Why we should all adopt a Results Only Work Environment (ROWE)

In my last post I looked at how the world of work is changing as Social Enterprise tools affect how employees interact in the workplace. Another thing that is changing – albeit far more slowly – is how we are measured at work.

Are we being paid for work, or hours?

A concept which makes a lot of sense – but struggles to gain traction – is the Results Only Work Environment, or ROWE – created by Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson. The core idea is that employees cease to be rewarded by the hours they work, but instead by results. A simple example of this is the salesperson – if their function is to generate $1 million in sales per month, what matter is it to the company that employs them if they take forty hours a week or four to accomplish that goal? If on the first Monday of the month they hit their target what matter is it to the company if they put their feet up again until next month? However many companies would struggle with this idea and wonder where their salesperson is. Though they would have less qualms if the same salesperson was putting in eighty hours a week each month to achieve the same and regard that as dedication, so accusations of double standards being applied may be considered.

Go read the CultureRx blog for some great stories on ROWE, or read their book:

Are the hours you are paid for productive?

Couple this with when people are effective. Picked up from my read of Drive by Dan Pink, there was a quote from Scott Adams, Dilbert author that said (roughly)

My most productive hours are 5am to 9am. If I worked in a regular office, I’d spend my most productive hours showering, having breakfast and in traffic.

That resonates with me as I’ve learned when I do have times in the day when I am clearly more focused and others when I am merely treading water. Some of those times coincide with normal office hours, but others don’t. Here’s a pro tip for working with the BI Monkey – if you want the best of me, my brain seems to work full blast 8am-11am.

The simple reality is that bucketing everyone 9-5 and expecting uniform productivity across those hours isn’t going to deliver results, just hours work. I’m sure we all know people who declare themselves night owls or early birds – they have a self awareness of when they are more functional, and perhaps that deserves a little more respect from employers.

Don’t believe me? Good – always demand evidence! And here it is:

Why haven’t we all gone ROWE then?

The answer is probably rooted in a number of things, including the fact that management is still living in Motivation 2.0 land, where carrots and sticks are king. There are some structural complications though – much labour law is rooted in hours worked, employment contracts generally say you must be here between a and b o’clock (not that you have to deliver anything specific in that time, mind you). As a consultant there’s an expectation that you are simply there –  adding value or not (but I’ll handle presenteeism in a future post). Some jobs do require a presence (e.g. retail) but many do not (e.g. admin).

However as a mindset it’s easy to start thinking like this. How you choose to apply it in your day job is a matter for how revolutionary you feel!

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