I just started the wheels moving for a FedEx Day at work. Here’s what we wrote up for it:
We would like to propose taking a page from Atlassian's playbook and instituting a "FedEx Day". The idea is that for one day, all of the developers and QA would be free to work on a product or feature of their own choosing. The only rules would be that they have to work with someone who they don't normally work with and that the next morning they have a finished product to demo to the whole team, something that they can “ship”, ergo “FedEx Day”. This is a lightweight version of Google’s 70/20/10 policy, where the majority of an employee’s time is spent doing their traditional job, 20% on company related innovation, and 10% on anything.
People don’t stay at Texterity because of the money. We pay our developers competitively, but not lucratively (nor should we). People stay here because they like the stuff we’re working on and the people they’re working with. We haven’t lost a lot of developers, but when we do, the very competitive job market makes it a challenge to fill those positions. Jason A, Vijay, Arun, Dasheng; each of those losses has been painful in its own way. The best way that we can encourage tech workers to stay is to make them feel needed and give them purpose. The most exciting projects I’ve ever worked on were the ones where I had pretty much complete autonomy and was passionate about the end result. It’ll give all of the team members a chance to try something new and challenging and maybe even give us some outside-of-the-box features and products.
A FedEx Day would have some other benefits, too. For a day, the developers would be decision makers where they typically are not. They’d be able to see what it looks like from the product owner’s point of view. What’s a valuable feature? What’s worth spending time and testing on? How do you sell its value to management when you demo it? And there’s a good chance we’d end up with some features or products that we wouldn’t have come up with otherwise – Atlassian says they end up shipping about half of the FedEx Day projects.
We have plans for making sure that emergencies get handled and we have ideas for scheduling so that day-to-day operations are impacted as little as possible, but those discussions can come later.
If you’d like to hear more about motivation and purpose in preparation for the meeting, I suggest watching this fantastic ten minute presentation by Dan Pink:
Here’s a post on Atlassian’s blog about their first FedEx Day: http://blogs.atlassian.com/rebelutionary/archives/000495.html
Here’s an article from Inc. magazine on the topic: http://www.inc.com/news/articles/2010/01/side-projects.html