The Year without Pants

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the-year-without-pants-berkun-en-20581_0x200 The Year without Pants (2013) By Scott Berkun

Management expert Scott Berkun took a job at Automattic – the parent company of WordPress and WordPress.com.  Office politics, hierarchies,production schedules and other traditional work structures do not constrain Automattic employees. They work remotely from around the world. They can be anywhere and work anytime since the firm judges them solely on the quality of their results.

Bureaucracies form when people’s jobs are tied strictly to rules and procedures, rather than the effect those things are supposed to have on the world.

The company’s culture and philosophy touted “transparency, meritocracy and longevity”. Every conversation and decision public, and allocated authority The firm made every conversation and decision public, and allocated authority based on work product. The project’s open source license guaranteed that it would continue no matter who was in charge.

 

Automattic makes money with “upgrades, advertising, VIP” and “partnerships.” VIP clients pay a premium to host their websites on WordPress and receive extra benefits, such as a dedicated support team. Mullenweg, the founder of WordPress, has a practical attitude toward revenue generation. But he can afford to be patient, because Automattic is growing steadily and places solidly in the world’s top 20 sites.

Bloggers who encounter problems contact the team via email. In-house, these queries are called “tickets.” As Berkun worked on tickets, his trainers helped him or he posted questions on IRC. Employees responded to lend a hand in seconds. The firm tracked the customer service team’s progress, keeping extensive statistics on each “happiness engineer’s” ticket response and resolution. The demanding, relentless pace gave Berkun avaluable introduction to WordPress.

After several months working at Automattic, Berkun made note of the company’s habits and interactions:

1. “Broken windows: good and bad” – Employees focus on fixes, and no one prioritizes tasks according to importance.•

2. “Big/ugly projects we avoid” – Incremental work sometimes bypasses larger, less attractive projects.•

3. “P2s have curious side effects” – P2s can create communication gaps.•

4.“Conservative ideas” – Automatticians tend to avoid “big ideas” or “big changes.”•

5. “Lack of usability methods” – The engineering-led design of WordPress adds unnecessary complexity.

 

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