No Schedules, No Meetings—Enter Best Buy’s ROWE – Part 2

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(Photo: badboy69)

This is continued from Part 1 of my exclusive first blog interview with the co-developers of Best Buy’s results-only work environment, which has increased output at headquarters 41% and decreased quitting up to 90% in some divisions.

When you take care of your life, do you develop overcomplicated processes for getting things done? Do you spend your free time coming up with systems and programs for buying birthday presents or making dinner or feeding the dog? Do you have regular family meetings to discuss whether or not people are doing heir chores, what the status of those chores is, and what kind of outcomes those chores are expected to achieve?

Why do we spend so much of our business life talking about the business we need to take care of rather than simply taking care of it?
-From “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It”

Some converts argue ROWE is a “simple change”. What’s simple about it?

The change isn’t easy, but the change is simple because it’s based on common sense. To show you what we’re talking about, here are some ROWE conversation starters:

Isn’t it funny that we rush to work everyday and then spend the first hour at our desk reading the paper and drinking coffee?

Isn’t it funny that if you’re done with your work for the day at four, you can’t just leave? Why do you have to stay that extra hour and pretend to be busy?

Why do we assume that time = productivity instead of talking about the kind of results the person is actually getting?

Why do we talk about people being “out of the office” when everyone is reachable by cell phone or e-mail?

Once people start to challenge the absurdities of the workplace, they start to realize that there is no reason why they can’t deliver results on their own terms. The ripple effect a ROWE creates in a team, department or organization is huge, but the core idea is very simple.


Can you define what you call “sludge” and how it affects a workplace?

“Sludge” is the toxic language that judges people for how they spend their time. It’s based on old beliefs about how work should happen.

Sludge is when someone says, “10:00 a.m. and you’re just getting in? I wish I could come in late every day.” The belief being expressed here is that work happens between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The person who isn’t in the building at 8:00 a.m. is therefore not working.

Of course, to a certain extent, we’re all knowledge workers now. The person could have been at home coming up with the next great idea. Yet they’re being slammed based not on what they produced, but where their body was at 8:05 a.m. It’s ridiculous.

In a traditional work environment, sludge is a huge weight on everyone’s shoulders. Sludge makes people feel guilty, angry, frustrated, and disrespected. It makes them feel like children instead of like adults.

Getting rid of sludge is the key to creating a Results-Only Work Environment. When we migrated teams at Best Buy and J. A. Counter, we used a Sludge Eradication method that we have perfected over the years. Here are three simple things you can do to get started.

1. Become aware of sludge. Listen for those negative, judgmental statements that have nothing to do with getting the work done. Let’s say you’re the last person to arrive at a meeting and someone says, “Nice of you to join us.” That’s Sludge. That statement has nothing to do with results. Even if it’s a joke, that kind of talk only serves to put you in your place. Now you feel guilty, unmotivated and nervous about the security of your job. And for what?

2. Focus on the work. Let’s say you’re frustrated that you need something from Bob that you’re not getting from him. You could say, “Bob, I saw you took a long lunch yesterday. We’re really busy right now and I need you to show more dedication.” That’s sludge. You’re focusing on the how Bob is using his time, instead of talking about what you need. Better to say, “Bob, I need XYZ from you. Let’s figure out a way to make our deliverables so everything can run smoothly.”

3. Stop justifying your time. Let’s say you walk in five minutes “late” one day. Instead of explaining that traffic was a nightmare or your kids made you late, just go to work. And if someone sludges you (“Oh, look who decided to show up today”) then focus on the work. A simple “what do you need” or “what can I help you with” does a great job of eliminating it. People can’t slam you about your time if you focus on the work.

Sludge eradication doesn’t happen overnight. Just like in any social change, it takes groups of “smart mobs” working on the change together. But once a people gain a little momentum with this new approach, the results are powerful.

What advice do you offer for the millions of people who would love to work in a ROWE but assume their boss would never agree to it?

What your boss doesn’t realize is that a ROWE is his or her best friend. Remember that statistic about productivity being up an average of 41% on ROWE teams? Those are sustainable numbers. Every team, department or organization has all kinds of locked up potential. Yes, a ROWE gives people freedom and control, but it’s also great for the bottom line. So when you’re talking to your boss about this, present it as a business benefit and opportunity [Tim: consider proposing it as a trial or test versus presenting it as a permanent change].

You can also help foster a ROWE mindset in your workplace by modeling certain behaviors:

Stop praising/admiring/envying people for their “dedication” and start praising people for what they accomplish.

In a traditional work environment, the coworker who gets in early and leaves late looks like they’re a superstar. In a ROWE, they’re just making a choice about when and where they work. Praise the outcomes, not the behavior, and you’ll move closer to a ROWE.

Stop thinking that leaving “early” is a treat and start thinking about what it would be like to have total control over your time.

At 4:00 p.m. on a sunny Friday, your boss lets you leave early. Goody, right? Wrong. This is a school kid’s view of time, not an adult’s. If you’re getting your work done, then why should someone have the right to tell you where to be?

Stop “drive bys” and “managing by walking around” and start planning.

You’re a manager and you want to show your support by stopping by your employee’s cube. Or, you have “just one quick question” for your coworker and you decide to pop by their cube. Resist the urge. Impromptu meetings interrupt people’s work flow and make them feel like they have no control. If you find yourself needing things at the last minute, try a little more foresight.

