Performance Support Partners-Managing Time Instead of Results?

Hate Managing People? Manage Work Instead.

I was reading the ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) blog (which I highly recommend) and they referenced some old ways of thinking as being "stuck in aMad Men time warp."  I found the reference hilarious having actually worked in a company that was stuck in a Mad Men time warp.

Given the memes of our times, it is hard to not get stuck in a TTWWADI (That’s The Way We’ve Always Done It) rut about how work happens.  Sometimes we don’t even know we are in one.  Our beliefs about how work happens are even in songs likeDolly Parton’s"9 to 5″  and Donna Summer’s "She Works Hard for the Money."  The idea that work only happens between 9 and 5 is based on a more industrial age mindset that your body must be present for a certain number of hours for work to happen.  This mindset is based on having none of the following technology:

  • internet
  • e-mail
  • web meetings
  • laptops
  • smart phones
  • iPads
  • laptops
  • social media

For work to happen, you had to be there.

Today we are in more of what Dave Buck refers to as an "inspiration economy." Here you are not just a worker, but a player in the games of life – and one of those games is the great game of business.  You are no longer just a cog in the wheel serving a purpose for the organization but a creative individual serving a purpose in your own life. It is a more knowledge and inspiration based economy.  In this environment, work could sometimes look like this:  "nothing, nothing, nothing, FLASH OF BRILLIANCE, nothing, nothing, nothing..."  And in that one flash of brilliance you could create something that saves the company thousands of dollars or innovate something that earns the company thousands.

Even though times and technology have changed, our cultural mindsets about work are slow to follow.  Let’s start with the mindset that work only happens between 9am and 5pm.  Just because you are at work, doesn’t mean you are working.   I’ll use myself as an example. The earlier I have to get up, the less activity I can force out of my brain.  Coffee helps, but not that much.  My brain really doesn’t start swing into gear until around 10:00 am.  This is not something I control. Like Lady Gaga said, "I was born this way."  When not on a strict schedule, I lean toward staying up late, and sleeping in late.  That seems to be my natural circadian rhythm.  I reach my highest level of productivity that way.

Employers that punish staff for arriving at 8:05 am rather than 8:00 am when there is no specific reason for them to be there at that time (i.e. a client meeting) are nurturing what Jodi Thompson and Cali Ressler calls "presenteeism." You are present, but not working.  I have also heard it referred to as "retired on the job" and "dead people walking."   Presenteeism is nurtured by managing people instead of work.  Or, you could say you are managing time instead of results.

In a Results Only Work Environment, the outcomes drive the activity.  ROWE employees are in complete control of their time as long as they are getting the results they have been hired to achieve.  Leaving at 2:00 pm is not leaving early, and arriving at 2:00 pm is not arriving late.  Because you are focused on results and not time, it doesn’t matter what hours or how many hours you work.  If you are like me, you might be in your most brilliant mode at midnight riding a wave of inspiration.

Think about it for a minute.  What if your business were performance and results focused instead of time focused?  How would your business change if you no longer monitored time, because time didn’t matter?   Heretical, isn’t it?  But Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler at CultureRx are helping companies lead the way to do just that.

Intrigued about ROWE?  As a business coach, I am always reading business books.  It is something I love to do.  If you think that ROWE could help your business, I highly recommend Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It: A Results-Only Guide to Taking Control of Work, Not People by Jody Thompson, and Cali Ressler.  It will knock you in the head and make you say "I could’ve had a V-8."  It is the follow-up to Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: The Results-Only Revolution.

As a career coach, one of the questions I explore with my clients is "what kind of work environment do you do your best work?"  For example:

  • What is your most productive work space? Is it in a Starbucks coffee shop? Is it on your bean bag chair in your living room?
  • What work cultures have you thrived in?
  • What about the culture did you find helpful, reasonable, supportive, optimistic, trusting and energizing?
  • What workplace processes support you in doing your best work?
  • What processes, when improved will increase your efficiency and productivity?
  • Do you work best in a group?  Alone?  Some combination?

A ROWE provides the opportunity to design the environment that you do your best work.  Click here to read Brook Mitchell tell about her experience of working in a ROWE.

A ROWE doesn’t care that you need to take your kids to the doctor at 8:00 am, or leave at 1:00 pm to watch your kid’s school play.  You can take in an afternoon matinee if you want, and you can have four weeks of vacation.  You are an adult that makes the best decisions about how to use your time.  As long as you are getting the work done, and achieving the results you have agreed to, you can do what you want with your time.


In a ROWE, they want to remove sludgewhich is a judgment and beliefs around time.  Examples of sludge might be something like this:

John: "It is 10:00 am and you are just getting in?"
Judy: "I had to take my kids to preschool, and then I got stuck in traffic." 

Jane: (thinking to herself) "I think I will head home, finish a few errands and work from home the rest of the day."  (Prepares to leave.)
John: "It’s 2:00 pm.  Where are you going"?
Jane: "Uh…I have a doctor’s appointment.  See you later!"

Kathy: "Did you see how many times Sally went out to smoke today?  She isn’t putting in 40 hours.  Yesterday, she took a 2-hour lunch".
John: "I think I will start smoking so I can take off time from work."

People respond to sludging by coming up with an excuse that makes sure other people know why they aren’t working.  They come up with a socially acceptable excuse so people don’t think they are slacking off.  In a ROWE, hours are not the currency. As long as you are getting the work done, it doesn’t matter what time you come in the office, or if you even come in. Sludge is considered toxic and a waste of time. In a ROWE, you are focused on results not time.

From a business perspective there are other benefits. You stop wasting time on tracking time.  Presenteeism disappears because people start finding more efficient ways of doing things so they can get their work done faster.  If you find a way to get your work done faster, you aren’t penalized with more work.  Customer service improves.  ROWE is a beacon that attracts talented people, reduces employee turnover, increases productivity, and can reduce brick and mortar costs.

We are moving out of an industrial age economy and brick and mortar work places to a more knowledge based work that uses technology tools to communicate and get the work done.  You don’t have to be in the brick and mortar building to communicate, because you can meet via web meeting, teleconference, chat and more.  You can leave messages via voice mail, chat, e-mail and more.

If you are doing any of the following things you are managing people or time:

  • watching when people come in and leave
  • watching when people leave for lunch and return
  • counting sick days
  • counting vacation days
  • hi fiving people that come in early and leave late

Start managing work and results instead.

Some people say that a ROWE wouldn’t work in all environments.  But, doesn’t every work environment need to achieve results?

For me, this is a pretty darn exciting idea, and I will be talking more about it in future articles. A ROWE environment is a win-win for careerists and businesses alike.  Many times I have had colleagues say, I don’t want to manage people any more.   Who could blame them?  Now, you can manage the work instead.  And let people manage themselves.


Want to go from stressed out to streamlined?  Wishing you could spend more time actually doing the work you love?  Mia Turpel’s know-how as a business and career coach, speaker, project manager and trainer will help you do just that.  Discover how to find Your Best Work in the Your Best Work, Find It, Love it, Live It telecourse.  Want to chat with Coach Mia?  Contact Coach Mia.


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