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Marissa Mayer no more work from home: misdiagnosing the problem

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Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer spent her first few months on the job making her employees feel better about where they worked. Then, recently, she took a big step backward, rescinding the treasured right to work from home.

Now she’s in damage control mode. So we get an opaquely sourced New York Times story explaining that Mayer had an excellent reason for the morale-killing new policy: boosting morale.

Still following?

People unhappy with the change are being quietly told that there is no change, really — at least not one that applies to them. Instead, it’s aimed at the roughly 200 workers who have arrangements that let them work from home full time.

“Although they collected Yahoo paychecks, some did little work for the company and a few even had begun their own start-ups on the side,” reports the Times

I read a few articles on this new policy by Marissa Mayer at Yahoo.  She is definitely bucking the trend of work from home.

From the limited number of articles I’ve read so far there is no mention of exactly what sort of work these people do.  None of the articles have dug into this deeper question.  Who are these people and how strategic are they to the business?

Who’s minding the store?

To make people who…  “collected Yahoo paychecks, [and] did little work for the company” show up is not going to solve the root cause of the problem.

This is a management problem and executive leadership problem.  By making the “offenders” (so called) show up at work is misdiagnosing the problem.

At the bottom of an organization a good project management disciple would make deliverables clear, identify who is working on what, and when the deliverables are due.  If no task assigned to an employee is longer then 40 hrs then any missed task deliverables will be noticed in about a week.

So, if any employee collected a paycheck and did little work for the company then some things seem obvious

  1. There is a problem of accountability.  This works two ways.  Employee committment to the company to do a good/excellent job.  A committment from the company to hold everyone accountable.
  2. There is a project management problem.  Doesn’t the management know what their employees are supposed to be doing?  Are there no milestones on projects, or schedules, or any way of tracking missed milestones and deadlines?  If employees can get paid and do nothing then Yahoo has little financial management at the project level. 
  3. There is a financial management problem at executive levels.  If there is no scrutiny on financial performance at the project level then this shows there are problems at the executive level as well.
  4. The operating model seems broken.  If projects can squander money then strategic initiatives, operating model, projects, and individual financial incentives and performance measures are not aligned.
  5. You hired (and retained) the wrong people all across the organization.  Employees that get paid and deliver little or no value to the company, Project Managers that don’t manage projects or people, executives that don’t watch financial performance of projects, and an operating model that shows signs of wear certainly suggest that Yahoo has hired and retained the wrong people at all levels.

The Take

If the above five points are near on the mark then Marissa Mayer making people “show up” is not going to solve the problem.  By misdiagnosing the problem she will be on a treadmill of revisiting the problem until the root cause is properly diagnosed and addressed.

She is there for a turnaround, right?  Here’s her chance.  “Show up for work”… I call this one “a clean miss”.

Written by frrl

March 7, 2013 at 6:38 pm

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