Could you survive and thrive in a ROWE? Where ROWE means Results Only Work Environment.
In the future you may not have a choice. It seems logical that everyone should be measured on their output, their commitments, their accomplishments… in a nutshell… on their work. However, in the real world companies have sprouted elements of the business that seem to be designed to do nothing related to being productive. I’m sure you’ve dealt with at least one company that does not seem to be focused on any kind of result. If that company used ROWE (assuming good service was a goal) your result may have been different. Using ROWE as a model for growing the business is good management and smart leadership. Those that learn how to hire and manage the best people that are offering their ROWE services will be able to Stand Our in their careers.
Gen X, Y and Z
I think there is going to be a significant rise in the use, need and deployment of ROWE scenarios across every type of business. The smart organizations are going to realize that they can bypass the traditional organizational morass and seek to hire just the right people that have just the right information at just the right time they need to successfully complete a project or task.
Gen X, Gen Y and Gen Z all have something to offer. Sometimes it will be expertise and sometimes it will be execution. There will be times where these roles will flip-flop around and across each generation. Ultimately the goal will be to find the right person that can deliver the results in a predictable and repeatable manner. No matter what generation they happen to hail from. They will be measured on their ability to deliver in a ROWE.
I’m not discounting The Greatest Generation. There are people in the Greatest Generation that have (almost) literally seen it all and they still have a lot to give. The wise hiring managers will seek to utilize their skills.
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ROWE is not all new
There are several examples along the line of thinking of ROWE environments. One is the way the makers of Gore-Tex, W.L. Gore & Associates used in building their multi-billion dollar enterprise. They’ve been going at this for almost 70 years and by all accounts have done quite well in the way of innovation as well as keeping people dry and comfortable in the harshest conditions. Here is a post I wrote about the Millennials and the Gore-Tex Way and the “Lattice Network” model for developing, organizing and running a business successfully.
Another example is Zappos and their recent introduction to the concept of holacracy. This is a relatively recent effort and is still yet to be proven to be effective. Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh describes as a “self-governing” system that would boost transparency and streamline operations. In the place of bosses and managers, Zappos will create hundreds of committee-like “circles” filled by employees.
Other examples along this line of thinking are Quality Circles that were part of the Total Quality Management (TQM) efforts in the 1980’s as US manufacturing firms sought to emulate the systems developed in Japan.
Each of these systems has limitations and I suspect ROWE will surface a few flaws that may not be fatal, but may cause it to not work for every business. This is not a fatal flaw and an indictment of the whole ROWE concept. Just as Lattice Networks, Holocracy and Quality Circles don’t work for every business. ROWE may not be applicable to every business either. And, that’s OK.
Results matter more than location
Ultimately, it’s not where you are… It’s what you do!
There are absolutely roles and responsibilities that can be done effectively, efficiently and exceptionally in a ROWE model. I suspect that there will be a maturing market, perhaps something like what Elance has done today for ROWE providers and consumers. Perhaps even more specific and even more targeted to ROWE deliverables.
It’s not only possible to succeed in a Results Only Work Environment, but to really Stand Out in your career by showing leadership, management and entrepreneurial skills. I look forward to working with a lot really smart people that have adopted the ROWE model in the coming years. Perhaps you’ll be one of them.