There is a revolutionary approach to work out there: a Results Only Work Environment. It’s changing the time and presence approach for results to, well, results. You can learn about this in The Case for a Results Only Work Environment.
I was impressed and wanted to interview Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the creators of this approach and authors of “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It.” I’ll be posting one part of this interview through the week, with other articles. A Results Only Work Environment is a culturally different approach to work. I want to take the space to help my readers understand why this is different.
Cultural change requires that we change our language, in this case about work. You will recall from The Case for a Results Only Work Environment that companies evaluate people based on their time and physical presence in the office. When you change to a Results Only Work Environment, neither the schedule nor physical presence that you work matter. However, to destroy the language of time and presence in the office is no easy task. Cali and Jody call this “getting rid of Sludge.”
Cube Rules: In a Results Only Work Environment, there is “getting rid of Sludge,” the conscious and unconscious harping by employees and managers that time, not results, is what matters. Getting rid of Sludge, I think, is necessary to have the culture shift to results. After you trained managers and employees about Sludge, what other actions did you and the teams do to remove sludge? How long did it take?
Getting rid of Sludge is THE thing that sets the shift to ROWE in motion. Sludge is the toxic language in the workplace that makes judgments about how other people are spending their time. “10:00 and you’re just getting in? Wish I had YOUR job!” “Did you see Nancy leaving again at 3:00 to pick up her kid? Wish I had a kid!” “Why can’t Julie’s husband stay home when they kids are sick?” “How did Eric get that promotion? He’s never even here!” None of this language has anything to do with the work that’s getting done – and it’s not accepted in a ROWE.
There is an Environmental Sludge Eradication Strategy that teams learn about when they migrate to a ROWE. They learn what Sludge is, how to identify different kinds, and how to eradicate them. Once they are Sludge Eradicators, their mission is to remove Sludge from their work environment completely. This is a difficult thing to do because this language has been part of the American work culture for so long, but teams work together to make it happen. They are committed to focusing on results and they are sick of this language that makes people feel guilty, frustrated, angry, and disrespected.
Removing Sludge opens the door for people to get their lives back. No more feeling guilty about leaving at 3:00 to coach your child’s t-ball game. No more slinking in at 8:40 a.m. because you’re scared you’ll get “the look” from your boss. No more getting indigestion because you crammed your lunch down your throat so you didn’t take more than 30 minutes. No more starving yourself because dedicated people don’t eat lunch. No more putting off all your errands for the weekend because you can’t take care of anything during the week. Sound nice? Sludge Eradication is the key.
It can take between 12 to 18 months for people to say they feel completely ROWE, or completely in control of how they spend their time. That’s how long it takes to undo all of the beliefs we have about the way work needs to happen – to rewire our brains to focus solely on results.
Moving to this environment requires adaptive change – one where embedded in the culture is a new way of thinking. Yet, most change in corporations, according to Cali and Jody, practice technical change. If you were carrying out a technical change Results Only Work Environment, you’d announce the initiative, remove schedules, say that results only count and then move on to the next item on your list.
This will fail. Technical changes almost always do because technical changes don’t address the culture of the organization.
Erasing Sludge is an adaptive change, one in which the culture needs to adapt to a new way of thinking. Without this adaptive approach and constant focus on the end goal, culture change won’t happen.
Listen to your workplace. Hear how much Sludge is out equating time and presence to results. Share the ones you are hearing in your workplace in the comments.