The Wrangle-To-Work Ratio
Are you reading this blog post during a pointless meeting?
In an interview I did with Capital New York a few months ago, I mentioned a concept I call the "Wrangle-to-Work Ratio." People seemed not to hate the idea – it was tweeted about no fewer than three times! – so I thought I'd use our blog to discuss it a little bit and explain why BuzzFeed is such a satisfying place to work. Briefly, my theory is that if the amount of time you spend "wrangling" projects (i.e. navigating bureaucracy so you can get things done) is high compared to the amount of time you spend actually doing the work, then you'll be frustrated with your job.
Let's agree that if you're a manager with a knack for hiring talented people, the people you hire actually LIKE working. I don't mean that they're workaholics – I just mean that great employees love to get things done. There is no quicker way to undermine a great employee's energy, motivation and commitment than to drop them into a culture that forces them to spend their time negotiating turf battles, soothing big egos, and having pre-meetings and side-meetings to prepare for future meetings instead of doing actual work. When laying the groundwork for a project takes more effort than the project itself, you start to dislike your job.
Folks at BuzzFeed have managed to create a culture where the Wrangle-to-Work Ratio is shockingly low. I've thought a lot about why and I'd say the main elements are a company culture that prizes:
* Smart experimentation.
* Working iteratively; breaking projects down into small parts.
* Small teams who have autonomy but are aligned on larger company strategy.
* A default attitude of mutual trust, respect and good will between colleagues and across departments.
BuzzFeed is a place where great things happen because of – not in spite of – company culture. As Dao Ngyuen, BuzzFeed's no-BS Publisher puts it, "BuzzFeed's culture allows you to do your job. At many places you can point fingers at too much bureaucracy or lack of strategic vision but not here. So pretty much everyone is a high-functioning employee, whereas they might not be one elsewhere."
You know Sunday Work Dread? That feeling of sadness that sits like a stone in your stomach at the end of the weekend when you think about going to work the next day? There hasn't been a single Sunday in the almost two years I've worked at BuzzFeed when I've had that feeling. One big reason is that BuzzFeed's shockingly low Wrangle-to-Work Ratio. (All the free seltzer doesn't hurt either. I really like seltzer.)