25 September 2006

Schluss mit Lustig (End The Fun)

The CEO of "Meir and Others," a German advertising and web-design company, just came out with a book titled Schluss mit Lustig (End the Fun). As Dave Barry would say, I'm not making this up.

Company rules include mandatory uniforms, a rigid 9am to 6pm working day and five-day week, no private telephone calls and no chatting about private matters. Personal decorations on office walls are also verbotten.

She wasn't always a tyrant, however. She describes the early days at the company:

"When we started out we ran the company according to the so-called 'cool'
approach adopted by most of our competitors. This meant that we started work at around midday and drank beer in the office. We ended up working most weekends and half of most nights. In the end we were all exhausted and ended up with a lousy product," Miss Mair said.

Um, maybe the problem was the beer and lack of focus, rather than the fun? Just because a company's implementation of a flexible, humane workplace was poorly done doesn't mean the solution is to throw the concept of fun and comfort out entirely. In my experience, attempts at establishing strict controls only serve to create the illusion of strict control (and have very little impact on quality).

I much prefer the worldview (and practical success) documented in Ricardo Semler's amazing books Maverick and The Seven Day Weekend. Or check out Hugh MacLeod's latest Gaping Void post, titled Meaningful Work or Death.

Up with fun!

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