Stop accepting fluffy goals and expectations that are set for you.

There’s no time like the present to get really clear on why you exist at the company you work for. When you talk with your manager about your goals and expectations, don’t accept any fluffy responses from him/her. Push for clarity on timelines and measurable outcomes.

If you can’t measure or evaluate the work in some way, you shouldn’t be doing it.

Period.

Posted on: May 22, 2008.

The Tim Ferriss Show is generally the #1 business podcast on iTunes, and it was selected for iTunes' "Best of 2015." Each episode deconstructs world-class performers from eclectic areas (investing, sports, business, art, etc.) to extract the tactics, tools, and routines you can use. If you want to 10x your productivity, click here.

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79 comments on “No Schedules, No Meetings—Enter Best Buy’s ROWE – Part 2

  1. If my old law firm had got this idea, I might not have quit my job to start my own business (so in a way I’m glad, but …).

    When I was practicing as an attorney in a big law firm, I was actually penalized for being efficient. You see, the more hours you billed, the bigger the bonus (up to $65K plus) — and since I got my work done between 7 am and 4 pm just 5 days per week, I never got the bonus. Didn’t matter how many briefs I wrote, who many cases I won, etc. b/c it’s all about how many hours got billed to the client. Amazing!

    I’m so proud of Best Buy for adopting this policy — as it spreads, it will really change the world.

    Elizabeth

    Like

  2. This is probably your best post yet, Tim. Thanks for being there to inspire those of us who haven’t made the right shift yet.

    It seems for me that much or most of the sludge comes from inside – probably remnants of public schooling, the old work mindset, and Jewish-like mother syndrome.

    That term, sludge, is a great way of lumping (slushing?) together all of the outdated views and philosophies toward work.

    Like

  3. Hey Tim,
    The problem with incorporating ROWE is that normally its a managerial decision process with the top normally being from the older generation. No matter if the process is completely logical or has stats to back it up, it’s seems to be a mental/ habit thing that prevents the change. I think as younger managers move to positions of power the social change can happen. I mentioned this process to an older person who holds a management position and I’m not generalizing about older people it’s just seems to be more common and their response was it would be hard to monitor, employees would slack, hard to build morale, all arguments etc which I think are flawed and can be tested I guess he feels he could have better control of employees with the current practices. It’s harder to change than just be the same, maybe the key is just more time for more results to show, possibly a how to book or consultants who specialize in the field but IMO most important and that this project has to have metrics so the non believers can see the hard results for themselves. I have managed to convince my manager for time off for employees every fortnight so they can think about the process of the work they do and not about the work itself which is great but I guess it’s one step at a time.
    OT, Very disappointed we couldn’t catch up for a drink while you were in Aus, you have to come the Gold Coast next time your in town! Or I’ll possibly see you while I’m traveling next year! Take care

    Poe

    Like

  4. I’m definitely intrigued. Thanks for the heads-up, Tim.

    A lot of “traditions” don’t make sense if you simply think about them. After all, “tradition” just means “it’s been done this way for a long time”.

    I have a similar term, “slop”, to describe waste in work (and play). I like to say: “CHOP THE SLOP!”

    Like

  5. Now I get it! I still don’t like working for other people but I do like the illusion of security it provides. I have always felt a bit out of place. (Comic laughter subsiding) I used to think I just hated authority and that my personal freedom like when I come in, go to the bathroom and take lunch was something I should feel guilty about. I like working with people but not at the expense of me being dictated by a ticking clock. Many of the jobs I had I was either overworked by inefficacy of work flow or made lists/searched the web of what I wanted to do the hours I wasn’t at work. Laundry was more appealing that stair at my cube wall.

    I can’t wait to read the Ladies’ book. Thanks Tim!
    Hugs,
    Jen

    Like

    • I used to think that I hated authority too. I secretly wondered if I had some type of personality disorder. It took me a long time to realize that I am actually very much a “team player”, I have great working skills, and I like people. Those in authority don’t actually bother me per se. My real problem was always that rules and workplace traditions bothered me if they didn’t make any sense and had no actual purpose. In my mind, if the rewards at work didn’t lead to more productivity and better working conditions, then things needed changing.

      Of course, I never, ever, said this outloud to anyone. I was like everyone else, I just did what was expected of me regardless of whether it was the most productive thing to do or whether it actually benefitted the company.

      Sometimes, when asked at meetings about things we thought might help productivity, I would make some suggestions. But of course, it was all just talk and I knew it. The meetings made the upper-managers look busy and professional by having them all the time. However, it was all for show and only a few minor changes would be implemented on occassion. Of course what I wanted to say, but didn’t dare, was “Well one thing we could do is to stop having so many meetings and talking so much.”

      Like

  6. “If you can’t measure or evaluate the work in some way, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

    This is plainly wrong. There are plenty of things that are great for business that can’t be measured economically. Take being ethical for example.

    The real danger to this article, and the idea of ‘doing whatever it takes’ means that people might be willing to do things that are abhorent to do the results.

    Not measurable, but if you fail in being ethical, it’s measurable then.

    Enron anyone?

    The solution is that people need to know what is expected of them, have clear responsibilities, and accountability for actions, especially to ethics.

    Like

    • I’ve come back to re-evaluate my position on this article, to realise how important it is. Ethics are important, and should be integrated into any business activity. But that’s not what is being discussed here. This article is about eliminating wasted time is in the current paradigm of 9-5.

