Absurdly Driven looks at the world of business with a skeptical eye and a firmly rooted tongue in cheek.
Most employees and quite a few bosses dream of radical change.
Sometimes it seems too hard. Sometimes the potential of resistance is too frightening to contemplate. So the grind continues, without anyone being happy, except whoever holds the most shares.
One company, though, claims it's progressively taken a scalpel to traditional work practices and become better for it.
MT Online runs a series of websites across Latin America that help people find the best personal loans and car insurance.
Its co-founders insist that they've managed to eradicate meetings, email, and even managers and have thrived because of it.
In a post on Venture Beat, Christian Renella and Hernan Amiune say email was first to go. They describe email as "the least productive tool we can use." Yes, worse even than the carrot and the stick.
They say that email isolates information, rather than sharing it with the whole company. They also complain that email becomes the go-to place where employees go to discover what they're supposed to do next.
This encourages haphazard organization and a lack of harmony with everything else that's going on in the company.
Their solution was simply an open control panel where everyone can see what's going on at any time and can contribute to it. This does seem frighteningly open, especially as clients also have access to it.
Moreno hasn't done our project yet? What? He's at the dentist's?
The next thing they incised was meetings. They realized that engineers needed four hours of continuous work in the morning and four more in the afternoon. How daft, then, to have that interrupted by human beings wanting to do dreadful things such as talk incessantly or, even worse, pose.
So MT Online uses the same control panel that buried email. If something is urgent, the coder can continue along his coding way and answer it through group chat when he or she has a moment.
The other advantage the co-founders see is that everything is written down. So anyone new can walk right into the control panel or the chat tool and know immediately what has been going on and what decisions have been made.
Yes, but then no one can bring cookies for the three-hour meeting.
The eight-year-old company still had the itch to swing its scythe. So it cut out managers. This is many an engineer's dream. They imagine that no one will nag them and therefore everything will dance to their tune in rhythmic joy.
Again, this went back to the holy control panel. Why have managers telling you what to do when the control panel already shows you what needs to be done? And in any case, when robots come in, this is how work will be any way. Well, for those humans who still have a job.
To make this all work, MT Online claims it couldn't hire just anyone. The company--after eight years it still calls itself a startup, which is charming--says it hires "proactive engineers." They incentivize these rare beings by suggesting that one day they could become part-owners.
Renella and Amiune explain their management philosophy like this: "We give total autonomy to our team members and delegate them responsibility. We measure their performance exclusively by results."
Ah, but one person's result can be another's problem. One person's autonomy can be another's arrogance or recalcitrance.
Perhaps MT Online manages (or, rather doesn't) to enjoy personalities who happen to mesh in a spirited commune of capitalism.
Certainly, the company claims that everyone works only four days a week, which in America is called the week of July 4.
It's a company of only 36 employees. Perhaps this style of non-management works for a company that size.
What would happen if, say, GE tried it?