2023 will be Meta’s Year of Efficiency. Let’s comb through their playbook for techniques to apply in our own day to day work.
Last week, Mark Zuckerberg shared an Update on Meta’s Year of Efficiency. As someone constantly researching ways to improve my and my team’s efficiency, the memo was a valuable source of insight.
Think what you want about Meta’s products and their contribution to society, but you can’t deny it’s a powerhouse company guided by a sharp-thinking CEO. When Zuck talks strategy, it’s worth paying attention.
The Year of Efficiency
For the most part, the update was a clarification of what had already been stated in the Q4 2022 Earnings Call from February 1st, where Zuck announced the “management theme” for 2023 to be the “year of efficiency.”
Meta wants to refocus as a technology company, and its CEO is talking about garbage collecting unnecessary processes and defragmenting hierarchy layers.
Better observers than myself have already commented on the update–I recommend Dror Poleg’s piece if you want to dig deeper. Here, I’d like to highlight a few passages that stood out to me as sound advice applicable outside of Meta and at the individual’s level, too.
Investing in tools
We’re focused on the long term.
That means investing in tools that will make us most effective over many years, not just this year.
Tools are leverages that can drastically augment your productivity and impact. You should buy the best tools you can afford and then learn how to use them well.
Zuck reminds us that we should adopt a long-term horizon when considering tools. For Meta, this means significant investments in AI that will take years to pay off. At the human scale that you and I operate, it’s about accepting the loss of time that comes with the learning curve because of the increased performance you’ll get later on and for the rest of your career.
I am thankful to my past self for putting in the time to learn how to touch type on Colemak and modal editing with Vim. My productivity tanked when picking up those new tools, but I made up for it in scores over the decade I’ve been using them, not to mention the hopefully many years still ahead.
Having said all that, it’s worth remembering that no matter how powerful the leverage, a tool is a mere multiplier. The output your tools will generate depends on the input you provide them with. Sometimes, your productivity setup is fine the way it is and you’d be better off tackling other bottlenecks, such as a not enough rest or sources of anxiety outside of work.
Faster information flow
We’ll also have individual contributors report into almost every level — not just the bottom — so information flow between people doing the work and management will be faster.
Meta realized that a flatter, leaner organization is more efficient, and one of the reasons is the faster information flow.
Another way to make information flow faster is to work in the open, or at least in the open within your company, in writing. As Shreyas Doshi argues, writing scales better than meetings.
Tracking information in writing also makes it searchable and easier to share, which helps information flow through and across management boundaries.
You might not be able to single-handedly transform your company into an async-first organization that relies on writing, but you can start leaving context breadcrumbs to increase the flow of the information you produce.
Every project incurs an opportunity cost
Since we reduced our workforce last year, one surprising result is that many things have gone faster.
In retrospect, I underestimated the indirect costs of lower priority projects.
To be fair, I don’t find it surprising that a smaller, more focused company would move faster than a behemoth. However, I had always thought about it in terms of unavoidable bureaucracy, friction in decision-making, and the harsh math that the bigger the team, the harder it is to maintain a high company-employee fit. I had never focused much on the second-order effect of having the capability to work on many projects.
Every project comes with an opportunity cost. The resources that go into it cannot be used elsewhere. Meta realized how much bloat low-priority projects generated and how, even worse, they stole talented people away from more important work.
The opportunity cost observation remains valid when we shift to the individual level. Our time is limited and always in jeopardy. We need to be careful in dedicating it to low-priority efforts.
Every new project you take on board introduces communication and collaboration overhead. Take a few new promising projects on board, and you might end up swamped with additional admin work that you don’t have the time to fulfill.
I found Meta’s vision inspiring, but the devil’s in the details. We’ll have to wait sometime to see whether they’ll execute effectively on their efficiency plans.
In the meantime, I’ll leave you with the final bit of advice Zuck shared with his employees and that we could all do well to remember, “focus on what you can control. That is, do great work and support your teammates.“