      Eg. Of course punctuality is important, but who is setting the time? You or your boss treating you like a kid and giving you an early mark on Friday?

      @scsudropout: you are right, ROWE fits perfectly with an ethical business. In fact it is more ethical, because you are fulfilling your obligation to make the company better and profit, deliver results to customers, and respecting the time of coworkers and yourself.

      @cali and Jodi. You’re also right. If somebody was acting on the fringe of ethics, it would be much easier to hide than in a non-ROWE company. Enron would probably benefit from ROWE.

      This is a great article, I’m happy I’ve had the chance to come back and appreciate it for what it actually represents.

      Like

  7. The work place is filled with those who waste a lot of time keeping track of the minutes of others. Having the freedom to work when you are most focused is extremely productive and rewarding. We need to retrain ourselves to leave the old timeclock mentality behind and move on to a ROWE means of providing valuable effort.

    Like

  8. Phraedus

    Your solution is basically describing a ROWE. “People need to know what is expected of them, have clear responsibilities, and accountability for actions, especially to ethics.”

    Like

  9. This still continues to be a great take on workplace insanity. . .that’s brilliant that they call people out on the idea of mocking others not adhering to the “standard” 9 to 5. Brilliant. I can’t wait to read the book. Maybe a contest is in order, Tim?

    Like

  10. Tim,

    I bought the book. I’ve read the book. Rereading it and taking notes. It’s very good. Did I miss your parties in Silicon Valley?

    I’m still working on an email to get you to be my mentor.

    This whole ROWE thing sounds great but is familiar. It reminds me of Morita Psychotherapy. Its a good thing. Do what needs to be done! Thats it and thats the measure of all. What do you think?

    Brian

    Like

  11. While I like quite a few of your concepts, I still find some of them to be a bit… off. This one, for example: “If you’re getting your work done, then why should someone have the right to tell you where to be?”

    You mean, other than the fact that they’re paying your salary? And especially if you’re getting a salary. There are plenty of working arrangements, like being paid by the hour, or as a consultant or contractor, that provide for more flexible working arrangements or let you get “your” work done on a per-project basis.

    Employers tend to feel that with a salary they’re paying you for a certain amount of time. And if you’re getting “your” work done with time to spare, then why aren’t you doing more work? Or pitching in and helping someone else? And if you finished project “A” before it was due, why aren’t you starting project “B”?

    After all, being so “efficient” is probably one of the reasons that YOU were hired instead of someone else.

    If you can get X amount of work done in a six hour day, then you’re going to have a very hard time convincing someone that you can’t be doing X*20% in an eight hour day…

    Like

  12. Hi Tim,

    Thanks for a great post. The ROWE work style you describe from Best Buy really fits along with the ROWE lifestyle that you describe in your book.

    I was just listening to your interview with John Jantsch. Combined with this it is a great reminder of the type of lifestyle you challenge us to consider.

    Personally, I feel called to a job that does require me to be at a certain place in some occasions but thankfully gives me a lot of freedom in others. I’m currently sitting in Istanbul, Turkey. I’m working and enjoying life and seeing the world. All at once.

    Thanks so much!

    Like

  13. the theories here apply to hiring a virtual assistant too. What I discovered is I first needed to do every assigned task myself first and measure how long it took. Then I could pay my VA by the task. When I paid my VA by the hour I paid over double what I pay them now, by the task.

    Like

  14. Tim.

    I found it ironic that there was a webex ad on the page with the no meeting post.

    Thanks for everything.

    ###

    LOL… thanks for the comment, Bob. I actually think WebEx (as well as GoToMeeting) are great options for moving from face-time to results-only. I still have con-calls and “meetings” via IM or phone with designers, for example, and these tools are often what I use.

    I can see how this would be very, very ironic from the outside looking in, though!

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  15. Tim,

    The idea behind ROWE is really clever and it all makes sense, but how would an employee be credited for the work and effort he puts in? I live in Norway where salary is normally regulated by working hours. I do not know the usual habbit in the US, is it based on completed projects?

    As a PM in a fairly large firm I am very much intriged by the idea, but I do not see how I can put in practice in regard to workdrones and their salary.

    As always, thanks for a good read,
    Bjorn

    Like

  16. Thanks Tim,

    This book reminds me of a great book I read about 10 years ago called “Doing It Different” by David Clutterbuck.

    It show-cased organisations around the world which operated very ‘differently’ to their competitiors – more fluid, less structured, focussed on outcomes, not rules and trusted the people to deliver outcomes and work in ways that suit their liefstyles.

    These firms were more more proftable, more innovative and had happier people than their competitors.

    10 years ago some of this seemed a little “quirky.” Today it makes absolute business sense – it makes an impact on the bottom line and reduces staff turnover / attrition.

    So even if an organisation is not a “ROWE Organisation” as such, using the step by step guidelines in your book Tim (on trialling, testing etc) an employee can make it happen at an individual level.

    Half the time, i think people don’t attempt the stuff they want in the work place because we think it’s ‘not possible’ or ‘my boss would never agree to that.’

    Ressler and Thompson’s book shows people it is ‘possible’ to create a job that fits your desired lifestyle rather than the other way around.

    Thanks again for your continued ideas & inspiration!

    Sital

    Like

  17. Hi Tim,

    A very interesting article. The principle is something I have adhered to personally for some time, although it wasn’t until I got into senior management that I could practice it.

