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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Do you know what motivates you?

Do you know what motivates you at work? Is it the glory, the cash, the dramatic road warrior lifestyle? Or do you blindly “do stuff” and enjoy some of it, and other bits not so much?

Well, occasionally in the mass of Management reading I do I come across something that helps me realise how I operate and improves how I perform through higher self awareness. I recently read “Drive” by Daniel Pink, and suggest you do too – as it will help you get to grips with how you are motivated at work.

Welcome to Motivation 3.0

Central to the book is the theory of Motivation 3.0. To understand how we got there, we need to know about 1.0 & 2.0. Motivation 1.0 was pretty simple – eat, find shelter, or die. Good cavemen grade stuff. Moving to 2.0 we enter the industrial age where performance is rewarded and disobedience punished.

Daniel Pink’s theory is that we have moved now to 3.0, as 2.0 only works for jobs with a fixed path to completion with no room for creativity, such as data entry or widget making. Work is increasingly creative – BI is definitely short on routine, easily defined work – and he proposes that you cannot give rewards for being creative because that makes creativity work, and then demotivates you to be creative….  a bit of a fatal blow in the modern workplace.

So Motivation 3.0 gives the worker the inner drive to solve creative problems through 3 things:

  • Mastery – striving to be a master of your trade
  • Autonomy – freedom to pursue your own path to your objectives
  • Purpose – being part of something bigger than making money

These all lead to the employer having to have faith in employees to do the right thing and work for the goals of the company without the traditional constraints of Motivation 2.0 – i.e. punishment and reward. It ultimately drives to the Result Oriented Work Environment – where hours are less important than what you deliver in the time you spend. Imagine a world without the 9-5 obligation where half your day is wasted because you just aren’t in the zone (or “in Flow” as it is referred to by some researchers), and you may as well have been at the beach?

It’s a short and interesting read, backed up with research, examples and stories that will prove thought provoking, and may change the way you go about your job.

Update 15/01/2013 – thanks to one of my colleagues, here’s a great TED Talk from the author on some of the key themes:

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