Working Wounded Blog: Really Punching That Time Clock

Let's play a quick game of word association. If I say "ROWE," what is the first word that leaps into your mind? Chances are it's Karl. But, believe it or not, there is a "ROWE" that potentially has a much bigger influence on your career that any guy named Rove ever will. It's "Results Only Work Environment."

I know what you are thinking, the last thing we need is yet another cute sounding acronym at work. But this is one acronym that not only shouldn't be made fun of, it should be embraced. By everyone.

ROWE is the brainchild of retailer Best Buy. But it didn't come from the executive suite, it bubbled up through the ranks. CEO Brad Anderson was quoted in Business Week saying, "ROWE was an idea born and nurtured by a handful of passionate employees…it wasn't created as the result of some edict."

Results Only Work Environment means that employees can take time off in the middle of a work day for child care issues, to make a doctor's appointment or -- I hope you are sitting down for this one -- to play a round of golf. Because under ROWE, as long as you get your assignments completed, it is up to you how and when you work.

Okay, because you are probably in a state of shock and unable to comprehend what I just wrote I will repeat it -- it is up to you how and when you work, because the only thing that is measured and monitored under ROWE is results.

Talk about punching the time clock, Best Buy has smashed it into a million pieces. Until I heard about ROWE, I had no idea how much Woody Allen's observation that 90 percent of life is just showing up really ruled our approach to work. The idea of taking off in the middle of the day for a round of golf? That is the stuff of science fiction, not of a successful company's management team.

Oh, yeah. Productivity and employee satisfaction are way up. And voluntary turnover is down.

Why isn't this idea spreading like wildfire throughout corporate America? Simple, because it requires an organization to actually have a defined set of expectations in place for each employee -- and to have a plan for monitoring how the employee is doing at achieving those results.

Contrast the concept of having defined expectations and a monitoring plan in place for each employee with the e-mail that I've received over the last decade. Every few months I get an e-mail from an employee who complains that he or she can't get the boss to do their performance review.

And there was a large Seattle-based Fortune 500 company that did a focus group of its employees. One employee, I was told this by the human resources director, said that his boss couldn't pick him out of a police lineup. You just can't make this stuff up.

Ask most corporate executives about the idea of instituting ROWE and they would question whether the employees could be trusted with that much freedom and flexibility. But in reality, I believe, the problem lies with the executives who would be unable to come up with a specific performance plan for each person and would lack the commitment to monitor it on a regular basis.

As tempting as it is to punch the time clock into submission right away, we appear to still have a way to go before most companies are ready for the increased productivity and satisfaction from ROWE.

Quote of the Week

"The old way of managing and looking at work isn't going to work anymore. We want to revolutionize the way work gets done." Cali Ressler, Best Buy Human Resources

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