said...

Companies are like families. What works is entirely based upon the dynamics of the organization and its leadership. What works for my wife and I & kids, may not work for you and your family. There are general guidelines that we can all abide by, but when it comes to implementation - it's all up to the individual family.

Same things go for corporations.