We've known this for 50 years: open-plan offices do nothing good for companies except reduce rent costs, but they do a whole lot of bad. They are not "fun;" they are not "collaborative;" they are not "start-uppy." They just suck:
Over the decades, a lot of really stupid management fads have come and gone, including:
- Six Sigma, where employees wear different colored belts (like in karate) to show they've been trained in the methodology.
- Stack Ranking, where employees are encouraged to rat each other out in order to secure their own advancement and budget.
- Consensus Management, where all decisions must pass through multiple committees before being implemented.
It need hardly be said that these fads were and are (at best) a waste of time and (at worst) a set of expensive distractions. But open plan offices are worse. Much worse. Why? Because they decrease rather than increase employee collaboration.
Previous studies of open plan offices have shown that they make people less productive, but most of those studies gave lip service to the notion that open plan offices would increase collaboration, thereby offsetting the damage.
The Harvard study, by contrast, undercuts the entire premise that justifies the fad. And that leaves companies with only one justification for moving to an open plan office: less floor space, and therefore a lower rent.
As an introvert in a field that requires concentration, minimal distractions, and time to reflect and think about what I'm doing—not to mention, a field predominantly comprising introverts—it's even worse.
I wish I had at least a cubicle.
We have a deployment at work tonight at 5pm (because in financial firms, you always deploy at 5pm on Friday). Fortunately, we've already done a full test, so we're looking forward to a pretty boring deployment tonight.
Fortunately, we have the Internet, which has provided me with all of these things to read:
Back to planning for next week's post-deployment fixes.
I'm about to go home to take Parker to the vet (he's getting two stitches out after she removed a fatty cyst from his eyelid), and then to resume panicking packing. I might have time to read these three articles:
Moving tomorrow. I just want this to be over...
As predicted, Eddie Lampert has succeeded in driving Sears into the ground:
In announcing the news, Sears said Edward Lampert stepped down as CEO effective immediately and remains chairman.
Sears and Kmart stores and online platforms will remain open, though the company also said it would close 142 unprofitable stores near yearend, with liquidation sales at those locations "expected to begin shortly."
The company said it has commitments for $300 million of debtor-in-possession financing from its senior secured asset-based revolving lenders and is negotiating a $300 million subordinated DIP financing with ESL Investments, where Lampert is chairman and CEO. The hedge fund held about $2.5 billion in Sears debt as of September, the result of multiple attempts to keep the chain afloat.
Negotiations over the fate of the fallen company continued over the past week, as it faced a critical $134 million of debt that is maturing today.
So, after killing the 132-year-old company, Lampert stands to make millions from its demise. And 68,000 people will soon be out of work.
Update: Crain's has an obituary.
If the Kanye West–Donald Trump crazyfest didn't do it for you, there are plenty of other things to take a look at this lunchtime:
That's all for now. Enough crazy for one Friday.
Oh, Sears. You've come to represent much that is wrong with American corporate culture, especially a CEO who embodies the Dunning-Krueger Effect with every syllable he utters.
Crain's Joe Cahill argues that Eddie Lampert, while Sears' proximate cause of death, didn't act alone in its murder:
There's no denying the hedge fund mogul who thought he knew more about retailing than the retailers made critical errors that turned Sears' struggles into an inexorable decline. But Sears started down the wrong path long before Lampert appeared. And its sad fate isn't so much a story of operational missteps as one of missed opportunity. In short, Sears chose to imitate Walmart when it should have tried to pre-empt Amazon.
Like so many established companies threatened by newcomers with innovative business models, Hoffman Estates-based Sears tried to beat the interlopers at their own game, rather than looking ahead to the next big thing. The company that recognized the potential of railroads to support a nationwide retail operation and foresaw that postwar suburban sprawl and shopping malls would redefine retailing for a new generation failed to appreciate the implications of internet technology for the industry it dominated for more than a century.
As for Lampert, he showed no better vision than his predecessors. When he took control of Sears by merging it with Kmart, the combined company still had an opportunity to carve out a strong presence in e-commerce. Amazon had already emerged as the leading internet retailer, but with $8.49 billion in 2005 revenue, it was one-sixth the size of Sears, and barely profitable.
Meanwhile, two other Crain's stories outline the thousands of other victims of this crime: the company's pensioners and all of the malls about to lose their anchor tenants.
Press reports reckon the company has less than 48 hours to live.
