Visceral Response to Communication


By Rebecca Winston, JD, PMI Fellow 

Idaho, USA

Tracking the blogosphere recently concerning the communication via email by Marissa Mayer, CEO of Yahoo, I found myself experiencing several emotions.  To explain why I experienced this range of emotionality, I will discuss the email communication in terms that I found it being discussed and those in which I did not.

First, why is this discussion of interest to those of us concerned with project management and its various guises when it dealt with moving the workforce back to a co-location office workplace rather than a virtual telecommuting environment?  Well, the bottom line is that we are all in the business of communication on our projects, programs, or project portfolios.  We also note that many articles both opinion and researched including survey based site communication as the, or one of the pivot points for success or failure.  Also, many project managers have been handling virtual projects for years, even in organizations that have a predominant co-location policy but several sites working on one project.

The first flurry of blog postings cited the undoing of the family friendly workplace.  Many of these postings noted that families have come to depend on the parent being able to work out of the home, not spending hundreds of dollars on childcare, and commuting.  How dare a “woman” force other “mommies” back to the office?  Note, I keyed in on the word “woman”.  I pose the theory that the message would not be better received by it being from a “man”.  I will concede it might not have gotten nearly the same press or the same notice in the e-press and blogosphere.  But the message when separated from the transmitter is still the message and the impact on the individual is still ultimately the same—back to the office.

My frustration with the focus on the sex of the message giver was that it took the focus off the communication.  It pulled us back to a debate that should have passed us by as a society, but evidently has not.  The focus of the discussion became–but she has built a daycare off her office at work, she has a nanny, her salary affords her the ability to provide more for her child, and so forth.  Could not a man be said to be able to provide the same in the same position with the same financials?

So if the sex of the message transmitter should not be the debate, what did I think should have been the topic of discussion?  Several items could have provided fodder for discussion.  One topic would have been whether this change had been the plan from the hiring of Marissa Mayer.  This change represents the culture she had experienced at Google.  Was the strategic plan to implement it at Yahoo hoping for similar results?  Or did she determine after a couple months of walking empty halls and noting the lack of intellectual interaction that co-location was necessary to gain and move new ideas forward?


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About the Author

rebecca-winstonflag-usaREBECCA WINSTON, JD 

Former Vice-Chair, Chair, Fellow – PMI®

P/PM Consultant to US Government

Idaho Falls, Idaho, USA

Rebecca (Becky) Winston, Esq., JD, PMI Fellow, is a former Chair of the board of the Project Management Institute (PMI®). An experienced expert on the subject of project management (PM) in the fields of research & development (R&D), energy, environmental restoration and national security, she is well known throughout the United States and globally as a leader in the PM professional world.  Rebecca has over 25 years of experience in program and project management, primarily on programs funded by the US government.  She is a graduate of the University of Nebraska’s College of Law, Juris Doctorate (1980), in Lincoln, Nebraska and has a Bachelor’s of Science (BS) degree in Education from Nebraska Wesleyan University She is a licensed attorney in the states of Iowa and Nebraska, USA. Active in PMI since 1993, Rebecca Winston helped pioneer PMI’s Specific Interest Groups (SIGs) in the nineties, including the Project Earth and Government SIGs, and was a founder and first co-chair of the Women in Project Management SIG. She served two terms on the PMI board of directors as director at large, Secretary Treasurer, Vice Chair (for two years), and Chair (2002). She was elected a PMI Fellow in 2005.  She is also a member of the American Bar Association and the Association of Female Executives in the United States.   Ms. Winston periodically serves as an advisor to organizations such as the National Nuclear Security Administration (USA), U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on topics ranging from Program and Project Management to project reviews, risk management and vulnerability assessments. She has extensive recent PM experience in the areas of alternative energy, national defense and security, and has worked closely with local, regional and national officials, including Congress and the Pentagon.  Becky can be contacted at [email protected]