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Ordered back to the mother ship – Why Marissa Mayer’s work-at-home policy signals future challenges

By adamk on March 4, 2013

By Adam Krob

This week, I read Yahoo! announcement that work-at-home privileges were being revoked for its team members.  As a long-time work-at-home advocate (nearly 5 years of working from the study overlooking my garden), I was surprised.  I watched as the pundits weighed in about the policy, both for and against.  I came to the conclusion that this decision signals big challenges for Yahoo! in the not too distant future.  There are two reasons for my concern – first that the decision highlights the importance of the Yahoo! mother ship, and second that the decision shows a dangerous leaning toward activity-based metrics.

My first concern is Yahoo!’s express elevation of the work that goes on in Sunnyvale over work done elsewhere.  Whether intentional or not, Mayer’s decision to end work-at-home sends a message that the only important work is the work being done at headquarters.  At The Verghis Group, we call this the mother ship syndrome.

The long-term effects are two-fold.  The first is that the mother ship syndrome is demotivating to anyone who works outside the corporate headquarters.  If you work in Asia, Latin America, or Europe, you will begin to think that your contributions are less valued by the organization.  If you have to wait until 9am pacific time to green light a small project or make a personnel decision, your perceptions will be confirmed.  Top talent will stay just long enough to find another organization that values their contributions.  The second effect of the mother ship syndrome is the loss of key perspectives.  I have been working with a team of people for about a year.  This team is made up of people on four different continents and five different cities. If our team had restricted membership to people at any one of the locations, we would have lost key people with varied and important perspectives.  Our differences have made our team successful.  You don’t get as much difference in one location, not matter how appealing you make it.

My second concern with Mayer’s decision is the (reported) reason that she made it.  According to several reports, the key metric that led to ending work-at-home for Yahoo! team members was time on the virtual private network (VPN, a technology that allows computers outside a corporate firewall to work as if they were inside it, while keeping the data passed between computers private).  I find the time on the VPN metric troubling because it is prioritizing an activity over an outcome (perhaps customer adoption of a new Yahoo! service).  Looking at trends in activities like time on the VPN is fine, as long as it doesn’t become a key decision factor (as it appears to have in this case).  If the activity becomes more important than the outcome, the organization is headed for trouble.  If your team knows that time on the VPN is the most important goal, then developers are smart enough to game the system.  I am sure someone already has an automated process that generates VPN activity to simulate real work.  More problematic, though, is that the team loses touch with what is really important—the outcomes like profitability, customer satisfaction or team satisfaction.  Focusing on activities kills organizational alignment.

Yahoo!’s work-at-home policy change isn’t a small step, it is a big one.  Mayer and her team need to weigh the drawbacks with their positive intentions.

Two clients in top ten ‘Most Innovative’ companies in America

By Phil Verghis on September 5, 2012

Pleased to have 2 clients in the 10 most innovative companies in America. A pleasure to work with… #custserv http://onforb.es/Rbmyv6

Pricing the Priceless — an interesting read for all of us struggling with measures, metrics and madness.

By Phil Verghis on July 9, 2012

As we struggle with the move from ‘easy’ measures and metrics to outcome-based measures, it is very interesting to see how smart people are trying to define and articulate similarly difficult-to-measure measures on a macro level.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the traditional proxy for how well off a country is. However, it is a measure of economic production or income (not wealth), and it doesn’t help with figuring out how sustainable the growth is.

A new study from a United Nations team lead by Sir Partha Dasgupta of Cambridge University has proposed a new measure — the Inclusive Wealth Index. It puts a monetary value on three areas: Physical Capital (manufactured assets), Human Capital (education and skills) and Natural Capital (land, fossil fuels etc.).

As the Economist notes: By putting a dollar value on everything from bauxite to brainpower, the UN’s exercise makes all three kinds of capital comparable and commensurable. It also implies that they are substitutable. A country can lose $100 billion-worth of pastureland, gain $100 billion-worth of skills and be no worse off than before. The framework turns economic policymaking into an “asset-management problem”, says Sir Partha.

