With ROWE, How do you Know?

We’ve been discussing the Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) concept lately looking for ways to make our company more ROWE-like. ROWE comes from the book Work Sucks where two HR professionals from Best Buy set out to change their corporate culture for the better. The idea is to focus on results, not hours in the office or number of meetings attended.

We’re debating some of the following questions:

  • What benefit, if any, is there for positions like customer support that need to be available for specific hours (e.g. 9 – 5 M – F)?
  • How are performance issues handled?
  • How does ROWE affect more collaborative roles where several people need to work closely together?

What do you think of ROWE? What challenges and successes have you found because of ROWE?

2 thoughts on “With ROWE, How do you Know?

  1. The real question is: How do you know now? That was what we had to ask ourselves. Showing up on time, going to meetings, sitting at your desk when there are no calls – those are really more like proxies. But the stuff you want to measure, like # cases closed or happy customers, or getting the job done when it needs to get done, tend to get blurred by the proxy measures.

    So when we wanted to go ROWE we basically sat down with the team and figured out what great performance looks like: Closing more cases than we open, keeping customer satisfaction high, projects being completed on time, etc.

    For us, we need coverage from 8-6, but what we learned is that that doesn’t mean everyone has to be sitting at their desk. Our phones can handle a call no matter where someone is, so now I find that the people who normally spent 90 minutes in traffic will work from home until late morning, or leave after lunch and work from home. Their commute is reduced to 30 minutes, and the net is that they have more time to spend supporting people, and they are happier doing it.

    The other nice thing is that when we let the team figure out for themselves how to create the best support conditions, they do a much better job of it than when the rules are “we work from 8-6 at our desks.”

    Performance issues are a dream! Because now they are just performance issues, not proxy issues. Not showing up on time isn’t really a performance issue. Not being there for a customer need is a performance issue. Just like you might expect someone to stay until 7 if they are working on an important support issue, it’s weird to make people sit around if there isn’t any work to do.

    Best thing is, there’s nothing to hide behind anymore because the only performance issues are actual job functions. It takes some getting used to, but it reduces “management” time by a factor of 10.

    For collaboration, I think people pretty much work as they need to. Collaborating as they need to using the phone, IM, email and in-person meetings. Truth is, most people still prefer to work in the office most of the time. The difference isn’t that people screw-off all time, but that they have freedom to do the right thing and not feel weird about going to the doctor or leaving at 3:00 on a Friday when it’s dead.

    For me, I thought about it this way: I always had freedom to work as I pleased. And I do a great job – mostly. The kind of people I want on the team are the same way. If they need to be watched or have lots of workplace rules – they aren’t the right people for the team. It actually separates the A-Players from everyone else at hyper-speed.

    In David Cummings parlance…”I recommend it.” 🙂

    • Thanks Mike! That’s the best comment I’ve ever seen. I’ll get a list questions together to ask you offline about ROWE.

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