I started reading Jessica Powell's online novel The Big Disruption last week. It's hilarious. And it has a lot to say about the archetypes of software development.
The premise is that the monarch of a fictional country has been exiled to California, where he found work first as a janitor at Stanford and then at a hot startup. He applies to a Google-like company and gets hired—but by accident, as a product manager.
Arsyen washed his hands and returned to the cubicle, armed with his new vocabulary.
When Roni asked Arsyen about prioritization, Arsyen asked, “Is this on the roadmap?”
When Sven suggested adding images of attractive women to the car dashboard, Arsyen rubbed his chin.
“Does this align with our strategy?”
When all three looked to him for an opinion in how best to implement Symmetry Enhancement, Arsyen stood and put his hands on his hips.
“Does this align with the strategy on our roadmap?”
No one seemed to notice anything was amiss. If anything, it seemed like product managers just asked questions that other people had to answer.
“Good brainstorm, everyone. Let’s break for lunch,” Roni said. “Oh, and Arsyen, this is still very confidential, so let’s get this whiteboard cleaned off.”
Arsyen jumped up and began to wipe the whiteboard clean as Sven and Jonas scooted their chairs back to their desks. Arsyen was pleased that product managers seemed to have some janitorial tasks in their role. Maybe this wouldn’t be such a stretch after all.
I can't read it at work because I would have to explain why I'm laughing so hard.
As in, "nice work, Dutch military, for unraveling a GRU operation and blowing 300 GRU agents worldwide:"
Dutch authorities have photographs of four Russian military intelligence (GRU) operatives arriving at the Amsterdam airport last April, escorted by a member of the Russian embassy. They have copies of the men’s passports — two of them with serial numbers one digit apart. Because they caught them, red-handed, inside a car parked beside the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons in The Hague — the GRU team was trying to hack into the OPCW WiFi system — Dutch authorities also confiscated multiple phones, antennae and laptop computers.
On Thursday, the Dutch defense minister presented this plethora of documents, scans, photographs and screenshots on large slides at a lengthy news conference. Within seconds, the images spread around the world. Within hours, Bellingcat, the independent research group that pioneered the new science of open source investigation, had checked the men’s names against several open Russian databases. Among other things, it emerged that, in 2011, one of them was listed as the owner of a Lada (model number VAZ 21093) registered at 20 Komsomolsky Prospekt, the address of the GRU. While they were at it, Bellingcat also unearthed an additional 305 people — names, birthdates, passport numbers — who had registered cars to that very same address. It may be the largest security breach the GRU has ever experienced.
That's a great way to fight back: exposure. This is an example of the integrity and ingenuity which almost led to the Dutch controlling the world instead of the British way back when.
This week, I got an email from the SEO coordinator at Alaska Airlines:
My name is Shawn with Alaska Airlines. I'm reaching out concerning a specific link on blog.braverman.org. As you may have heard, Alaska Airlines acquired Virgin America last year. We are in the process of updating all Virgin America links to go directly to our website, https://www.alaskaair.com.
We want to make sure your readers are being sent to the correct place!
We would really appreciate it if you could update the link and anchor text, Virgin America, on this page: http://blog.braverman.org/2009/09/default to:https://www.alaskaair.com and Alaska Airlines.
Please let me know if you have any questions.
If you're not the appropriate person to contact about this, can you put me in contact with the right person?
(The actual post he meant me to change is here.)
See, Alaska took over Virgin America, and now they want to scrub the Internet of all references to the old airline. I politely told Shawn that, no, I was not about to change a 9-year-old blog post to send Virgin down the memory hole.
He replied that he understood, but could I just change the URL to point to Alaska Air at least?
No, Shawn. I'm not editing the post, full stop. It reflects the state of the world in 2009, and to me, it's a document that needs to remain unaltered.
I'm sure the SEO coordinator of an airline believes that it's a doubleplusgood thing to help people who may inadvertently discover a blog post from 2009 not get misdirected. But the whole thing really creeped me out. Alaska or one of its vendors had to go through every one of the over 6,500 posts I've written looking for references to Virgin America, and then Shawn had to field my response to his (no doubt automated) email request. That's a lot of effort to pretend Virgin America never existed.
Did I mention Virgin America Airlines? Just making sure.
Lots of stuff crossed my inbox this morning:
Back to my wonderful, happy software debugging adventure.