In the world of professional work, there is a growing conversation about how work can be done and what is most important to a company and its staff. In 2010, we selected Rework as Business Book of the Year because if offered fresh thought on everyday business operations; it gave affirmation to the companies that were saying, “the old way is not the only way.” Pragmatic companies and their leadership teams have begun to tolerate and even embrace practices like telecommuting, choosing to focus on the results, rather than the process. CultureRx founders Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler have long been engaged with this conversation. In 2008 they published Why Work Sucks, a manifesto that advocates a shift of focus from old-fashioned means of measuring work to a simpler way: look at the results. Continuing the conversation, Thompson and Ressler are back with a new book that tailors the results-oriented approach to the needs of leaders: Why Managing Sucks and How to Fix It.
Why Managing Sucks is built on the same foundation as Why Work Sucks, both of which espouse this single fundamental point: focus on the results, not the process. Ressler and Thompson introduce the book with some pretty convincing arguments, namely that people (your employees) work happier and better when they are in control of their time (and subsequently in control of their lives). The introduction presents 13 guideposts for managers to seek on their way to creating a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). My favorite of these guideposts are:
#5 … Work isn’t a place you go; it’s something you do.
#13 … There is no judgment about how you spend your time.
When I read admonition like this, I automatically think, “Of course! This is excellent advice.” After all, an organization’s expenses and revenue are related to the results of their people’s work, not so much the time devoted to a specific job. I also know that ROWEs are a rarity in the professional world, despite the seeming trend toward more ‘flexible’ work arrangements. But as this book states early on, there is a significant difference between an organization with flexible scheduling and a ROWE.
…flexible schedule is an oxymoron. By definition, there’s nothing flexible about a schedule.
A ROWE gives each and every person complete control over their time, and not just some of it—all of it.
Managers might be hesitant to even entertain completely handing over control of employees’ time, and with good reason. Managing a ROWE is quite different from managing employee time and trying to figure out whether or not any or all of that time was well-spent or crucial to the organization’s what. But as Thompson and Ressler underscore in chapter 2, “Motivate Me”, there is intrinsic motivation for employees who are free to work when and how they prefer, and this is motivation that is otherwise hard-earned (or never earned) through more ‘traditional’ management means, whether it’s higher salary or other time-intensive activities that neither managers nor their staff enjoy.
From a management perspective, the ROWE concept reduces to one essential idea (even more essential than results): respect. Transforming your workplace to a ROWE will present an injection of respect between employees and their managers, and also between all staff and the work they’re accomplishing. A common response to ideas like ROWE would be, “Well that’s nice, but in the real world, we can’t all just show up whenever we please.” Though apathetic, there is some truth to this response. Maybe you’re a middle-manager who’d love to transform your workplace into a ROWE, but your manager (and her manager) won’t consider it. Early in the book, the authors say, “You’re either a ROWE, or you’re not. Period.” Perhaps, but if you’re aspiring toward bringing more respect to your relationships with your staff, Why Managing Sucks might still be your answer, regardless of whether or not you can go all-out ROWE. Whatever you call your new management program, you’re going to learn some important things about how to motivate your employees and how to shift focus from time spent to results.