I had dinner with a couple friends this week who work for large technology companies in Silicon Valley. Both said they really like their day-to-day jobs, but absolutely hate the internal politics they endure. They said they spent anywhere from 25-30% of their time dealing with internal politics instead of doing their jobs. To succeed, their managers suggested they do things like:
"Get all your internal stakeholders together" - This resulted in the employee calling for large meetings with everyone on the team, even the team members that didn’t really need to be there.
"Send out weekly update emails" - This resulted in the employee sending long weekly emails to the entire management, sales and engineering teams so that they all knew he was doing his job. He admitted that the length of the email was more important than the content. He thought it was unlikely that anyone would ever read these emails.
"Be data driven" - This resulted in the employee spending hours looking at data (and getting engineering to pull even more data) to report to management, even though he knew this qualitatively from countless customers, clients and partners.
"Get management sign-off" - When an employee wanted to take the lead on a new project she came up with, she was told to get the approval of many other managers, directors and executives first. After working through scheduling, meetings and follow-ups, she gave up and went back to her day-to-day job.
Both of these employees are considering new jobs at smaller companies or startups. As companies scale, employees can shift from a “geting stuff done” culture to one of “talking about getting stuff done” and lose some of their best team members. What can be done to fix it? Or are all big companies doomed to become places where only 70% of employees’ time is spent getting stuff done?