Best Practice

Fostering a Results-Only Work Environment

>>MARKETING – (March 2020)How we work is changing. The trends have long been shifting toward remote work, the gig economy and work-life balance. Many are finding that along with this shift, there must come a change in how work is managed.

This is the central idea of the results-only work environment (ROWE). First introduced as a management approach by Jodi Thompson and Cali Ressler, two managers who immortalized the approach in their first book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution, ROWE is exactly what the name implies: a workplace that measures success mainly by the substance and quality of the work getting done.

To manage work, not people — an important distinction for ROWE — means focusing on the what of the work, not the where and when of the people doing it. In other words, outline the goals, tasks and expectations and assign them clearly. Then the when and where no longer matter, as long as the work gets done. Whether at a desk in a cubicle for eight strictly defined hours, at a home office at 2 a.m., or from a cafe early in the morning in another time zone, the measurement of success is that the work gets done.

“Butts in seats doesn’t create good work,” Greg Watt, CEO of Watt Global Media, said in a 2019 CNN Business article. “It gives you the perception, but it doesn’t necessarily drive excellent performance.”

The results-only work environment takes flexibility to a new level and gives employees a sense of ownership and accountability, made all the more empowering by the trust their employers have in them.

As Thompson and Ressler concluded in a 2013 Forbes magazine interview: “Companies do not need to manage their people better, they need to manage the work better. So many people do not have a clue as to what constitutes measurable success — no matter where they’re working from. We’ve become complacent, believing that if people show up, put in effort, and put in their time, then that’s what good looks like.

“It’s the 21st century, we don’t need to watch people do work anymore. We need to take a big step back and ask ourselves the question, ‘Do I understand the work that needs to get done, and how to identify if that work is steering us toward achieving our measurable outcomes?’”

How to Implement ROWE

Communication. Once you have clearly outlined goals, projects, tasks and assignments, you must clearly communicate them to your team. To sustain a workplace focused on results, everyone must understand what those results are. In addition, make sure the members of your team are aware of how and when to best communicate with each other and understand the value of clearly communicating what they will need from other members of the team to accomplish their own goals. Weekly check-ins, project management software, and email can be used to maintain clarity and consistency.

Measurements and metrics. After goals are defined, a way of measuring progress toward them must be defined so both employee and employer can celebrate successes and keep on track. This will be different according to your industry and the nature of the job, but it may look like weekly check-ins, clear deadlines, meeting a set quota, or using a project management software.

Trust. It can be difficult for some leaders to let go of the traditional management or work environment norms. It can feel like they are losing control. But by trusting employees to do their work as capable and motivated adults, leaders can make the work more manageable and encourage autonomy and ownership. In the words of Thompson, “What people need is to be trusted like the adults they are, with the ability to take complete control over their time. Then, and only then, will they have the opportunity to be intrinsically motivated to not only do work, but own the work — really be accountable for what they were hired to do.”

No judgment (of yourself or others). The traditional workplace defines productivity by hours spent in an office. While initially it may be hard to let go of the guilt or self-judgment that often accompanies leaving early, or taking a personal appointment in the middle of a traditional work day, try to keep in mind that all that matters is that you actually are being productive, not that you “look” productive. Extend that same attitude toward others in your workplace.

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About the author

Cherise Czaban

Cherise Czaban is the publisher of i4 Business magazine and the CEO of i4 Business LLC. She formerly served as vice president of business development for SCB Marketing, the previous publishers of i4 Business.

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