    A word of caution though. Some roles require people to be available at a certain place at a certain time. Customer service or tech-support spring to mind.

    Like

  18. Phraedus – Enron did not have a ROWE, as you know. If people are going to act in an unethical matter, it doesn’t matter what the work environmnent is. Doing whatever you want, whenever you want doesn’t imply a loss of values or ethics. The interesting thing that happens in a ROWE is that the people who may have been ‘on the fringe’ of what is considered appropriate behavior are more easily discovered in a ROWE. Because people just care more about their work and the business in a ROWE. And they want it to succeed. Perhaps Enron SHOULD have adopted ROWE!

    Like

  19. Michael Long’s post goes to the core of why so many organizations are highly resistant to ROWE-style workplaces. Remember, many – perhaps most – organizations are equally interested in both bottom line AND control. “I want my employees here, 8 – 5, so I can call upon them when I need them,” is a type of mentality that’s core to current business models. Never mind that these employees could easily be reached via cell phone or email or other sort of electronic leash (which is another topic entirely)… it’s the illusion of control, by having physical bodies perched in physical desks in front of physical computers, that’s so hard to break.

    Many organizations also believe in the myth of difference; that is, “it might have worked for Best Buy but it won’t work here because we’re different, our culture is different, our products are different, etc. etc.” It’s absurd nonsense, of course, but whether it’s nonsense or not isn’t relevant. Every organization believes it’s different, and anything that goes against the grain of the current business model is bound to be met with resistance.

    I want to add here that I’m personally a big believer in ROWE but I also believe that if employees think they can just present a ROWE-style concept to their managers without it being a career-limiting move, I think they’re mistaken. This is one of those times where I hope I’m wrong, that organizations will see through their self-created myths about control and adopt an approach that’s more effective, more efficient and more productive.

    Like

  20. Michael – you’ve hit on a ROWE nerve – counting hours. If someone gets their work done in 32 hours, shouldn’t they get more work? Imagine for a moment that everyone forgets about ‘hours’ and gets paid for an outcome. Now, the company’s job is to get really clear about what outcome (deliverables, objectives) they are trying to drive. Then, if the outcomes are achieved – because the company was CLEAR about it’s objective – then who cares how many hours it took? Now, of course, missing deadlines is not okay in a ROWE. But we found people were actually getting stuff done ahead of the dealine and ASKING for more work. Wouldn’t we rather have employees so excited about their jobs that they ASK for more work instead of having employees ‘fudge’ about how many hours they work so that the boss doesn’t pile more inane tasks on them just to fill time?

    Like

  21. Great post. Jives with my mindset these days.

    However, there are exceptions that should be noted. My help desk guys are paid to be available during their shifts. That is their result. I’m sure there are other exceptions, but this is not universally applicable.

    Like

    • Victor – I looked at your statement and asked why? I’m not sure that it couldn’t be beneficial to have outcome based work on a helpdesk – there maybe exceptions. Most helpdesks operate within a very clearly defined service level agreement..and yes that usually includes hours that help is available. However, I don’t know of any service level agreements that guarantee instant response for every incident.

      Our general life experiences with people not returning calls, not being proactive on our behalfs and hiding from us behind busyness have led us to assume that if we don’t get through to helpdesks straightaway and get an immediate answer then we will never get an answer…and as such those who shout loudest or with the greatest power get the best service. If that’s the result you were looking for on your helpdesk then go ahead.

      If we are mindful of this negative experience but then deliver to SLAs that are created that give really useful service – then perceptions will change and we can move forwards with an service based around ROWE principals. Automation can assist here – if someone raises a call with a helpdesk give them something straightaway and have a system for setting expectations. Then stick to that with a personal response if necessary. Empower individuals within the team to self manage their time but make their compensation and credibility based around customer experience feedback. Make it easy for the customer to complain. Focus your support people’s efforts on making good information available to people without a verbal interaction – move support incidents to a 1 to many scenario. Make it easy for people to get the info they need by replicating information that is requested immediately and put the people on the helpdesk in charge of that. If you can have 200 people visit a Q&A on your product and click a yes that answered my questions button – is that better than having 200 people in a support queue – or worse 195 people giving up and trying something else easier?

      Moving to these models doesn’t mean that people don’t need to be available within certain times – but it could mean that you could allow the team to self regulate working hours giving you more coverage with less bodies, better customer experience and better productivity?

      Like

  22. Tim-love the post. This isn’t a surprise as your blog consistently delivers!

    This is the problem with working in a large corporation. They build up large structures to help run multiple divisions and product lines. They set up systems to help streamline the process and cut costs. They never stop to ask the question “how does this help my customer?” They never thing “how does this make my customer’s experience better?”

    Unless you have executive buy in, going to ROWE doesn’t work in these situations. This is where your advice steps in. You need to get your work out of the office. You become more productive and the company doesn’t start to question why they are paying your salary since you cut loose early every day.

    Like

  23. I actually brought ROWE with my boss yesterday. I work for a small communications firm (less than 30 people) that just lost two of its experienced and dependable staff this week–I’m one of them. Naturally, the upper management is a little more vulnerable and receptive to ideas to improve retention right now, plus I have nothing to lose by brining it up.

    This is a good company– strong ethics, rational management, a diverse client base–but retention and mishiring has been a huge issue. In the two years I worked there I watched at least 20 staff come and go. I believe the company has a tremendous amount to gain by trying new techniques to improve its employee base and productivity, and I’ll have another opportunity to talk with my boss more in-depth about ROWE in my exit interview next week.

