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Are 10X employees working too hard? (kirigin.com)
25 points by ivankirigin on July 10, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 17 comments



It's great to see that more people are waking up to the fact that working hard != progress. You can work hard, spin your wheels and not actually make progress towards your long or short term goals. We need to be aware of the opportunity cost of everything we do, especially time spent working. Most salaried employees realize that they're trading time for money; a mindset that leads them down a path to being less efficient with their time, the companies value of them and team progress. I have a team mate that bucks this trend. When he hits his goals for the week/sprint/deadline, he takes time off. Over the years, he's gotten quicker & more efficient. Now, he regularly hits his goals early and takes more & more time off, while still earning the same salary.

Of all the places I've lived, San Francisco is the closest to a meritocracy I've seen. At least people here are more open to idea of reward structures based on results rather than proxies. But, even here the mindset exists.

I don't blame the companies or hiring practices as much as I blame bad management. Building a culture of efficiency over emotional commitment is important. People need to be better at setting achievable goals and tracking their progress towards them.

There are companies out there that have seen the light. Pivotal Labs has a great culture based on a simple idea - be highly efficient and engaged from 9am to 5pm. Then, go out in the world and live your life.


1) The cost of recruitment is an additional pressure to have your employees work long hours. Finding/hiring a 10x'er is hard. If I push my 10x'ers to work full time and yours are working half-time, you need to hire twice as many to match my productivity.

2) On the flip-side, it's interesting to consider if 4 part-timers are more valuable than 2 full-timers. You get twice the brain cells and you'd get more "work-time spillover" (people working/thinking their off-hours). This might be especially true in a smaller company where you often can't afford to hire enough full-timers to get a lot of diverse thinking. I can't tell you how many startups I meet could benefit from a second designer but aren't even close to being able to afford one. Of course, higher headcount means higher communication overhead, too.


Part of the idea is that some people would still output as much at part time as what others do at full time. The overhead of communication is a bigger deal.


Hey Ivan... Started writing a response but it got a little long for HN, so it turned into a post: http://nabeelhyatt.com/post/55107292357/making-exceptions-fo...


Great response, you articulated a lot of my thoughts here much better than I could have. Creating different rules for different people is insidious. It's very very difficult for an individual to know whether or not they are an actual 10x-er, so everyone will just trend toward following the rules made for 10x-ers.

Physical face-time with your team is also very important, and there is some cognitive load on the rest of the team when you have to remember which days someone is supposed to come in, etc.

I'm not a fan of part-time, but obviously there are certain roles/companies in which it turns out to be an ideal situation. Of course, I know amazing designer who really does make this work well for herself and her company; however, I worry that she's the rare exception ;)!


Awesome, thanks.


Great post, with some very interesting ideas. My experience has been that although it sounds great to be "super" flexible, it's really hard to run a company that way. As you add more people to the team, people will mimick the worst behaviors to restore fairness - "if jon always leaves at 5, then it's not fair if I stay late" and suddenly people start slacking. Strengthening the rules later is also really hard, but at some point you realize you have to.

That doesn't mean you push people 60 hours or weekends, but you enforce minimums like 9-5 and you make sure everyone feel's everyone is equally contributing and that everyone is trying hard.


It seems really plausible that the flexibility would lead to resentment. But isn't that reaction negative? What does it take to convince employees, not just management, to look at output?


I am not sure if it's possible to get your employee's to learn to spot the output of everyone else. You will be able to, as you'll probably spend significant time interacting with everyone, but your employees won't. Each will be focused on their own project and won't have enough visibility across the company to notice output.

However all of them will notice if someone arrives late and you don't do anything about it. We had one specific case were someone constantly arrived 2-3 hours late. People very "subtly" started complaining (and I mean very subtly). No one ever mentioned or talked about what the person was working on or if he was producing great code (his code was very good btw). Neither did they asked why he was arriving late - they only assumed it was not OK and felt it was unfair.


I have the term 10x employees. The only people I've seen that fit the 10x moniker are those that under perform everyone else by 10x. Those people are soon without jobs or working at one of those deadwood shops.

Why does the 10x stick around when the 10x study was done against debugging? And who has actually worked with someone capable of producing 100x more than everyone else while writing good, clean, maintainable code?


When I asked some friends to review this post, one said "everyone already knows what 10X is" and another said "is that 10X really true?!"

The former was an engineer.

Obviously this is really hard to measure. In my experience, it is true, but that is a qualitative assessment.


Ugh, when I said "have" I meant "hate." Sorry.


I think this short-changes the "10X". Many high-functioning people have already figured out how to carve out a better deal from employers. They are supposed to be smart, right? The employee who becomes a consultant for their former employer (no accounts-chasing needed) is so common it's a cliche.


In my experience, there tends to be very few people working part time. This cliche, is it common in Silicon Valley? It is new to me


I think one possible problem is that there tend to be other positions in tech companies that do have to work fixed hours. (Tech support for example) In our company, the tech support people don't have flex time and everybody else does. It tends to create some ill-will.


10x is about more than just the person. Skill, experience, and project/person fit also matter. I'm a bona fide 10xer but I'm not going to be "10x" under every possible context. Let's say you're a Ruby shop and you hire me (I've never used Ruby). Now, I've used Clojure, Python, and a little bit of Node. So I'll pick Ruby up quickly, and probably be very good within a couple of months. But you're not going to be happy if I'm working 4 hours per week during that on-boarding process and using 10x as an excuse. A two-month onboarding period is acceptable; 20 months is not.

Like a "ten-year overnight success", 10x requires a lot of skill and investment to get there, and the vast majority of people do not (and can not) get there on a 4-hour work week. It might be that only ~4 hours are critical to learning, but there's a whole search process involved in finding what is worth learning and how to learn it. You have to work a lot harder to get to the point where you're a legit 10xer. This is the proverbial "10,000 hours"-- there's a lot of variation by individuals and projects, but no doubt in my mind that that's the right order of magnitude.

Full-time employment is becoming a dinosaur, over time, and even more clunky is the expectation of full loyalty (no side projects, no competing interests, minimal support for education) that employers tend to expect. So I'm not taking the other side, so much as I think it's unreasonable to make the argument that 10x can be divorced from the very hard work it takes to get (and stay) there.

I would argue in favor of compensating 10xers better (5x instead of 1.2x) or giving them a lot more autonomy (so they can continue investing in their skills, but aren't expected to invest more than 4 hours into assigned work) but at that point, you're talking about sociological issues-- why aren't the best people rewarded or even recognized?-- and that's a different can of mud.


A friend who read a draft of this post linked to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wage_compression

Really relevant here. I think most engineers, not just top performers, are dramatically underpaid.




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