Accountability isn’t confined to the walls of the office.

This is part two in a three part series on ROWE. If you missed part one, you should read it here. There I discuss the top four benefits to ROWE.

Mistakes Implementing ROWE - Results Only Work Environment
Want to learn how not to implement a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment)? Here are the top three mistakes.
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In a ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) accountability is more important than ever. In fact, accountability is the foundation upon which ROWE is built. Just because people can work wherever they want, when they want, and how they want, doesn’t mean a ROWE is a magical place full of dancing unicorns, lounging on bean bag chairs and pontificating about Aristotle and sipping chamomile tea together. Real work gets done…or at least it should.

Most leaders implement ROWE with the very best of intentions. A leader hears about it, thinks it’s a good idea and either alone or with his leadership team decides that their company will institute ROWE. Who wouldn’t want happier, more productive employees and more freedom to work when and where you want to Not to mention ROWE is a great recruiting tool.

When ROWE is implemented poorly, however, it can be utterly disastrous. I’ve found three common mistakes when implementing a ROWE, from personal experience and from my research. Interestingly, they are the same three mistakes I see in a non-ROWE, just amplified five times.

  1. Failure to set rules. “Results only” doesn’t mean “no rules.” Many of the rules themselves are designed around the desired results. If you have a team of 4 people and expect there will be enough coverage to answer all calls during the hours of 10-4, then they have to work that out between them. That might mean one week Joe and Sally are working 10-4 every day or they alternate days, whatever they decide. But there will be coverage from 10-4 or you will need to reign in the team. That might mean less freedom.
  2. Failure to Measure / Hold People Accountable. Just because you, the leader, cannot see your people every day and are not meeting with them constantly, does not mean you do not hold them accountable or measure their performance. In fact, you must seriously get focused on measuring and accountability. The first company I worked for in a ROWE sucked at this so it wasn’t a truly a ROWE because there were no results measured. Whatever your accountability level in a “normal” work environment is, you must crank it up at least 200% for a virtual environment. WARNING: If you or anyone on your leadership team is conflict adverse (i.e. you struggle with accountability), do not, under any circumstances, implement a ROWE. First, work on your leadership, and then consider a ROWE.
  3. Lack of communication. To some, “virtual” means “never seen.” Leaders, you must be incredibly intentional and frequent with your touch points with team members. This means you should reach out at least once a day to your direct reports. Just because you cannot see them does not mean they are not accountable for their work and that you should not check in with them. This takes 2-3 minutes and should be done via phone/Skype (preferably Skype video), not via instant messenger or email.

The good news is that these mistakes are completely avoidable. In tomorrow’s post, I will cover the X “musts” in a ROWE. The X things that every ROWE workplace must do in order to succeed. Subscribe to my RSS feed or get posts via email so you don’t miss a thing.

What do you think of ROWE? Have you worked in a ROWE or known someone who has? What were the results?

4 thoughts on “Three Common Mistakes When Implementing a ROWE (Part 2 of 3)

  1. Carol Dublin says:

    #2 and #3 kind of go together, I think. I’m not sure which one makes me crazier, but then lack of communication seems to make people think they can get away with not doing things, and it creates a vicious cycle. I can only imagine it would be worse in a virtual environment unless clear expectations and follow up were in place.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      No doubt. If you don’t have #3, you won’t have #2.

      As I said, “normal” in-the-office companies are not exempt. Same thing applies to them 🙂

  2. Todd Liles says:

    My company is a ROWE company. It is working for us. It is more about winning than time on the job. I have had to learn to focus on the win as the goal, not the hours worked.

    1. Matt McWilliams says:

      That is awesome Todd!

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