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GitHub: We Don't Take Ass-in-Seat Metrics to Measure Performance

CIO Scott Chacon revealed a bit about what makes the company's culture tick.

On the first day of South by Southwest Interactive, Github CIO Scott Chacon sat down with Inc.'s senior writer Christine Lagorio-Chafkin in front of a crowd of about 100 at Austin's Pine Street Station.

Their talk, sponsored by Dell and Inc., shed light on the company's incredibly liberal (and fascinating) company culture.

For starters, about two-thirds of the social network's 250 employees are remote, Chacon said. "It shouldn't matter where you work, as long as you contribute and perform. We don't care what you do with your time."

If it ain't broke…

Chacon said the culture began with a few early employees--and they did not make a deliberate decision to embrace a work-from-home-tolerant culture. 

"Most of the early employees worked from home in San Francisco, and we would just meet at a bar once a week to talk about what we needed to do to move forward," he said. "It was just easier that way for all of us."

GitHub launched in 2008 as a service to help coders share and comment on code. The company grew quickly and in all has received about $100 million in funding. 

"As the company grew, we just kept that same mentality going," he said. "Some companies make the choice to institute a culture. We didn't. It's just always been there."

Keeping in touch

When asked how he handles meetings between so many remote employees, Chacon said something rather counterintuitive. Instead of more meetings, he typically champions fewer. Each department is different, so he didn't have an ideal number of meetings per month. But for GitHub, unless a meeting has a clear purpose and can work for everyone--it just doesn't happen.

"For example, developers don't need a lot of meetings. Maybe once or twice a month, then it's heads down," he said. "It's really important to us that meetings mean something for the people attending."

Big payoffs

One major plus GitHub's seen from this casual attendance idea has been in recruiting.

"We want the best in the world. So we can't be taking 'ass-in-seat' metrics," he said.

It also doesn't hurt that GitHub can authentically say its employees have a good sense of work-life balance. 

"If someone wants to take Monday off to be with their son, that's great," he said, adding that most employees do take advantage of owning their own time.

As the company has grown, it has also developed ways to sniff out those employees who perhaps abuse the freedom. For Chacon, a big red flag is if the employee is on a team, and the team members all have a problem with one person. 

"That's a huge sign to us, but it really depends on the situation," he added.

 

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Last updated: Mar 8, 2014

NICOLE CARTER | Staff Writer | San Francisco Bureau Chief

Nicole Carter is Inc.'s San Francisco bureau chief. She was previously an editor at New York Daily News, and her work has also appeared in Consumer Reports magazine.




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