ROWE: A new roadmap for work that will bend your brain

Posted January 25, 2011 in Latest News & Insights

At the risk of sounding like a gushing groupie, I have to (once again) say that Dan Pink changed my view of work when I heard him talk about his book Free Agent Nation way back in 1999.  His speech and book marked the beginning of my realization that the workplace is essentially stuck in the industrial age and bears no resemblance to how we need to operate in the knowledge economy.  But, as a manager, I was pretty stumped about what do to about it.  Sure, I could make incremental changes, but the system seemed so completely fubared that it was hard to imagine how to make it better overall.  Enter Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson.   The founders of the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) have started to create the roadmap to a better world of work.  The question is: will leaders have the guts to follow it?

The driving premise for the ROWE movement is that people should be paid for results, not for putting in time at their desks.  This means, as long as you’re getting the work done, it doesn’t matter where you are or when you do it.  Just hit your deadlines, deliver results and as long as you’re on top of everything, you can use your time as you please.  To give you a taste of ROWE, here’s the list of ROWE Guideposts from Cali and Jody’s book “Why Work Sucks and how to fix it”:

  1.  People at all levels stop doing any activity that is a waste of their time, the customer’s time, or the company’s time.
  2. Employees have the freedom to work any way they want.
  3. Every day feels like Saturday.
  4. People have an unlimited amount of “paid time off” as long as the work gets done.
  5. Work isn’t a place you go – it’s something you do.
  6. Arriving at the workplace at 2:00 p.m. is not considered coming in late.   Leaving the workplace at 2:00 pm is not considered leaving early.
  7. Nobody talks about how many hours they work.
  8. Every meeting is optional.
  9. It’s okay to grocery shop on a Wednesday morning, catch a movie on a Tuesday afternoon, or take a nap on a Thursday afternoon.
  10. There are no work schedules.
  11. Nobody feels guilty, overworked, or stressed-out.
  12. There aren’t any last-minute fire drills.
  13. There is no judgment about how you spend your time.

Sounds utopian doesn’t it?  You just have to look at the stats on stress-related absences to know that we need to change how we work.  But I bet a number of you are squirming right now thinking about how you’d lead in a ROWE.  Change is scary…  leadership is about having courage.

On Friday, January 28th, Jody Thompson will be joining us for an e-Roundtable to discuss ROWE: The Future for Work is Here.  I hope you’ll join us and start the conversation rolling in your teams, departments, divisions and organizations.  It’s really time to stop doing business as usual.

Happy leading!

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  1. I think the basic concept makes sense but that the authors overstate their point. Certain roles have always been judged only on results, such as commissioned salespeople. The reality though is that many jobs require face to face interaction and teamwork that requires people to keep some sort of schedule.

    • LeaderTalker says:

      I don’t disagree with you (or some of the points you made on your own blog). I think the biggest challenge in a ROWE is that is forces executives and managers to suck it up and get really specific on the results that are expected and then (probably most importantly) actually hold people accountable to driving those results. It’s much easier for managers to continually complain that their employees are doing what’s asked without following through with any consequences. If I had a dollar for everytime I asked a manager who was complaining about the fact that it was the “third time I’ve asked this DR for this information” what the consequences were and received a blank stare, I could probably retire. Thanks for commenting and love the name of your blog!