Fading outLindsay McRory
September 6, 1995
Sometime last year, towards the end of a late-night management conference call, I casually announced to my colleagues that my family and I would be selling everything we owned and sailing around most the globe for at least a couple of years and probably longer.
After a long pause, someone asked, "You're not quitting work . . . are you?"
"No, I'll work from the boat. I'll be able to do most of what I do now."
Another long pause was followed by a machine-gun flurry of questions about the technology, kids' education, and a hundred other related issues.
Conceptually, sailing around while working is an extreme form of being "virtual." On a sailboat this means more than being capable of data and voice communications. If you have to sit at the navigation station for eight hours a day, it's not worth leaving dock. Nothing would be gained. Work would have to be re-engineered to make the transition beneficial for all parties.
There has been much discussion lately about the "virtual organization." It seems to be commonly accepted that virtual organizations are possible as a result of the latest developments in technology, specifically data communications. Technology plays a very large role, but this virtual evolution is also rooted in changing management styles.
The '50s style of management focused on making workers more predictable, controllable, and measurable. The "company man" was created. Elaborate systems were created to ensure all company activities could be monitored and controlled. Punch the clock, and do what you're told. Unfortunately, much of this attitude continues to linger in corporate America.
Today, the corporate clime is different, organized in workgroups with much of the authority as well as the responsibility pushed as far down the organization as possible. These workgroups in turn pass authority and responsibility to individuals. It can become a chain of arm's-length relationships. Control is no longer the issue. Results are.
As a result, technology and new corporate attitudes make it possible to globetrot with your family on a sailboat. But is it worth it?
Well, if you can live without mowing the lawn, worrying about what your kids are really learning in school, or keeping up with the Joneses, there is no better way to live.