In my opinion, the only thing worse than an office move is a largely gratuitous one

by Michael S. Kaplan, published on 2007/10/02 10:01 -04:00, original URI:

The premise for today's post?

It's about the numbers.

Perhaps vaguely related to the fact that I'm losing a title I'm fond of. Maybe not so much that, though both are corporate directives from above, I suppose.

Wait, attend me for a moment. I shall explain.

Scuttlebutt in the hallway is that we will be moving soon to another building closer to the core Windows developers (~3 minutes by scooter closer, to be precise, which I can be since I have scooted there in the past).

Now I'll define scuttlebutt as a rumor told to me by more than three people who have no direct connection to each other in terms of hanging out with each other (as far as I know), etc.

This does not mean it is true, but the likelihood of eventual truth is heightened.

Given that I'll define a rumor as a premature fact.

With me so far?

Maybe I should have a glossary to keep the terms straight....

Well, I was once told by an admin that all things being equal it costs ~$500 per person to move a group from one building to another. I don't know of that number includes the productivity time to set up machines again and deal with all the problems, but let's pretend that it does.

That was a few years ago but let's assume the figure is still valid for a moment.

It may be wildly inaccurate and she was not looking at some official document when she said it, but we're gonna calculate using some Tennessee windage here, making broad simplifying assumptions.

Okay, now there are ~250 full-time employees and at least 25 contract resources in our organization in our building.

Let's assume that the $500 per person figure relates to contract resources too, and if not then we'll assume people like me (who need help from lots of people to move) cost more, and that it all evens out.

Well, I will now take all of the numbers above and do a little math:

(250 + 25) * $500.00 = $137,500.00

All to put the group three minutes closer to the other folks in the larger organization (five minutes closer for the rest of the people without scooters who don't hitch rides from me).

In my mind this is even worse than moving just to get the carpet replaced, something Raymond Chen wrote about a couple of years back when he lost a computer as part of the bargain.

These figures might not be exactly right, but since the admin who mentioned that $500 figure did so half a decade ago, it seems like it might be a good conservative estimate for current purposes.

Now I suspect that I won't get a cut of the money here.

Since they will almost certainly still do the move anyway, even though it is (in my opinion) largely pointless, (again in my opinion) makes no sense, and we did just move half the team to shuffle them around the building less than a year ago and packed everyone up before that to replace carpeting in the building anyway.

Now in truth they have already moved a bunch of people in other groups (including moving the hundreds of people who were in the building that they are now moving us to since it would be inapproopriate for us to sit in their laps) which means the actual full savings to Microsoft would have been even bigger if some bean counters had decided to notice this earlier -- like 2-3 times bigger, or maybe more.

Reaching for the stars (maybe this should have been a ThinkWeek paper, or maybe it has been?) if this thinking were applied to the whole company perhaps many millions could be saved?

As an aside, one of the groups I personally have the most contact with at the moment is one of the ones just moved 15 minutes away by scooter, which makes meetings with them much more painful. Not entirely relevant but perhaps of mild interest the scuttlebut I hear from theme is that they generally don't care much for their new building and (for lasck of better words) its creative workspace

In case you were wondering, I hate moving.

Which is likely why I am feeling so grouchy about this.

In fact, the only thing I hate more than moving is moving gratuitously.

Moving is hard on me physically (by which I mean medically), and I am on record a saying I would skip my turn in the Window office seniority for the group at least until the next time some other later move was happening or even forever if it would keep me from having to move again, especially just for the hell of it, which really is hard, and (at least for me) quite demoralizing. I acually have to take a sick day (or even sick days) after all the packing is done.

Can I be any clearer on how much it sucks for me personally?

In truth, I guess I have lots of alternatives here. For example, I could...

Depending on how much this post pisses people in my management chain, that last option might be my most likely one. :-(

Although since I am told that all things being equal employees cost over twice what they are paid and in my case it's even higher given my higher medical costs, they could also save even more than the above figure in like six months or less to RIF me and then they could still move everyone else if they really wanted to so badly....

