On February 5th, a CEO announced they were bringing their distributed team back into a single location.
The reason made sense as he shared some of the reasons why (emphasis mine):
[W]e are spending more time together to make even better progress on our core products.
On February 25th, another more well-known CEO (yes, Marissa Mayer) announced to all of Yahoo that “communication and collaboration will be important, so we need to be working side-by-side.”
And a week later, we saw another announcement killing the remote work program at Best Buy.
Trend First, Response Next?
Within hours, people started explaining why Yahoo was taking a huge step backwards. Maybe you saw it on Hacker News or on other places online, but the message was the same. Almost everyone, almost everywhere declared in one voice: “This is 2013!”
After all, shouldn’t the technology we have enable us to let employees live and work wherever they want to? Shouldn’t we trust employees to manage themselves and get their work done? I mean, these were smart and capable people, after all. So what was Best Buy and Yahoo thinking?
A Moment of Reflection
The last time I had an entire team all working together from a single office was in 1996. So of course, you’d imagine I was against these pronouncements.
But I wasn’t.
The thing that Yahoo and Best Buy have in common is that they’re in a fight for their own survival. I remember (and this dates me) back when Bullfrog was on the hook to create Dungeon Keeper (a video game for those unaware) and they were way off schedule.
They all moved into Peter Molyneux‘s house to finish it up. It was crazy. It was pure insanity. Twenty to thirty people living there, if I remember right. I’m sure it didn’t smell great. But after years of delay, guess what? They got it released. And it was a success.
What’s my point?
You don’t save a company while on skype and using GoToMeeting. Not a chance. You pull everyone together, you rally the troops, and the ones who enter the battle go to war together to make things happen.
Can you launch a new product while being remote? Yes. Is it easier to make that last climb when you’re all together? Yes, you’ll reach the summit faster, for sure.
Yahoo and Best Buy aren’t Google. They’re not Apple. Hell, they’re not even Microsoft. They’re companies that one might argue are trying to recover years after the writing was on the wall. Some people will quit with this new decree. Sure. But others won’t.
Which brings us back to 8BIT & WP Daily…
They’re not like Yahoo and Best Buy. But they’re pursuing the same strategy.
One that’s been proven to work – whether it’s building a software game, an online service, or in my direct experience, enterprise software. John said it best – it is about “making even better progress.”
They aren’t ending their distributed dynamics, but they’re creating space for some “together” time so they can accelerate what takes longer and is hard when you’re in a remote context.
Working Remote is Hard
Turning a company around when key execs are remote is even harder. Launching new products while turning a company around, while key execs are remote is impossible. They weren’t being idiots.
They were doing the only thing that will give them any hope of turning things around. I, for one, am eager to see how it goes. At least for Yahoo. I could care less about Best Buy. I shop at the Apple store.