    However, there are some challenges that I see and that my boss has already raised: 1) how to apply this in a service-based setting with clients that expect attention throughout the traditional 9-6pm day; 2) how to maintain employee interaction and “bonding”; 3) how to measure & assess true productivity in an industry where success is not just defined by financial profit, but by long-term relationships and referrals that sometimes take months or years to develop.

    It’s sounds like Cali & Jody’s book will address some of these challenges so I’m looking forward to reading it when it comes out — in the meantime, if there any resources/articles that would help my discussion next week, I’d love to know more!

    Allison

    Like

  24. I love this idea and one that I hope catches on with more corporations. I work partly for myself and partly for a small business and because of this I have flexibility. I would be very hesitant to go back to corporate America because of the rigid time structure that is pointless. I might not need 8 hours and a 45 minute lunch to get my job done. Not to mention I’m usually slightly burnt from around 2:30 on but I’m on my game at 7am why shouldn’t I be able to work to my strengths? Until ROWE gets a few more footholds in the corporate world I’ll stick my my strange setup and flexibility where I can see results rather than waste time.

    Great post Tim!

    Like

  25. The following talk, given by the inimitable C.S.Lewis, was the Memorial Lecture at King’s College, University of London in 1944. I have read and re-read these inspirational words numerous times and hope that they also help inspire others to focus on the work rather than the co-workers.

    “The Inner Ring”

    http://www.geocities.com/bigcslewisfan/

    Like

  26. Thanks for sharing the ROWE concept, Tim.

    I can see how even I can use this method to achieve more results. Since I don’t have a boss (other than myself) to tell me what work needs to be done on a given day, I could easily set up clearer goals, things I need to accomplish within a day and a week so that I see certain results.

    How would you suggest this applies to someone who is self-employed?

    ~Cheryl Kaye Tardif, author

    Like

    • I know we arent supposed to be rude on here…. but, if you are a business owner and do things your own way – why on earth would this apply to you?? And why would you ask such a question?; You are supposed to be the smart one who got away from corp america and all the sludge…. I hope your business is doing good… yikes…..

      Like

  27. Go Carlos!!

    Victor, your desk guys example is still in line with a ROWE philosophy. Their result is to be available. ROWE is not necessarily about where you work but that you get the work done. Different jobs will have different ROWEs. In fact, each person makes ROWE their own to fit their unique lifestyle, job role, work style, demands, desires, etc.

    Like

  28. I have to agree that ROWE is a simple change in non-retail environments. It all depends on having the top cat’s blessing and wholehearted support. Scepticism at the top will scupper any chances of success.

    On results, you’re never going to get the metrics of measuring results 100% correct, get it as good as practical, then review and amend as necessary at set periods.

    With ROWE, salary = results delivered, not time spent. Renegotiate the targets and set higher standards if the current targets are being met too easily. After one quarter of realising the team could have done a lot better, raise the goalpost, match it with extra cash, and your company grows at an even faster rate.

    I’m sold on the idea.

    Incidentally, whilst writing this I got an reminder alert pop up window,asking a question from 4HWW:

    Are you inventing things to avoid doing the important?

    Well, I guess I was.

    Like

  29. Hey Tim

    Hum, being seen at work or being seen to produce. The difficulty with knowledge workers is measurement can be difficult and therefore the default response is ‘they are their desk’. Businesses are talking about innovation but it is hard to measure when most attempts fail and innovation is archived through learning from failure. The answer may lie in employee salary by packaged work jobs i.e. when you have produced this piece of work managing your own time and you get paid when the job is done. BT in the UK have 10,000 directory enquires home workers, who work this way. However it becomes more difficult when packaging innovation. I think the point you pose on your blog is one of the fundamentals changes needed to management. Gary Hamel refers to this as Management 2.0 and why I’m focused in on Enterprise 2.0.

    Nick Barker

    Like

  30. Tim,

    Brilliant! This makes so much sense it is almost scary. Also explains why some people work circles around coworkers when chained to a desk for a period of time… Extraordinary results are possible when the focus is on results.

    I am getting the book this weekend!

    Terry

    Like

  31. Micheal Long:

    My understanding is this has nothing to do with working less hours for your salary. It’s more about letting the individual decide how he/she can best get the required work done. Managment will find out about the person who gets his work done in 30 hours and will assign them more work – that I assure you. The truth is ROWE will probably result in MORE work for the average employee – not less. The benefit is the employee gets to decide how/when to get it done.

    Like

  32. In regards to Michael Long’s comment:

    If you can get X amount of work done in a six hour day, then you’re going to have a very hard time convincing someone that you can’t be doing X*20% in an eight hour day…

    Michael, this is a perfect example of “no good deed goes unpunished” and something that I saw all the time when I was working in Tech Support. The more that you accomplish, the more people will ask of you. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t work to their potential, but the problem is that corporations are often striving to wring every last bit of efficiency out of their employees. When they are successful at this, it means the employee is working at their maximum capacity all day long. No wonder that type of employment results in a much higher turnover rate than in a ROWE. Also, it is a strong incentive to slack in order to set your boss’s expectations low.

    ROWE’s value, in my opinion, is that it requires the employer to VERY specifically define employee goals tied to corporate goals.

