Tag: Management

The Bastardization of Facebook’s Motto

“Move fast and break things.”

I have heard it time and time again, but always out of context. It’s great to quote though when you want to encourage people to get things done. As long as you can live with the consequences of them well, breaking things. That isn’t exactly what the motto means though. Unlike the catchy phrase, it takes a few more words to explain.

To set the stage for this statement, people should understand the environment of Facebook. Of course, everyone has heard about their “brogramers” and parties, but there is a lot more to their management than that. Facebook employees are regularly rotating jobs, understanding the big picture, and learning about how each job impacts the others. They are taught to have an appreciation for various aspects of the company. It’s that training that allows them to, “move fast and [not actually] break things.”

Unlike the layman understanding of the phrase, it isn’t a mantra in support of chaos and anarchy. It’s actually promoting in-depth training and a commitment to constant employee education. Just a few of the things that you need if you expect your employees to feel safe breaking things in the name of productivity.

Many company’s may think that they have enough training for their employees to support this method of management, but it may be a more time-consuming project than many realize. At Facebook, one month of the year employees will be sent to work with another group on different projects. If you’re unfamiliar with programing, this would require the programer to read through and understand thousands of lines of code before they could even begin work. It’s an astoundingly slow process, but they remain committed.

If you didn’t catch that let me reiterate, one month of every year they spend doing a new job. 1/12th of the time they are learning. Can you imagine if every company was that way? Facebook admits that this program has interrupted important projects, set deadlines back, and yet, they remain committed to it.

It’s an impressive company that can commit to their employees to such a degree. While competitors may be short sighted, Facebook is willing to put a considerable investment of time into their employees to allow them the freedom of autonomy.

Worst Executions of a Termination

Recently, there was some discussion on how to properly terminate an employee. Sometimes people learn best by hearing what not to do. The following are real examples of various employee terminations from a number of companies. Feel free to add more to the comments or describe what you would have done differently.

The False Promise

One employee had been called into the conference room and told that their performance was not where it needed to be. Managers had defined clear goals for this employee to reach by a deadline in order to keep their position and attend an up-coming company retreat. The employee was able to reach all the goals set, and was reassured their position was safe. Only days before the company retreat the employee was called into the conference room once more and let go. The reason? The employees work was not where it needed to be.

Why is this so dangerous? It creates fear and uncertainty among employees. They can no longer trust that doing what they are asked is what they need to be doing. That department had spoken to managers later explaining that they felt under-appreciated which isn’t a surprise but it is a great way to lose your best talent.

A Dirty Secret

One of the senior level staff members of a company was trying to re-organize their team. It had been a long process, but they had significantly decreased incident reports and increased the accountability of team members. Of course, change always brings about some level of discomfort and a few vocal employees made their case to other senior level staff. The company decided that this manager should go, but unfortunately the manger had just left for vacation and wouldn’t be back for two weeks. It was then decided that the whole company would be told of the manager’s dismissal, but then instructed to not tell the manager. Accounts were locked down and the manager found out when he returned to work.

Why is this so dangerous? Firing employees never feels great. What this company did was unfair to the lower level employees. The stress and ill feelings associated with a firing shouldn’t be any of their concern and they certainly shouldn’t be asked to skirt the issue when their manager asks why a login isn’t working.

Take a Number Please

If you have been through a mass-layoff then you know they are never fun. This particular company decided the best way to handle the situation was to have every manager spend the day calling people one-by-one into their office. The process was mechanical and unsympathetic. Every employee knew immediately that if their name was called they would need to pack their things, but they still had to do a sit-down debrief before being escorted off the premises.

Why is this dangerous? It puts people on-edge and dramatically reduces productivity. The employees left are left in fear wondering if their name is the next to be called. Nobody feels relieved at the end of the day, just shocked.

All Together Now

Another less-ideal mass layoff strategy was this one. A company called all of the employees from various departments into a conference room for a non-descript meeting. They were all then told by a manager via a phone call that they had been terminated. It was not personal or private.

Why is this so dangerous? You don’t know how the employees will all react. They may come out of that room crying or they may come out of that room throwing chairs. It also shows a great disregard for the individual achievements and work that an employee has had.

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