Happy Holiday Hack Week

I’ve spent a lot of time in my career in leadership roles. I’ve been leading teams at one level or another but until starting Mangoteque, I’ve never had the ability to set the vacation policy for a company.

When I first moved to California, I worked at Sun Microsystems and was shocked to find that they gave everyone the week off between Christmas and New Years! This practice made a big impression on me more than 20 years ago. So much so, that I’ve been trying to incorporate it into the way I’ve lead teams ever since.

Because I’ve not usually been in the position to decide vacation policy for a company, but have been in a position to set priorities for teams, what to work on, how we work, etc. I’ve chosen to hack the system.

For many years, I’ve declared a Hack Week between Christmas and New Years. There are only a few rules for hack week:

  • Show up for work when you want.
  • Leave work when you want.
  • Work on whatever you want (but no regular work).
  • If you want to partner with others, that’s fine. If you would rather hack alone, that’s fine too.

This means that “chair time” doesn’t matter. How can you measure the creative process in hours? Maybe you hack for 3 hours on Monday and need to spend time on Tuesday and Wednesday thinking about what you’d learned before hacking again.

Some people may question how productive people could be with such lax rules, but we’re not thinking about productivity in the short term.

Some people might question if there will be a lot of pressure for people to overwork to be “part of the team”. But there is no output from Holiday Hack Week. There are no presentations, or voting, or awards. It’s an opportunity for exploration without constraints.

Sometimes prototypes have come from Holiday Hack Week. Sometimes a decision not to use something has come from Hack Week. Sometimes, nothing has come from Hack Week. And sometimes, that is the best hack of all.