Everybody's Role: Do The Work

You rarely hear this frantic question in a traditional work environment

"What is everyone doing?!"

It's assumed that everyone is hard at work doing...well, something. If you show up at 8:00 am and stay until 5:00 pm, you've met expectations, right?

When you stop using time as a measure of performance, everyone starts scrambling because the majority of people don't know what "the work" is supposed to be.

We're in workplaces where it's okay to meander through the work day, unclear about what you're being measured on and what you 're supposed to be delivering. We're in work environments where HR sends out email after email reminding us to complete our goal-setting activities, and we promptly move that activity to the bottom of our list.

The urgency to set measurable goals in a traditional work environment rarely exists because using time as a measure of loyalty, dedication and good work, in most cases, wins out over evaluation of the actual work.


Until we own our own time and have complete control over how we spend it, goal setting will be just another useless activity that fills our time in the work environment. And, a workforce with clear, measurable goals for each and every person will never happen. Ever!

This is a real-life example: 

Pre-ROWE Manager: "We've been working on this strategy for awhile, and I really want you to crack the nut this year." 

Employee: "Got it. I'll do my best."  ["I have no idea what you're asking for, but if I show up every day, stay late, and come to you next year with something that I think you might like, I should be okay."] 

Post-ROWE Manager: "We've been working on this strategy for awhile, and I really want you to crack the nut this year."

Employee:  "Great, let's define 'the nut'. How will we know if I've cracked it? How will it be measured? What's 'meets expectations' and 'exceeds expectations' on cracking the nut?"  ["If I can get clear on how to exceed expectations on cracking this nut, I can figure out the activities that will get me there and also plan how I'll volunteer at my child's school, coach her basketball team, and take a vacation to Miami."] 

Our bet is that most of you have great goal-setting tools at your organizations, but people aren't actually using them. Or, you use them, and then file the completed activity away--and three months later, you scratch your head and say, "Where did I put that completed goal-setting guide?"

Goal-setting is not an activity. Goal setting is not an action on a quarterly checklist. Getting clear on what your employees are getting paid to do, and how to measure it is, and should be, the way. We can't tell you how many times we've heard, "If I let my people control their own time, how will I know if they're working and what they're supposed to be doing?" to which we exclaim, "How do you know NOW?"

Get clear about outcomes. Get clear about measures. Get clear about RESULTS!

ROWE is not Flexibility.

An authentic ROWE is, in its essence, a contemporary work culture built on the foundation that we hire people for clear, measurable results. It’s why they have jobs. Just “putting in time” doesn’t cut it in a ROWE. Filling time doesn’t cut it. Measuring time doesn’t cut it. Showing up to the office doesn’t cut it. Time really has no relevance unless it’s used to manage deadlines, due dates, deliverables and such – the work. If a functional or client meeting starts at 1:00pm, then 1:00pm has relevance. But if I’m coming into the office at 8:15am instead of 8:00am and am producing results and not missing anything that is time sensitive, then 8:15am has no relevance whatsoever. In a ROWE, each person is 100% autonomous and 100% accountable to measurable results.

Flexible work programs have simply reinforced the notion that time has relevance. And a ROWE is not a flexible work program; in fact, comparing it to one is ludicrous because they are as different as night and day. Just by definition, if a person is going to be flexible, they need to be flexible around something, and that something is office hours and the physical office. ‘I’m working from home tomorrow (i.e., teleworking)” says I should be in the office (default), but I’m going to be at home (flexible). ‘I work four-10 hour days with Friday’s off’ says I should be in the office on Fridays like everyone else (default) but I’m putting in my time in four days instead of five (flexible). ‘My hours are Monday through Thursday from 7:30am – 4:30pm and Fridays from 8am – 4pm says normal office hours are 8am – 5pm Monday through Friday (default) but I have my own personal schedule that’s different (flexible).

Of course we understand why people think they want flexibility. And we don’t blame them. They just want some control over their lives -- no matter how little. They feel a tiny bit of flexibility takes them to a happy place where work and life live in harmony. But then they find out that what they thought was a wonderful accommodation was really a whole new level of management control and co-worker judgment.

Let’s face it. Flexible Work Programs give managers more control over people’s time - they do not give people more control over their time.

Flexibility is so last century.