Why Work Sucks – The interview, part 4

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Jun 05

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.

Despite the attractiveness of doing what you need to do when you want to do it, the work for your company still needs to get done. It is still work. When time spent in the office is not the measure of success, how do we know the work is complete? I asked Cali and Jody.

In a Results Only Work Environment, the work still needs to get done. What training did you give employees on how to know their work was completed since the work didn`t necessarily happen between 8-5? Or was that between the manager and the employee?

The work does still need to get done…that is, if you still want a paycheck.  In a traditional work environment, both time and results are being measured.  People are trying to serve two masters.

In a ROWE, there is only one master – results.  In a Results-Only Work Environment, everyone in a team, department, or organization wants to get very clear on the results that are expected of them.

Many companies have performance management tools in place.  The problem is that they may not be using them (or they may be forced to use them).  There isn`t really a need in a traditional work environment to set measurable goals and expectations.  If people are in the office for at least eight hours a day, something must be getting done, right?  It`s time to stop kidding ourselves.  A warm body in a cube doesn`t mean anything.  But measurable results do.

In a ROWE, managers and employees work very closely together on setting clear goals.  Employees start asking exactly how their performance will be evaluated.  They don`t settle for fluffy responses.

On the management side of things, a flip must be made from monitoring the hallways to monitoring outcomes.  A secondary piece of this for managers is rewarding outcomes instead of activities.  Managers are used to rewarding people for the amount of time spent on tasks; in a ROWE, the amount of time doesn`t matter…the only thing that matters is that it gets done on time and that it meets or exceeds expectations.

Managers at Best Buy had to really think about what they were asking people to do, and how they were going to know that the outcome was achieved. It’s easy to figure out if you’re working on a project with a clearly defined deliverable; it’s another thing if you’re a knowledge worker that performs more conceptual work. The trick is figuring out how to turn EVERYTHING into a performance metric.

One employee sat down with her manager and her goal for the year was to “crack the nut” on a particular issue. The employee said “what would it look like if I cracked the nut?”, “What does ‘meets expectations’ look like if I crack the nut?”, “How will we measure if I’ve exceeded ‘cracking the nut’?” “Cracking the nut” is not a performance measure, and certainly not a clearly defined outcome – it’s ambiguous. Defining “cracking the nut” is anybody’s guess. And, at the end of the year, it’s subjective as to whether or not the nut was cracked to the satisfaction of the manager or company.

Luckily, in this instance, the team was ROWE. So “crack the nut” became measurable by using customer satisfaction and employee feedback metrics. “Crack the nut” linked to broader initiatives that were measurable and directly related to the bottom line. The employee became crystal clear on who they were serving, and how there service would be evaluated. Makes it much easier to choose the right activities to focus on.

If an outcome or goal cannot be measured – in other words, the manager and employee cannot come to an agreement about how the goal or outcome can be measured based on bottom line business metrics, customer satisfaction or SOMETHING – then why would the company be spending money on the effort?

We’re not saying it’s easy – in fact, it’s difficult for managers to clearly define measurable goals. Using SMART is a great foundation for setting measurable goals. But, if a manager is monitoring the hallways AND using SMART, human nature has a way of taking over. Much easier to make sure people are in their cubes from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. than to toil over the SMART chart.

This critical clarity around expectations and results needs resolution. The results orientation allows you to push back against unnecessary meetings, knowing when you can do the work and the freedom from a schedule. I would point you back to my series on SMART goals for the Cubicle Warrior as a great starting point to get clear about your results. It’s important because in a Results Oriented Work Environment, being able to agree, measure, and understand the work needed to make a goal is paramount.

In addition, this measurable environment is foreign to departments. Sure, at a division or company level, goals are clear – reduce expenses by 5% by August 1st – but getting goals to an individual to work and be responsible for is difficult. Especially at first. It does get easier as it goes along, but let’s not kid ourselves: getting clear on results is hard work.

What’s the clearest, measurable goal you have right now for work? The most muddy?