    Tim, thanks for the post about ROWE. It is a great match with 4HWW.

    Like

  33. @scsudropout

    My solution complements the ROWE method mentioned, because it reduces the need for meetings, ability to ‘sludge’, etc. ROWE could easily be dangerous without these things.

    @pani

    What do you think about companies being generally reluctant to match higher results with extra cash? The point of business it to make money. Do you think if everybody was being more productive, that a company would reward everyone equally? Ideally yes, practically, they might, if they wanted to retain their employees.

    @victor. I would agree, the same principle applies to retail. However, rather than the reward being spending less time at work, there could be other rewards, such as being paid more. This seems to contradict my last comment, companies _should_ pay people more, but will be disinclined to.

    Like

  34. “I would love to be on Colbert Report. Any ideas on how to tie the themes in 4HWW to current affairs, politics, news, etc.?”

    This was a recent Twitter status of yours, and I don’t use Twitter, so this is the best place for me to reply, I think. (Correct me if I’m wrong, Tim.)

    Anyway, I just wanted to say that Colbert sometimes has guests that are not directly involved with current affairs/politics.

    I would personally love to see you on the Colbert Report!

    Like

  35. This is interesting. We ran our mortgage company this way for the first several years in business. Everyone was an independent contractor. The results were loan originations and closings. And we had no time requirements and ultimately all associates compensation was also tied to the result as a commission.

    Then, a few years later we came up with the “idea” that we needed more control of some of the loan process. So, we hired the loan closers full time, and left loan originators flex time. We adjusted compensation as well to be more salary driven versus commission.

    What we found was a drastic REDUCTION in productivity directly related to the salaried full time people. The commissioned, flex time production did not vary. However, the teamwork we once had between the originators and loan closers went away because we created 2 different types of workers. Also, we noted that customer service levels decreased.

    We ultimately scrapped the full time salaried position and changed everyone back to independent contractors. It has resulted in increased productivity and teamwork with a focus on closing loans, not showing up to work.

    I think it would be hard to make the results so clear in many organizations that you could just go ROWE; but if you can create simple, clear result requirements, then our experience shows it works.

    I’m never hiring an employee again. Everyone is an independent contractor and owner of their own business in my eyes. The value they bring to me and the organization is then aligned with their compensation. This incents what we want, results and no management headaches.

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  36. Michael Long wrote: “And if you’re getting “your” work done with time to spare, then why aren’t you doing more work? Or pitching in and helping someone else? And if you finished project “A” before it was due, why aren’t you starting project “B”?”

    I think this is my challenge with the applicability of ROWE in the places I have worked. Being in IT, I have never worked in anything but a mobile work environment — work from home, work from the coffee shop, work from the office. Whatever. Just get done what needs to be done. (And, like many good IT geeks, when the Star Wars prequels and the Matrix sequels came out, several of us took a long lunch to see them in the middle of the day together. All very SOP.)

    But in a project environment, with a backlog list of over 150 projects waiting to be tackled, the fact is that I don’t underestimate the expectation my employer has on the number of hours per week they are requesting in exchange for a very comfortable salary. And if my current workload leaves me with more bandwidth, there really IS more that needs to be done and is just awaiting my attention.

    So, I guess, while I appreciate the value of this in many more traditionally structured office environments, I’m not sure I understand where some of the organizational models I have more experience in would really find a significant bang for the buck.

    Like

  37. Tim,

    This takes lying down in a public place to a new level. I know you enjoy social experiments have a look at this one:

    Josh

    ###

    Josh, I’d heard about this but never saw it. AWESOME. I think that will inspire all sorts of creative troublemaking. Fun!

    Thanks!

    Tim

    Like

  38. “If you can’t measure or evaluate the work in some way, you shouldn’t be doing it.”

    I think that sums up the essence of ROWE–how much more productive would we all be if we vigorously and rigorously applied that test to whatever “work” we were about to do?

    Like

  39. Book Awesome.

    Posts Awesome.

    Progressive Thinking Awesome.

    The only thing that is challenging about this is the timeframe issue. It would be difficult if you were outsourcing your products and a customer needed help on their schedule. What if they were not available to take the call today and you missed the order until you log in tomorrow or next week? What if a customer ordered a product and the shipping company completed the day and went through the weekend. The customer needed the product on Monday. I guess if you had a que that was monitered etc. Just curious if anyone had a creative solution.

    Like

  40. Thanks for sharing this wonderful idea! I wonder why more and more companies are not adopting ROWE? Looks like a win-win for everyone..I will try with some of it in my organization for sure, like removing ‘sludge’ and see how it works. If all goes well, and i believe it will, we will get on to the next level. Thanks!

    Like

  41. This is too funny! Back in the 1980’s we called it “employee attitude.”

    Here’s what happens…

    A person gets their first job and busts their butt for a while but they don’t get rewarded for their effort or results. One day the light bulb goes off and they realize it doesn’t matter if they bust their butt or sit on it, their pay is the same! That’s called EMPLOYEE ATTITUDE. Productivity suffers.

    But if you think like a business owner, you know that results equals rewards. And if you are a business owner, you must reward for performance, not longevity. If the new kid produces more than the old timer, then each should earn accordingly.

    The simple thing is to FOCUS ON RESULTS. Business is simple. It consists of three parts:

    1) Generating revenue

    2) Decreasing expenses

    3) Filling out government forms.

