The Death of ROWE
A few years back, HR strategy actually made the evening news, and not because of some corporate malfeasance or executive scandal. It was a new management philosophy catching the general public’s attention: a new idea called the results-oriented work environment (ROWE). Originally developed at retail giant Best Buy, it was adopted at a number of other workplaces and its creators, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, wrote a popular book, Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It.
The basic idea of ROWE is to empower workers in respect to their time; it “gives everyone in a company the freedom to do their job when and where they want, as long as the work gets done.” NPR described it as “the end of 9-to-5.” CBS News quoted a Six Sigma Black Belt as saying “that a relentless focus on results forces managers and employees to be clear about job descriptions and expectations.”
On the heels of Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer’s decision to end telecommuting, Best Buy CEO Hubert Joly announced the end of the ROWE program. “While Mayer’s announcement raised eyebrows, Joly’s decision is actually much more momentous. Why? Because Best Buy’s flexible work program is not just any flex policy, but the groundbreaking Results Only Work Environment (ROWE), one of the most innovative and celebrated examples of a company redesigning work to focus on results and boost performance through motivation-enhancing trust and autonomy,” writes Monique Valcour for HBR.
While experts debate the value of ROWE (Best Buy hasn’t been performing that well financially), the idea itself, of course, is brilliant. If we truly are in the talent economy, work must empower workers to use that talent. It may be that ROWE actually created small fiefdoms instead of a true democracy.
Kaiser Permanente, the California healthcare giant, has flipped this pyramid to examine how to empower and motivate workers from the bottom-up instead of top-down, using a penetrating and overarching survey system. At the upcoming 2013 HCI Human Capital Summit in Orlando, Florida, Dr. Deborah Konitsney, Director of Organizational Research at KP, will share the data-driven model they’re building based on quantitative analysis of employee opinion data and performance metrics.