Monday, March 11, 2013

Good Management - Working from Home Takes Teamwork

The funny thing about working from home is that you rely on your co-workers and especially your managers even more than when you go to an office. I have worked in corporate offices, I have cranked out work on-site at start-ups, I've designed large scale websites in corporate environments, in agency environments, and at home. And you know what? It always comes down to management.

Good Management Handles the Work
Over the course of 2009 and 2010 I worked on a very successful project for Cengage Learning and - I never met my clients - ever.  However the project was managed very well by Cengage's internal team. My client/manager understood the entire scope of the project and was able to break down all the work into a very effective process. He communicated everything very clearly to the team, including a schedule, all the deliverables he expected, and when he wanted them. We always had two-way conversations about the work and we thoroughly reviewed my output on a regular basis.  My client was always clear about my pace of work, and I was always clear about his deadlines (this ensured that I could effectively manage my time as a remote resource for Cengage). Good remote managers are: Focused on business. They are not emotional or insecure, instead they are confident and goal orientated. But most importantly they communicate well, are organized and decisive. I cannot reiterate enough how important these qualities are.

Bad Management = Insecurity
And I've had bad managers too, we all have. The biggest pain point of working with these people is that we need to compensate for their insecurities. Maybe you've worked for somebody who is indecisive, they are unsure about what they want? Perhaps you literally do your boss' job? Often with boot strapped start-up companies I see entrepreneurs struggle with making decisions because they are worrying about money. At one start-up I worked at in San Francisco, I would watch the CTO pound his fist and demand that the entire company work at least from 7am to 7pm. This is clearly an insecure way to try to run a company and speaks volumes for how the CTO valued other people's time. I did notice this same CTO sneak out of the office and take entire afternoons off.  Which leads to my main point, only bad insecure managers want to corral their employees around them so they can make themselves feel better.

Remember, it's the internet!
My advice to Yahoo! and Marissa Meyer is this - Make sure your managers can handle their jobs.  We "eat the dog food". We are already doing so much work online it seems waste full to drive back and forth to redundant offices. The point of being onsite is to collaborate. If your managers don't enable collaboration then what are they doing? There's nothing more frustrating than commuting for over 2 hours a day only to watch your boss waste time in the office.

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