    If you are not doing at least one of those three then you are NOT engaged in the business of business. Every activity should fall under one of those categories.

    Like

  42. The idea of ROWE is really inspiring, as most of the people still follow the same old ways at work, leaves late or working overtime everyday without focus on what they should really need to produce.

    Like

  43. Hey Tim,

    Thanks to your book I got to the 9-hour workweek!

    I’ve placed the URL of the blog series I wrote on the “website field” of the comment box. It’s basically the story of how I applied your ideas to my situation and got to my 9- hour workweek.

    Any plans for a follow up book?

    Like

  44. Hey Tim,

    I’ve managed to train my boss and his bosses to allow me to work like this.. basically I only ever show my face in the office to do some paperwork on mondays and fridays, then tuesdays through thursdays I’m out working with clients… between whatever hours I want.. some days I work from 8am to 11am other days I don’t start until 2pm and I’ll finish at 6pm.. I’m gettng more work done than the other guys in office too.

    – paul

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  45. Tim,

    Very interesting. My old boss could have used a ROWE and begun a simple trial like you suggest. If she would have maybe I’d still be there. I used to love love my old job of nearly 9 years, however it got to be completely demotivating with those types of comments and BS games that you mentioned. On April 6th 2008 I killed it.

    I now work without the traditional “office”. I simply have three basic forms I email to my manager weekly. That’s it! My time is now spent working directly with customers by phone or in person.

    I go to ALL of the kids’ softball games as well as coach grade school basketball. My new company is not only going to encourage me to coach again next season, they are going to support the team financially as well so we can participate in more traveling tournaments .

    My new employer focuses on results and rewards results. If yours doesn’t “let-’em rot” and go find one that does. It took several months of searching and lots of interviews to finally find the right match. In the end I worked with a VA that helped get me in front on the right employer, within 30 days I had my new job.

    Results matter, games don’t.

    If anyone needs some help or in this area from someone who’s killed their job and landed the “Perfect 10 JOB” I’d be happy to lend a hand and volunteer my time. For legal reasons at this time the above link to my site is password protected. Just shoot me an email at shawnsue@mac.com. I’ll do my best to help you.

    Have a good one,
    Shawn

    Like

  46. Tim,

    I remember reading a couple months back about a book on the topic of entrepreneurship, and how it was to be the key factor in the US’s ability to stay competitive in an open global economy.

    What was the name of that book again?

    Brian Soule

    ###

    “The Entrepreneurial Imperative” It’s a good read, for sure, though dense at points. Enjoy! -Tim

    Like

  47. Wow, brand new to this site and found this discussion topic very cool.

    I’m in a 6:30-4 job and love the work, not so much the sludge (love the word!). I have to sheepishly admit I have contributed to the toxicity of sludge during my past supervisory experience. It wasn’t taught but more so learned. I hate being that way because I hate when it’s done to me.

    Here are my questions/concerns. I believe that a ROWE is the way to go but it reminds me a lot of commission based jobs…. the more you sell, the more you make- so the more you produce, the more you make?

    In engineering, the amount of work for me is based on the work incoming from the client. Some days, I can get my tasks done in one hour while other days, I could work 9 hours with a bathroom break and lunch munch and still go another 27 hours straight. Financially, I would be concerned that my one hour day wouldn’t make me enough money to support my one income family. And then how am I supposed to work until it’s done when it’s never done?

    I have lost my productivity with the increase in salary, oddly enough, because as long as I’m here, I must be getting it done, right? Wrong! I have been here 7 years and so the company values my experience and committment to the company – they are no longer so much concerned with productivity. Hence, I’ve become the slacker which frankly is very boring. BUT, it supports my family well enough that my husband, rather than me, gets to be at home with our toddler.

    When there’s not much to do at work, I am creative with my time to make it look like I’m working hard. When there’s a lot to do, I struggle getting it done because I’m used to slacking during down time. I could be at home with my boys and working when necessary!!

    I’m intrigued and mystified. Is ROWE really a future vision for me?!
    KR

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  48. A long, long time ago, there was a book named “The Peter Principle”. It said that as long as you did ok, you’d be promoted, until you became an incompetent.

    In a way, the boss that throws more and more work at a good worker is going to wear him/her down to incompetence.

    As has been said, and is also my personal experience in my quirkish field, good, keen workers will either ask for more to do by themselves, or start thinking about how things are done and how to improve it, or just use their time to live.

    Like

  49. Interesting concept. Like you said Tim, sure does seem to be based on common sense. It’s funny how the further away from common sense we get as a society, the more it seems revolutionary…

    Like

  50. Re getting on Colbert….

    I work for the Dept of Defense and I keep pitching 4HWW to my bureaucrat bosses and get nothing but excuses, when I see how easily they could work and how much more effective we could be. How about how you’d apply 4HWW to the Department of Defense? Or Government jobs in general? (or better yet, the next President’s 4HWW??? I think that one could actually work very well for you and be both funny and on-target, plus have a political angle.)

    Lorna

    Like

  51. I too have trained my boss to work ROWE with me. Hustling to meet his deliverables has benefited only him so far. I’m close to 4 hours/week, but in effect, my income has been reduced.

    Any models or ideas on how to correctly quantify a cost/benefits proposal for the boss to pay me more per deliverable?

    Like

  52. God I love when common sense finally makes it’s way into business.🙂

    In some cases, greater results are met by core hours, regular meetings, etc. But so often hours and meetings are mindlessly followed.

