Le Fromage Grand Wants People At Their Desks

(28 September 2017)
Phillipe has arrived. He is the new Chief Technology Officer heading up the research teams.

Phillipe is from France. He comes to the United States from the Paris office.

He is concerned that too few people are at their desks. This appears to be especially a concern on Friday afternoons. The executives have started talking.

It’s not clear to me if Phillipe is really concerned about this or not. It could be that his superiors are, in fact, the ones concerned about it. Phillipe may simply be at the knuckle end of it. Either way, he’s taken up the cause.

Word has come to me through a number of channels that the development team managers have been put on notice, too.

The rumor going around tells a story of Phillipe on a sort of anti-gemba, counting the empty chairs and then proceeding to tell the executive administrator that he wanted a list of names of people not at their desks and the managers each individual reports to. According to the rumor, the executive administrator did not do this.

I understand also through the hearsay of the rumor mill that HR has attempted to explain that a flexible workplace is highly valued among the workers and a key to attracting an retaining top talent.

My director passed on the direction to me that I am to accountable for being at work from 8am to 5pm. My director later acknowledged that there should be some flexibility around our work hours, acknowledging challenges with the commute. My director later  explained that we trusted to perform our work according to the work hours that met the needs of our work/life balance. All of these appear, as far as I can tell, to be additive.

The director wanted to know what I thought about all of this. I don’t see it as an especially big problem: The engineers will simply cross the street and get a new job there.

I haven’t met Phillipe. I passed him in the loo, once.

I do know others who know him and speak about him with respect, so I have every reason to think he’s not only qualified for the position he holds, but that holding that position is generally a good thing for everyone concerned.

Still, these positive and credible statements to his character are offset by the only rumor I have about him to date: the walk through the office in search of missing persons.

Around that, I remind myself that I have no context to this whatsoever. For all I know, Phillipe did this on direction of his superiors. We all answer to someone.

Or, he was acting precipitously on limited information. The ladder of assumption is a common source for misunderstandings.

Perhaps he was simply in a bad mood that day.

A number of people are bent out of shape about all of this, but I’m attempting indifference.

If there is continued pressure to be at the desk from eight to five, regardless of the reality of working in a modern, distributed workplace, then I’ll deal with it then.

The truth of the matter is that a choice between voluntary attrition of 15% of the programming team and a shift in leadership, I would expect time to solve this problem in a way that’s most beneficial to the programming team.

Before that happens, however, the policy will tested by reality. They will run out of parking before they run out of floor space. They will run into the RED air quality days, where the State, County, and City governments will urge workers to say at home. They will face the increased congestion in the same places that workers relocating RTP are more likely to move into.

My job, in the mean time, remains helping the leadership team understand that if they want the engineers to be in the office more, a ‘create the container’ leader gives them an environment they want to be in.

If we want workers to be in the office, we have to give them something in the office they cannot get at home. Work group rooms, co-located teams, meaningful Agile ceremonies, and other qualities of the workplace that we can create for them, pulling them into the work place, to collaborate, to innovate, to produce.

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