Maybe I am just being grouchy and I'll pay for this in some way later.

Maybe by later I mean as early as later today. :-(

Maybe everyone else really wants to move and I am truly the crotchety old man that I apparently have the reputation of being.

Maybe, you're wondering just what this has to do with internationalization.

To which I would tell you absolutely nothing.

Which is yet another reason why I feel that this would be a gratuitous move of the international team. 


This post brought to you by ف  and  ڢ  (U+0641 and U+06a2, a.k.a. ARABIC LETTER FEH  and ARABIC LETTER FEH WITH DOT MOVED BELOW, which is great since if I had to describe how I felt about the whole move in just a word, FEH (a Yiddish interjection indicating disapproval or displeasure) is precisely what I would have come up with!)

# md on 2 Oct 2007 11:12 AM:

My biggest fear about leaving 24 is that we'll wind up in another building which has its own cafeteria, and then my team (of otherwise decent people), who have a fondness or, more likely, an insurmountable inertia for eating at the cafeterias, will never eat anywhere else.

At least with 24, we're somewhat centrally located vis a vis several cafeterias, so there is some small amount of variety.

# John Cowan on 2 Oct 2007 12:02 PM:

It seems to me that the reason to move people is the desire of management to have all their direct reports where they can watch them at all times.  As the T.O. is shuffled, the employees have to be moved about as well.  This conflicts with the reality that large corporations are too populous to fit into single buildings: it's not uncommon here in NYC for a large and long-established corporation to have a presence in about 40-50 buildings, and as the real estate market fluctuates, new groups must be put in new buildings because the old buildings are too expensive or have no room or both.

A former employer of mine once made a classic boneheaded move-move: they sold their main building, which they owned outright, in order to move the whole company into one and a half towers of a newly constructed four-tower complex.  Unfortunately for the company, by the time they actually moved two years later, they had to lease back about a third of their original building on very unfavorable terms in order to provide office room for the unforeseen growth in staffing.

I once proposed solving this problem by building giant pyramids in farmland, one per company, with the CEO in the uppermost apex.  The floors would be made of one-way glass, and each manager would be quite literally *over* his subordinates.  People would still move as a result of reorgs, but only up and down.

# Si on 2 Oct 2007 1:09 PM:

This typo is telling... "Now I'll define scuttlebutt as a rumor told to me by move than three people" - in your mind you've already moved.

# Michael S. Kaplan on 2 Oct 2007 1:17 PM:

Typo? What typo? :-)

I have not yet moved.

(digging in heels)

# Mihai on 2 Oct 2007 9:26 PM:

Sometimes some decisions sux.

But take it another way: no matter how bad the moving experience is, put that in balance with the things you can influence there, people you can help (inside MS and outside), and then make the final decision.

(and let me tell you, I hope you did not p*s off somebody so bad so that the decision is not yours anymore :-)

# Someone who's told you this many times before... on 3 Oct 2007 1:02 AM:

(at least for the many moves we've endured)

...ask for help with moving.  You know that people would be more than willing to help you.  You keep however turning down the help!

So what's worse--being too proud to take the help, or being so exhausted that you can't work?  Just sayin'.

(This of course assumes there's a move in the works, and I wouldn't put a ton of money on that just yet.)

# Jeff on 3 Oct 2007 5:37 AM:

Ohhhh yeah. A while back, I had a NICE local window view. It wasn't a window office, just where I could get up from my cube and walk over and go "ahhh" and regather my composure.

Then they moved us JustForTheFuckOfIt and my bug resolution rate dropped by 50% because I was stuck in a cold noisy cube right outside a conference room and no view. I was totally unmotivated.

My manager asked why. We got our window views back. :-)

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referenced by

2008/02/15 Moving is a huge horking pain, even to a window office

2007/10/08 Clarification on my concerns with gratuitous moves....

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