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  53. I tried the advice you said in your book about asking your boss to allow you to work from home and it worked. He only gave me Fridays, but tomorrow I will ask him to give me Tuesdays and Wednesdays off. We will see!!!
    Any advice?

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  54. This article does not at any time mention ethics or values, and I was drawing attention to that.

    My point to clarify is that the principles of doing whatever it takes are dangerous. Success, shouldn’t come at the cost of ethics, which is an unmeasurable value, and according to the article, should be ignored

    Working in the way people want is a different matter altogether.

    I’m not saying that Enron and Rowe are related. Enron did exactly as you said, whatever it took to get the results. If Enron was a ROWE, then it would have been far worse.

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  55. Tim,
    Great post! I work at Cisco. Since we’re severely global, most of us work from home. The “sludge” as mentioned in the article still tends to creep in sometimes. “I see you weren’t on IM until after 10am, must be nice!”. Regarding meetings, unfortunately they’re still alive and well, even as a Teleworker. Funny thing I’ve noticed: If a meeting is scheduled for 1 hour, it goes 1 hour. If it’s scheduled for 1.5 hours, guess what? It’s insane! I’ve been trying to put the book into practice and so far, so good.

    Like

  56. Some comments.

    1. ROWE = Sales. Sales people have been living in a “results-only” world forever. That is why most career sales people would never do anything else. Sales people can do whatever they like, whenever they like, as long as they are bringing in $$.

    2. ROWE = Accountability. In a results driven position you must take 100% accountability for you work and results. This is very difficult for many managers and employees so they prefer “responsibility” over “accountability”.

    3 Acountability vs. Responsibility. The difference between these 2 words has been discussed in management for over 100 years. This stuff is not new. Under capitalism, ROWE is not always the optimum way to maximize shareholder value. Under communism, ROWE makes more sense.

    Just a thought – How much do you want to bet that Tim does not pratice ROWE with his low paid workers in India?

    Just a thought – Tim pays little of no US taxes for these workers, they have no health care, they take jobs away from Americans and local school budgets here in America suffer while Tim “hangs” in Japan on the US taxpayer’s dime.

    I enjoy TIm’s blog, but there are 2 sides to every coin. We are enamoured by Tim’s exploits because his “exploits” new communications technolgoy for his own gain and bypassed established social systems, gaining great advantages, like US taxes. – Tim is just a classic, talented capitalist.

    Tim “Oil Man” Ferris has learned to leverage this new “free & untaxed” global captial, so that he gets excess returns and does not have to work as much as the rest of us.

    Nothing wrong with it, but it is not a new concept, trust me.

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  57. I have been actually always using similar management culture in my own businesses. It is really efficient ( I can talk about small businesses with no experience about big corporations), but the problem is that for many people that kind of a culture does not fit. It requires the employees a great deal of self-motivation and many people just cannot manage it. Many workers are expecting the traditional 9 to 5 mode and for them it is easier to discipline themselves to work while they are in the office. The result is tha the quit rates for the newly hired employees tend to be very high. I do not use fixed pay systems and therefore people, who cannot fit into that kind of system cannot earn sufficient income. However, those who get used to that kind of management culture find it very motivating and work productively.

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  58. It would be an astonishing change of events to actually work for a company that truly practiced these principles. I could never find one. Even those companies I loved and wanted to work for made it too unbearable with the micro-managing nonsense.

    The scariest part is through their constant time-wasting, they have no idea how much more profitable they could be if they actually went to a ROWE-type basis instead of the old-school system.

    It would be hard to go work for another one of those type of companies.

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  59. How does ROWE respond to the concept of, if you’re getting more done in your workday, you now have more TIME to do yet even MORE?

    Many people have jobs where the results are seemingly never-ending. As soon as one project is done, there is another waiting. The “machine” can suck up as much as a person can put in. How do you stop the creep of the system wanting more and more and more results?

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  60. Man, just today I was thinking about this, dude.

    I do a bit of web work for this guy I know.

    He has clients that need web work done.

    The last client, had some marketing group do a mock up on a redesign of his site.

    I got the end result – the task of doing the html portion of their mock up redesign.

    I missed a couple of things, (my neurons just didn’t process them). The lady emails to get what was missed and then adds “was it just an oversight?”

    My internal response: Nah.. I don’t waste time with vultures anymore.

    Perfect example of exactly what we’re talking about here. Way too much of that going on. I’m with you dude.

    RC

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  61. This is by far the most astute article I’ve ever read – I couldn’t agree more. Thank you for finally SAYING THIS OUT LOUD!!! It’s so true. I NEED to work somewhere with ROWE!

    Like

  62. Interesting concept. Like you said Tim, sure does seem to be based on common sense. It’s funny how the further away from common sense we get as a society, the more it seems revolutionary…

    Like

  63. Tim, I love the ROWE concept, but how do you think it can be applied to employees of legal and accounting firms who are evaluated for their yearly billable hours? Law and accounting firms are yet to find a good alternative to billing their clients hourly. Any good suggestions?

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  64. Hi Tim!
    Just wanted to say thanks, I’m “just a guy” that reads your blogs, and everything becomes more focused. So pls let me thank you on behalf of all the multitude of guys out there, for simply making our life better, I guess you’ll never know the extent of your impact on our quality of living. So cheers mate, and since it’s the Jewish new year here in Israel let me just add SHANA TOVA

    Like