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I am not a googler but what you say is more in line with my thinking. You don't ask for, but simply take the 20% time. Ask forgiveness, not permission. Until they send out a memo saying you're only allowed to work or think about tasks assigned by a superior officer, then assume you're an autonomous being :-)



The policy is that you don't ask, you tell. If your manager needs you to focus on your primary project, she can ask you to bank your 20% time for up to a quarter, but then you get to use that saved time.


So, the employees and other sources cited by the author are lying about needing manager permission?

Or are you in an unintendedly unique position?


They may personally feel that they need manager permission. That doesn't mean that they do. There's also a wide range of managers with different opinions throughout the company.


> They may personally feel that they need manager permission. That doesn't mean that they do.

That doesn't seem to track with the article, or the articles/blogs linked from the article.

Lots of no-comments from the PTBs at Google... too bad. They could end the discussion one way or the other quickly.


I'm a manager at Google and I think 20% time is great. Engineers explore something that's exciting to them, and the projects usually pay dividends, either in great launches or else people get a chance to learn new skills or hone their current skills.


It entirely depends on your manager and team. Some managers might want you to ask permission, and/or if you take the "forgiveness" approach your relationship with that manager might suffer. But that's because people are people.

I can't imagine my former TLM ever taking 20% time, but I can thoroughly imagine him encouraging every single one of his direct reports to do so, unless we were on a launch sprint.


Frankly, I don't think that inconsistant application of rules, and relying on a good Manager is a good thing overall.

I don't want to equate this with working at Google, because I don't have enough information, but here's my anecdote about good managers:

Twice before I've worked with spectacular managers. They treated their employees well, and acted as great shields against the political infighting inside the company. But both times, the managers were forced out, and the employees that depended on them to get interesting work done ended up quitting as well.

If this is indeed, as the TFA posits, a memo from the top being filtered out by a few good managers, in a short amount of time those managers won't matter; they will be forced, or burnt, out. Neither case is good for the company.


> Frankly, I don't think that inconsistant application of rules, and relying on a good Manager is a good thing overall.

If you need humans instead of robots doing a job, that usually (increasingly, as automation advances) means it requires judgement such that pre-written inflexible rules will be inadequate to handle it sufficiently. Which means you need to rely on the judgement of people applying flexible rules for the best results.


Not a Googler either, but I can't believe it'd be anything like the forgiveness/permission dichotomy, since I believe they're all given explicit permission upfront. It's a part of the culture.

Rather, I've always imagined that it's not that it'd be closer to the perks like "unlimited vacation time": you can't just decide "well I'm taking the next 5 years off", because that'd be a dereliction of duty. In other words, if you have the premier release of your main project coming up in 2 weeks, it may be in your best interest to not take that 20% time for the time-being, but instead use that time to fully ensure that your project has a successful launch. But, if you don't have any big deadlines coming up soon, and you're reasonably on schedule, then by all means take the 20% time.

The 20% time is a perk, and just like many other perks, your use of the perk cannot preclude any tacit duties that you may have, which include delivering on your assigned projects.

But, this is just an outsider's view, I could be completely wrong.




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