Why the change? In Part I of this series, we synopsized the promising future of distributed collaboration and remote work. We first outlined the evolutionary changes in the workplace that enabled the proliferation of the distributed project management team and the breaking of physical barriers between employable candidates around the world. Accessible high-speed broadband, the advent of web 2.0 cloud services, and efficient real time communication tools all helped catalyze this evolution. We then detailed how these new dimensions in the labor force can be advantageous to small and agile project management team seeking to outperform larger, more cumbersome traditional teams in the traditional office. Specifically, we focused on the advantages of international personnel recruitment (in the form of remote work) and overhead cost minimization.
But there’s really no such thing as a silver bullet… Granted, remote work and distributed workspaces will give incredible potency to small project management team seeking to innovate and outmaneuver. But what of larger organizations, corporations and institutes? Comprehensive studies have shown that while remote collaboration grants both greater agility and innovation to small teams, it can actually detriment large teams when employed incorrectly. Not only do large teams often become less efficient when remote work is introduced, but they often also become less innovative! The army of ‘bloggers’ on the web today point the finger damningly at the notion of remote work in its entirety, simply marching to the beat of the drum of the latest tech celebrity, Marrisa Mayer (interestingly enough, a great many of these opinionated bloggers are contract workers…working remotely).
In reality, the real culprit for this insidious symptom of remote work in large organizations is actually a simpler one: Psychology. Large organizations have a sinister tendency of becoming overly centralized; it’s a natural corollary to any system that grows more complex in human organization. As an organization becomes more centralized, employee visibility decreases dramatically. In other words, when a project management team gets huge, employees can easily get lost (or go into hiding). Yahoo knows this all too well. Over the years, Yahoo saw incredible centralization in management and departmental architecture. As project management team got fewer and larger, the innovative spark that the company once had began to wane (Yahoo’s trajectory ever since has been laden with aimless management and a rapid succession of failing CEO’s). Likewise, as Yahoo further dabbled in remote employment to cut costs, they saw remote workers taking advantage of an inefficient system. No one’s watching, the work is listless, why not slack off???
Marrisa Mayer didn’t suddenly lose faith in remote work; she had to face a reality. The reality is that Yahoo has been bleeding money and talent and needs to cut overhead even further. Marrisa didn’t tell these hundreds of remote workers to relocate to Yahoo offices; she fired them. Unfortunately, unless these efforts at cost reduction are paired with organizational reform and decentralization, Yahoo will continue to suffer.
This and the previous article about remote woking were written by Dan Rob