I’m enthralled with ROWE – the Results Only Work Environment. The concept of ROWE is that as a manager, you focus only on results, and not managing activity, or worse – the appearance of activity. Best Buy has adopted this approach to work, and preliminary results are intriguing. As Ashley Acker puts it, time does not equal productivity:
“Arriving at the workplace at 2:00 p.m. is not considered coming in late. Leaving the workplace at 2:00 p.m. is not considered leaving early.”
As an employee, this sounds great right? Yet, not all employee feedback is positive. As a manager, of course, it can appear to be a free-for-all, but the same complaints are leveled against telework. So what are the other problems with ROWE? Matt Cholerton observes, the concerns are mainly because HR practices cannot support it in most companies:
“ROWE doesn’t quite work, and we don’t have confidence it can work for us, because we aren’t doing HR and business well enough. Some low-hanging-fruit examples are that we don’t have good job descriptions, we don’t always understand what outcome we want, we don’t measure/or know how to measure success, there are no consequences (or follow up), and we don’t communicate.”
Frankly, I’m surprised that more companies have not moved to improve their performance management systems already. (See my earlier post “HR, Don’t Let the Crisis Go to Waste“). ROWE requires many of the same underpinnings as a decent performance management, telework, or offsite disaster planning policy. Yet, I find that most firms still lack the ability to really manage performance well in their current 9-5 face-to-face, in-the-office setting.
Harvard Business School professor Rosabeth Moss Kanter suggests that the simple act of working from home one day a week would make a profound difference for the environment, for work / life balance, for morale, and for productivity.
“During this time of economic crisis and reinvention of global capitalism, one of the things crying out for reinvention is the rigid workplace of the last century. It is amazing in the digital age that most work is still associated with industrial age work rhythms and the symbolic chains that tie workers, knowledge and otherwise, to fixed locations. Flexible workplaces with flexible hours and days are long in coming.”
Amen to that.