The businesses that launched in the early days of the
internet were set on changing the world. That also meant changing the
work place and their environments. I know because I worked in one.
I was the second person at Silicon Alley Reporter in the mid-90s when anyone involved in the Internet scene thought that we were all going to change the world. Now we all know the way we live our lives is not going to change over night but it was the beginning of change. Here is what was life changing for me. I worked at Silicon Alley Reporter heading up all sales including involvement in the overall big picture of how the company was going evolve. I had 3 young kids at home all under the age of 5 and I worked from home. I had a home office that was next to the kids playroom. I fielded 150 emails a day, 50 phone calls and faxes. The business grew and the sales grew and I eventually hired a sales staff in LA and NY. I came in once a week and talked to my group daily. Trust me we did not lose out because we were not all under one roof every day.
Certainly Yahoo has found itself way down a path where the culture of the company is perhaps out of control. The company has gone through several CEO's in a very short amount of time. Changing the culture of an organization is like turning around a cruise ship. It takes a long time. I do not believe that shooting a new mandate across the bow of the ship is going to change the culture.
There are 14,500 people who work at Yahoo. Digging in to every single division is time consuming. Who is running each area, what are they getting done, what projects are they working on, what are they just maintaining, are the creative people getting together a few times a week face to face, are divisions working together or are there a variety of fiefdoms, can the company be more nimble and efficient with 9000 people. I am going to assume that these questions are being asked and the powers that be are digging down into management from the bottom up. It takes time but if you can clean up the company and culture in a strategic disciplined calculated way then the concept of flexible work can and should exist. It has to. It is the principles that Yahoo and others companies of that generation were built on.
When I worked at Macys, many years ago, they went from being a publically trading company to a privately held one They took on massive debt. How did upper management deal? They put restrictions on all management so that nobody had any flexibility to make decisions because they micromanaged the process from above. That is exactly what is happening at Yahoo. What happened at Macys is the best and the brightest jumped ship.
Beware to Yahoo, you will get what you paid for. The best and brightest will jump ship, the next round of employees will not be self-starters but working stiffs, the environment will become boring with zero innovation and will feel like an old school bank and the costs will be higher for every employee to have a chair and people will be clamoring to get out and home by 5pm.
Yet the worst thing that they have done is send a message to families, working parents who want and truly need the flexibility to be productive at work and be productive happy parents at home. Their dreams that internet businesses will change the work environment is over. In particular the ability to give women especially mothers the opportunity to work and be present in their childrens lives while leveling the playing field because technology has created a platform to do that....well that bubble at Yahoo just burst. Shame shame on Yahoo. No longer a leader of change.