Why Work Sucks: And what are you going to do to fix it – Interview with Cali & Jody – Part II

January 29, 2010

why work sucksClick to go to Part I of the interview with Cali & Jody

Gary Cohen:What successes and failures have you had with ROWE since you started your new organization? What was the context that allowed for the success and failures?

Jody: There have been countless successes with ROWE since our organization, CultureRx, has spun off from Best Buy. Each person who says “My life is better now because of the ROWE mindset” or “I’m producing 20% more now than I used to”, or “I won’t be taking a position at another company for more money because they don’t have ROWE” is a success story. ROWE teams become more productive, are more engaged in their work, retain their best employees, and in general, are much happier.

Cali: When the ROWE movement is stunted in an organization, it’s due to leadership not walking their talk. We were working with an organization awhile back where the CEO had communicated to the employees that ROWE was going to be their future. We brought the employees about halfway through their ROWE migration and at that point in time, the CEO became very, very uncomfortable about the reality that was staring him in the face. In order to get to increased productivity and engagement, he realized he would need to let go of the traditional control he had. He’d been used to having control over employees’ time and physical location, but in a ROWE, you’re not paying for a chunk of time. You’re paying people for a chunk of work. In this particular organization, the ROWE migration ceased. This was extremely unfortunate because the employees had had their eyes opened to a much more efficient, common sense way of approaching work – which would make them much happier – and it was snatched away from them.

Changing any culture is difficult at best. What were the obstacles that you faced during the change?

The biggest obstacles to this culture change are:
1) The power of time. Today, the workplace operates under this equation: Time + Physical Presence = Results. This is an old, outdated, out to lunch way of looking at things. Time and physical presence mean nothing. Every day, people are sitting in their cubes for hours on end, but they might not be producing anything. Managers have a false sense of security that if their employees are sitting in their cubes, they’re producing. Not the case.
2) The beliefs we have about the way work should happen.
3) Judgment (Sludge) – [defined in a separate response]

ROWE is a grassroots change. It’s bottom-up. This scares leadership in organizations because they fear that their control is going away. Control over things that don’t matter does go away, but the new control is all about whether or not outcomes are being reached. This is a very difficult shift for managers to make because they’ve been trained to be hall monitors. The new generation of companies, though, will be all about results – and their managers will be, too.

If a company was not willing to take on such massive change, what one small step could they take that would provide inspiration for further change?

Depending on the size of your organization, there are different strategies for moving into a ROWE. If you’re an organization of more than 500 people, we’d recommend identifying one group to pilot ROWE. Once success occurs and there’s data to show, the rest of the organization can move in chunks. This way, the culture change moves at a good pace. In an organization of 500 or fewer, have the leadership team read Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It and engage everyone in a discussion about the pieces of a ROWE that are most appealing and most nerve-racking. The discussion will lead to a few things you can focus on that will move you closer to the ROWE mindset.

Is there something in the timing of human development and this mix of generations (Boomers, X, & Y) that makes ROWE work today or would this always have worked?

Interesting question! The ROWE mindset would always have worked. We actually heard from a ROWE fan with a point of view that ROWE has always existed. Thousands of years ago, people had to figure out the most efficient ways to reach their outcome – eating. That’s ROWE. If you have to find food to stay alive, you’re probably not going to spend your time chatting with the people around you. That’s ROWE.

The mix of generations just provides the perfect scenario for the benefits of ROWE to be experienced. It could be easy for Boomers and Traditionalists to dictate to X and Y how they need to approach work. However, that severely undermines efficiency and holds organizations back from what they could be producing.

What type of companies does this work for and where would you expect it to fail?

ROWE works in every organization. Focusing on results is something every organization in the country – in the world – should be doing. ROWE makes that real. The only way ROWE fails is if the people in the organization don’t take accountability for making it happen.

If all things are currently working well in an organization (good margin, motivated work force, and clear and compelling mission) is ROWE something I should know about or investigate? And why or why not?

If things are working well in an organization, looking into ROWE would be a very smart move for two reasons: 1) how is “doing well” defined? And how “well” do you want to be doing? You can always go higher. 2) ROWE is inevitable. With technology improvements and societal demographics shifting, ROWE will be everywhere. The question isn’t if organizations will change, but when. And those that shift soonest will have the advantage.

What tends to be people’s first reaction to ROWE when they learn about it?

When people learn about ROWE, they form a pretty concrete opinion – either they like the idea and see the benefits or they don’t like it and think it won’t work. One side or the other – not too many folks land in the middle.

How do you respond to those reactions?

We spend our time on the people that can see the benefits of ROWE. It’s tempting to focus on those that are adamant ROWE won’t work – to keep trying to convince them of the benefits. The reality is that if they really are adamant about their point of view, it’s best to let them see the success stories occur around them. Energy is best spent on those that can see the opportunities.

How do you get around the issue of leaders and the myth of control that is so prevalent in our culture? What breaks down the power and control in organizations so they can move to a ROWE? (Interview continued tomorrow)

Related Blog Posts:
Why Work Sucks! And How to Fix it. Interview with Cali & Jody – Part I
Why Work Sucks! And How to Fix it. Interview with Cali & Jody – Part 2
10 Questions to ask to begin a Results Oriented Work Environment – Part 3
13 Guide Posts to a Results Oriented Work Environment – Part 4

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