Why Work Sucks – The interview, part 2

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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.

Impressed, I 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 you understand why this is different.

The first Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) was done at the corporate headquarters of Best Buy. This question to Cali and Jody is about transitioning a department to a Results Only Work Environment and how teams already working for results interact with those who have not transitioned to the program.

When setting up a ROWE environment, some teams are practicing ROWE and some scheduled in the future to do so. How did the teams handle the (wildly) different expectations about work when people on ROWE worked with people not on the program yet?

This “haves” and “have-not’s” landscape was actually set up intentionally.  We were attempting to orchestrate tension in the organization – and it worked.  We knew that it would take a very powerful force to overcome the inertia of the current work culture.

We found that the force that worked was made up of jealousy, envy, and desire (all basic human traits! – Scot).  Teams that were ROWE were happier, healthier, and more productive – and they had complete control over how they spent their time.

Naturally, this caused non-ROWE teams to want those same things.  They started to rise up and question why they didn’t have ROWE.  The more questions management got, the more frustrated they became.  The straw that began to break the camel’s back was people stopped taking promotions that were on non-ROWE teams.  Non-ROWE teams started losing talent to ROWE teams.  And slowly but surely, ROWE overtook the culture.

As the ROWE shift was happening, it was very interesting to watch ROWE and non-ROWE teams work together.  The ROWE teams were intensely focused on results and they began behaving in very different ways.

For example, they began questioning the meeting invites they were receiving from non-ROWE teams, asking what the outcome of the meeting was, and getting clarity on their roles.  In a ROWE, every meeting is optional.  Meetings still happen, but the people get to vote on which meetings will drive outcomes and which meetings won’t.  This was a big change for non-ROWE teams that were just used to inviting people and having them come, regardless of whether there was a clear outcome or even an outcome at all.

ROWE teams also began asking questions to get very clear on what they were to deliver.  You could no longer say to a ROWE employee “Why don’t you get me that spreadsheet tomorrow?” ROWE employee would ask “What time do you need it tomorrow?”, “Would you like a soft copy or hard copy or both?”, “Should anyone else receive it?”, “Help me understand what you’ll be using the spreadsheet for.”

Non-ROWE teams were often surprised by these new behaviors, but because they drove higher productivity and created an environment where their peers were happier and healthier, the non-ROWE employees knew something was working.  The orchestrated tension led to the adoption of ROWE by more and more teams…until the culture became ROWE.

Cali and Jody put much thought on how to do this implementation. The approach described here is key.

Wouldn’t you love to question why YOU needed to attend a meeting? Wouldn’t you love to question the outcome of the meeting before the meeting? Wouldn’t you love to prepare for a meeting you tied to results instead of receiving the agenda 30-seconds in e-mail after the meeting starts? Wouldn’t it be great to question tasks given when it doesn’t match your goals?

With a ROWE, you can. What’s the least productive work you do to get to your results?

  • Scot Herrick says:

    @Julie – That is the challenge: making the work results oriented so it can be measured. That’s hard work; much harder than walking around to see if people are busy.

  • Scot – absolutely. I’d think that many, if not most, jobs could incorporate some element of ROWE. Even positions like receptionist could use it for non-phone duties. (I used to replace our receptionist on her lunch hour, and you’d be amazed what sort of busy-work they came up with for her so that she would look busy.)

    Even for the toughies in there, but I’m sure there are ways to make them more pleasant and results-oriented.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Julie — I agree. The book notes the setup of the corporate headquarters for Best Buy — not the retail floor, although Cali and Jody are working on some ways that this can be applied to the retail floor.

    So, a receptionist — tough to do. An Administrative Assistant – not as hard to do.

    Other tough ones in my opinion — call centers, medical.

    But, I would not downplay the potential. Much of what passes for “needs to be in the office” is really just wanting people in the office.

    Good points — thanks for commenting.

  • Scot Herrick says:

    Eric — I blogged about it as well when the Best Buy article came out in Business Week. It was compelling.

  • Hi, Scot. I’ve been thinking a lot about this interview over the last few days, and there are some jobs I cannot imagine being incorporated into ROWE, jobs that *require* an employee to be in the workplace at a given time.

    One example might be a receptionist: unless she (or he) can figure out a way to transfer phone calls and greet clients from home, she needs to be in the office during business hours. Other examples include retail store clerks, bartenders or waitresses, and many other professions whose primary task is to be on-call when the customer wants service.

    Do you have any suggestions for how these sorts of jobs could be incorporated into ROWE?

  • Scot – Thanks for the ROWE interview with Cali & Jody. I love their work at Best Buy (i even blogged about it).

    Now…I’m off to Amazon.com to buy their book.

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