The Management OS at Facebook; a Masterclass at the 2014 CIPD Scotland Conference

Fri 02 May 2014

Blog Author
Paul Rogers
Product Director

For anyone who has seen the film Her, a discussion of the Management OS (operating systems) at Facebook might be familiar, if slightly unnerving, territory. For Facebook, these discussions are a way of occupational life. Jeff Turner of Facebook told his rapt audience at the CIPD Scotland Conference in Glasgow that managers don’t get extra money; they manage because they want to. It was clear that the audience wanted to know “Is it magic?” and “How does it really work?”

Facebook base their values on the four highest Gallup Q12 indicators for high performance. Typically, they are re-expressed in “Facebook language”.

  1. Set me free (a translation of “I have the opportunity to do what I do best everyday”)
  2. Be clear with me  (In Gallup speak, this is “I know what is expected of me”)
  3. Care about me (from the Gallup version, which read “My supervisor seems to care about me as a person”) and finally,
  4. Recognise me (derived from the Gallup statement “I have received recognition and praise for good work”)

Jeff integrated an understanding of generational needs and differences into his presentation on the Facebook difference. He presented the Facebook OS as a Venn diagram, with intersecting circles representing “Clear expectations”, “Support and Development” as well as “Accountability and Reward”.

Setting expectations starts with selection. Facebook selection processes are rigorous. Jeff had no less than 13 interviews for his role. You need to want to work for Facebook – and be able to prove it! For managers, there is lateral movement and spans of control of 1 to 8 or 10. Development is strengths base- and cohort-driven. Discussions around support and development are regular and open. The question “How are you” is often followed by “No, really. How are you?” Accountability is underpinned by upward feedback with 1/6 of the organisation included in a monthly pulse engagement survey.

Jeff summarised five key aspects of successful management at Facebook. Managers are urged to:

  • identify the right goals (separated from non-goals – the stuff that looks good but has no impact)
  • maintain a healthy staff dialogue, and be in constant discussions with their direct reports
  • be close to direct reports and in touch with operational realities
  • be authentic and don’t be an idiot
  • act with responsibility – if it’s not for you, then get out.

His closing advice was: “Focus on the few things that matter. Good managers trump the brand”. So, “is it magic?” No, of course not. The organisation simply demands unrelenting honesty and hard work. Exhorting managers “be authentic and don’t be an idiot” is an interesting proposition. Does it really work?.. No, really, does it work?  Err...yes!