TL; DR: The Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), created by Jody Thompson, is a transformative management model that challenges long-held beliefs about the way work should be done and focuses solely on measurable outcomes. The ROWE team works with organizations to customize experiential education, consulting, and change management services, resulting in a workforce where employees are 100% accountable and autonomous. Now, to help businesses achieve continuity in the face of recent hardship, ROWE is offering some of its most compelling content for free on a limited-time basis.
COVID-19 has flipped our social structure on its head. And in doing so, it has uncovered serious problems with our business continuity plans — or lack thereof.
That’s not necessarily a negative thing. As with individuals, sometimes businesses have to hit rock bottom before accepting positive change.
Jody Thompson, Founder of the Results-Only Work Environment™ (ROWE) and CultureRx, said that, despite all of its horrors, the pandemic could present an opportunity for leaders to let go of old paradigms and embrace the workplace of the future.
“Leaders will do almost anything to hold onto the power they have over people instead of what they really need: to gain power over the work,” Jody told us. “It’s clear that, as a working society, we were not ready for this pandemic — because managers are still concerned with things like how they will control whether people are working and not just doing their laundry.”
But that shouldn’t be the focus at all.
“Deep inside, leaders know the real problem: They haven’t been clear about measurable results,” she said. “They’ve only been clear about when employees need to come to the office, how many days they need to come, how long they need to work, and how many vacation days they get.”
ROWE, a transformative management model that challenges long-held beliefs about the way work should be done, is Jody’s solution for shifting focus solely on measurable outcomes. Through this method, CultureRx’s mission is to use experiential education, consulting, and change management services to help business leaders create an environment where employees are 100% accountable and autonomous.
And now, to help businesses adapt to the new reality we are all faced with, CultureRx is offering some of its most compelling content for free on a limited-time basis.
Disrupting the Status Quo of Workplace Culture Since 2004
The ROWE methodology was developed in 2004 as part of an innovation engine at a Fortune 100 company.
“We realized that people did not want flexibility,” Jody said. “What flexibility really does is give managers more control over people’s time, not less. So we started to experiment with the idea that there would be no flexibility, but instead, people would be 100% autonomous and accountable.”
Jody said that, although flexibility is usually seen as a benefit, it really means asking for permission to work at a different time or from a different location — and often, feeling guilty when you do so.
“What we did is we figured out a way to disrupt the status quo and create an environment where people stop asking permission,” Jody said. “They’re self-directed and independent. And on the flip side of that, people needed to understand clearly the measurable results of their work.”
Jody talks with employees all over the globe and estimates that about 90% of them aren’t clear on what their measurable goals are.
“What people do know is the measure of work that people have been operating under for the last 75 years is time plus physical presence or virtual presence equals results,” she said. “That’s the old currency of work. We need to flip that around and say, no results, no job.”
The idea is to lead with the work, and allow employees to decide the most efficient and effective way to achieve the desired outcome. In the process, workplace rituals like pointless meetings and wasted idle time at the water cooler fall away.
Shifting from a Mindset of Control to One of Measurable Outcomes
Jody said that switching to the new methodology was initially a shock, but the Fortune 100 company she worked for was used to embracing rapid change.
However, when the CultureRx team brought the methodology out to the world, it wasn’t as quickly adopted. “We realized how strong the command and control culture of work is across the globe,” Jody said.
The technology we need to adopt for an autonomous working culture already exists. But Jody said people need to shift their mindsets to use that technology in a contemporary fashion.
“So on Skype, for example, many remote people have to type a status note, such as “Working from home today,” at the top of the window,” she said. “But that’s crazy — you’re working, it doesn’t matter where you are. So they have the technology, but they haven’t shifted their mindset.”
ROWE works to remove judgments about how and where work should happen. By challenging long-held beliefs, workers can use today’s technology how it was intended to be used, allowing them to communicate and collaborate more effectively, and move work along.
“It requires removing the punch clock from your DNA,” the ROWE website states. “It’s uncomfortable because it attacks everything about work and the workplace we hold to be true. Like knowing everyone’s availability. And the importance of face time. And what trust looks like.”
ROWE isn’t limited to off-site employees. Jody said the methodology is equally effective with call center staff, construction workers, and manufacturing lines. Ultimately, the key to ROWE is people get to their results on their own terms, and that no results mean no job.
“It’s about really gaining clarity on the results you need to deliver and then being in the place you need to be without your manager telling you to be there,” she said. “So if you have to open a store at 10 a.m., that’s what you have to do because you’re serving a customer. If you can’t make it, you have to make sure that it gets open. You’re part of an ecosystem of people you reach out to, and you’re all in it together.”
Achieve Real Results with Proper Training
ROWE involves a disruptive cultural change that is not easy for a business to achieve on its own. That’s why CultureRx offers an engaging Leadership Summit to introduce how a results-only workplace operates. After that, the company’s master trainers guide businesses through a full-day pilot prototype, including everyone in the organization.
Since the adaptive change process takes time and attention, CultureRx also provides ongoing implementation support via the GoROWE Online system, monthly support calls, and email support from master trainers.
“I attended a session with your ROWE Certified Master Trainer,” said one customer. “He took the time to really dive into the key points, made specific references to our values, and how this was an employee initiative, and several times reinforced that ROWE is not a remote work program. It was interesting to see the group’s response to him. At first, they were all on their computers, and within the first hour, he had grabbed them, and they were engaged, and computers were closed.”
Jody said that without proper training, businesses often attempt to apply traditional thinking to a revolutionary approach. They may think they’re “ROWEing” — as Jody phrased it — but they’re missing critical elements of the change and change process that make ROWE successful.
“ROWE is not simple, it’s a complex adaptive change,” she said. “Letting someone work from home, having a remote workforce, or providing unlimited PTO is not a ROWE. We have certain leaders across the globe that understand that the status quo disruption is complex, and they need support because getting outside of the matrix we’re all in is hard.”
Free, Limited-Time Resources to Respond to COVID-19
Among the many benefits of a ROWE-based approach is business continuity — making the methodology especially important in these uncertain times.
“One of the things we’re doing right now is giving away, for a limited time, free content from our library to help people during this time,” Jody said.
The content is intended to assist workers, leaders, and organizations during their transition to a new way of working. Of course, the organizations in the best position during this crisis are the ones that have already adopted ROWE.
“My team at Choice Translating is thankful that we got ROWE training from CultureRx under our belt years ago,” said Vernon Maynard, CEO at Travelingbrand, COO at Choice Translating, and Founder of Choice Cares. “We see our friends in other companies struggling with the stress of COVID-19 and having to work from home with no preparation. Companies need ROWE training now!”