May 5, 2021 Flexible Schedule is an Oxymoron: the Results-Only Work Environment with Jody Thompson
In this episode of Uprisor, Topcoder VP Clinton Bonner talks with author and world-recognized business leader Jody Thompson about the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Jody co-created ROWE in 2004 while working at Best Buy and has co-authored two books on the topic.
Jody shares what inspired her to create ROWE, how work culture and policy combine to resist change, and why mindset is even more important than technology in shifting people to new ways of working. Enjoy the conversation and top takeaways, below.
The Intersection of Accountability and Autonomy
In the late 1990s, Jody and her would-be coauthor and colleague at Best Buy were exhausted by the cultural confines that dictated daily work schedules. After considering the conflicting desire of both organizations and their employees to maintain control of their time, work output, etc., the two created a novel approach to business designed to challenge the way we think about management’s function — the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE).
The structure focuses on promoting 100% accountability and 100% autonomy among employees in order to foster measurable results, without dictating when or where the work must be done. It’s not a work-from-home policy or a flexibility program; in an actual ROWE model, managers manage work, not people.
Facing a Culture Clash
Next, Clinton and Jody dive into a discussion of the necessity of rewiring the cultural belief systems that so many organizations rely on in order to foster true accountability. This means reframing deep-rooted ideologies that would otherwise be damaging to the creation of a Results-Only Work Environment, like the belief that face-to-face interactions build the best relationships, or that employees who are at work are working while employees who are at home are doing laundry instead. (Author’s note: I am doing laundry right now.)
Jody recounts a few of the numerous challenges she and her coauthor and colleague faced in initially designing and implementing ROWE at Best Buy — all of which revolved around the cultural beliefs held by the organization. These hardships led to an epiphany that would ultimately help to define precisely how to achieve the structure they were envisioning:
“We realized thinking outside of the box was the problem. We have to not even have a box.” —Jody Thompson
At the Root of it All
To wrap up the conversation, Jody explains that the transition to ROWE is an evolution. Companies not only have to shift their mindsets at the managerial and team levels, but they also have to work backward to undo policies and procedures built around managing people rather than measurable results.
Though it’s not an easy transition, Jody posits that at the root of it all, ROWE comes down to trust. It seeks to remove ambiguity, improve the clarity of communications, and restore autonomy, allowing organizations to operate more efficiently and effectively.
Big thanks to Jody for taking the time to walk us through the concept of the Results-Only Work Environment. To learn more about this management innovation system, visit GoROWE.com. And as always, check out Uprisor for more tech and innovation conversations centered on the Future of Work.
“What people want is complete control over their time. Flexibility gives managers more control over people’s time, but autonomy puts you on a whole different playing field.” —Jody Thompson