Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution

Why Work Sucks book cover

By: Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson

Reviewed by: Glain Roberts-McCabe

The Premise:

In this groundbreaking (and for many managers, mindboggling) book, authors Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler make the case for how measuring work based on time and not outcomes is outmoded, out-of-date and should be outlawed. As former HR leaders at Best Buy (US), Jody and Cali piloted a work concept called the Results Only Work Environment. They incubated the idea and, in this book – Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It – they roll out the playbook on how you can turn your workplace into one that moves away from focusing on activities and ‘presenteeism’ as a measure of output and shifts the focus squarely on the outcomes themselves. The book begins by setting the business case for moving to a ROWE and then walks through the various elements of ROWE with ‘real-life’ stories and experiences from employees working in a ROWE peppered throughout. Written in a conversational, no-nonsense style, this book is jammed with ideas that challenge traditional thinking about what makes a workplace productive. There’s even a questionnaire at the back where you can determine whether or not you work in a ROWE.

The Bottom-line:

Full disclosure, I’m a huge fan of Jody and Cali’s work, so I’m definitely biased around the ideas put forward in their book. They wrote a follow-up book called ‘Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It’ which is also a great read. I would guess that most people reading this book would initially agree whole-heartedly with the approach. My sense is that then, after your moment of ‘hell yes’ euphoria, you will begin to drown in ‘sludge’ by coming up with all the reasons that you would never be able to make a ROWE work in your organization. I’m with you. I like to think I run a ROWE at the Roundtable. The reality is, we run a ‘partial’ ROWE and one of the biggest challenges around getting all the way there rests within my own blind spots and biases as a leader. Running a ROWE requires leaders to be crystal clear on the outcomes and deliverables we expect. As a leader who leans hard into being flexible and spontaneous, the biggest challenge I face around running a ROWE is my own lack of energy to invest in creating that amount of clarity. Jody calls me out on my own ‘sludge’ each time we discuss ROWE. I love her for that. The reality of any business model that changes the norms we are used to (like ROWE or Holacracy) is that we, as leaders, are going to have to do the hard work of shifting our own mindsets and behaviours to make these concepts work. It’s not easy, but my sense is it’s worth it.


Highly recommend this read for anyone interested in changing up the game at work and creating freedom for all.

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