Full report:

http://bit.ly/MV7bVC

Highly readable Economist article – where does *your* country stack up in this new way of measuring?

http://www.economist.com/node/21557732

Sir Partha also states the measures are illustrative, not definitive, and that much more work needs to be done to properly refine and develop these concepts. Sound familiar?

Does anyone have access to researchers doing work in this field? It would be great to invite them to join in the discussion and discovery process.

Going public – what it was like

By Phil Verghis on May 18, 2012

Friend and author Annie wrote a nice blog post on Harvard Business Review on what it was like to go public the day of one of the hottest IPOs in 1999. Good observations for Facebook and the leadership team.

Nice blog by @anniebourne on Harvard Business Review on #facebook IPO and ours in 1999. http://t.co/XJhYSuOl #in

 

By Phil Verghis on May 14, 2012

We won – again! The Verghis Group was announced as the winner of the ‘Best in Tour’ at the Spring 2012 TSIA conference. We also were a finalist in the ‘Innovation in Consulting’ award, having won it in the Fall of 2011.

Getting ready for a Metrics and Madness session

By Phil Verghis on May 4, 2012

Just put the final touches on a ‘Beyond Metrics’ session with Karen Lim (VP, Worldwide Software Support at Pitney  Bowes) and Janet Ramey (Senior Director, Strategic Business Operations at Cisco). Two very smart individuals who are committed to making a difference for their customers. Learn what has worked and what hasn’t. Session is from 4 – 5 PM on Tuesday May 8th.

http://www.technologyservicesworld.com/schedule/

First ever ‘Innovation in Consulting’ award from TSIA

By Phil Verghis on November 5, 2011

An independent panel of judges awarded us the first ever ‘Innovation in Consulting’ award at the Fall 2011 TSIA conference. Thanks to our customers, our community and to Adam and Jen for their hard work.

From the listing:

The Verghis Group is a management consulting firm focused on senior service and support leaders. The firm’s founder, Phil Verghis, is an internationally recognized expert who has helped dozens of support and services executives devise winning strategies. He’s been a top-level support executive himself, he’s written a book on customer-centric management, and he has hands-on experience with implementing new metrics, new systems, new business models, and new market development initiatives.

The application from the Verghis Group detailed multiple client projects and business challenges, with four specific areas of innovation cited from client projects.

Innovation One: Clear alignment from vision to the individual;
Innovation Two: Let the “doers” do;
Innovation Three: Focus.
Innovation Four: New way of managing, ‘Guiding, not Grading’.

Big smile

By Phil Verghis on April 13, 2011

One of the most satisfying aspects of working with clients around the world is knowing what you do makes a difference for them and their customers. I don’t get to do workshops often, but…

…a  ‘Metrics, Measures and Madnessworkshop attendee called to let me know something after the workshop on Friday that made me feel really good. He took a proverbial knife to the 1,500 reports that he was responsible for producing and made available only 500 from Monday onwards – and no one noticed.

That same Monday, his boss asked for a new report. He took the time to ask all the right questions – who is the audience, what is the purpose, how will the information be used, how will feedback be given on use of the information, how will customers benefit etc. The boss was puzzled with all the questions, but gave all the answers. When she got the report and the analytics behind it, she said it was the best report she ever had.

Next workshop: Transforming knowledge management. For those of who know, it is the Knowledge Centered Support (KCS V5 Foundations workshop), with many Verghis Group twists…
http://bit.ly/kcsworkshop, co-taught with the Consortium for Service Innovation, the custodians of the standard.

 

Fascinating article on how biology influences leadership

By Phil Verghis on October 14, 2010

The Economist has a very interesting article on ‘The Biology of Business: Homo Administrans’ where they talk about how biologists have brought rigor to psychology, sociology and even economics. Now they are turning their attention to the softest science of all: management.

Read all about it at:

http://bit.ly/economist_biology_mgmt


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