If you haven't yet done so, read the NYTimes interview with Phil Libin, the CEO of Evernote. Phil's focus on value, rather than form, eliminates waste, shows respect for people, and leads to better results. For example, there are no offices or trappings of seniority at the company. In Phil's view, they're not only wasteful, they have a negative effect on people's work:
Nobody has an office. In fact, there are no perks that are signs of seniority. Obviously, there are differences in compensation, but there are no status symbols. You certainly don’t get a better seat or any of that kind of stuff, because they’re just unnecessary. They create artificial barriers to communication. They create artificial things that people focus on rather than just getting their job accomplished. We try to have an organization that just helps you get your work done, and then it’s my job to eliminate all of the risks and all the distractions so you can just focus on achieving. That attracts people who are primarily motivated by how much they achieve.
Phil's effort to improve communication extends to the uprooting any sort of email culture:
We strongly discourage lengthy e-mail threads with everyone weighing in. It’s just not good for that. Plus, it’s dangerous, because it’s way too easy to misread the tone of something. If you want to talk to somebody and you’re a couple floors apart, I kind of want you to get up and go talk to them.
I'm most impressed by Phil's approach to vacations. If you think about the real value of a vacation, it's to enable people to refresh and recharge. The typical fixed two week vacation policy is more about the form than the real value. After all, if your job requires insanely hard bursts of work, or if you're having health problems, you might need more time off. Here's how Evernote handles it:
We recently changed our vacation policy to give people unlimited vacation, so they can take as much time as they want, as long as they get their job done. If you want to take time off, talk to your team, but we’re still measuring you on the same thing, which is, did you accomplish something great? Frankly, we want to treat employees like adults, and we don’t want being in the office to seem like a punishment. We always try to ask whether a particular policy exists because it’s a default piece of corporate stupidity that everyone expects you to have, or does it actually help you accomplish something? And very often you realize that you don’t really know why you’re doing it this way, so we just stop doing it.
(N.B. This vacation policy warms the cockles of my heart, because it's the way I managed my team years ago. It told them to take time off when they needed it, and not to bother reporting it to the HR department. Like Phil, I wanted to treat them like adults.)
It's the "default piece of corporate stupidity" that infects most organizations -- things that exist because that's just the way it's always been done: report and presentation formats, agendas and participants at those giant standing meetings, certain expectations, etc. And it's often the "default piece of corporate stupidity" that saps motivation, leeches passion, and inspires cynicism.
Focus on the purpose and the value. Then figure out how to deliver it. You might be surprised at how much easier it is.