Make Results Matter

By Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson Jul 1, 2009

In 2004, when we implemented a results-only work environment (ROWE) at the corporate offices of Best Buy in Richfield, Minn., productivity went up, on average, 41 percent, and voluntary turnover rates dropped as much as 90 percent.

We didn’t need a C-suite level mandate to institute ROWE at Best Buy, and neither do you. You can create a results-only culture in your organization starting with your team. Here’s how:

Step 1: Attach to your desire. It’s up to you to introduce ROWE to your team. Ask:

Why is ROWE a better way of living and working?

What could I achieve in my life in a ROWE that I couldn’t achieve if I stayed in a traditional work environment?

How would family, friends, community or church benefit if I had a ROWE lifestyle?

How would my productivity, creativity and overall business results be affected in a ROWE?

If your answers reinforce your resolve to seek a better way to work and live, and you decide to pursue ROWE, know that it will be a challenging journey. But it will have great rewards.

Step 2: Find a partner. Once you make the commitment to pursue ROWE for your team, enlist a partner. Together, you can meet the challenge and keep each other motivated. Most teams, departments and organizations meet the idea of ROWE with immediate resistance. After all, you’re going against decades of corporate dogma. When approaching a potential partner, ask:

Has this person recognized that ROWE will have a tremendous impact on his or her life and the way he or she works?

Will he or she hold steady as you gain buy-in for ROWE?

Does he or she have political influence or a track record of gaining support for new ideas?

Does he or she possess complementary traits to yours, and, if so, how can you utilize those traits to your advantage?

Step 3: Find one leader. Find a leader from whom you can obtain support. You need one person willing to put the stamp of approval on a ROWE pilot for one team or department. If you’re in a small company, this may be the owner, president or chief executive officer, and the ROWE pilot could include everyone. If you’re in a mid-size or large company, this could be the manager or director or vice president of a team or department. Whatever his or her title, you’re looking for someone:

Open to innovative ideas.

Admired and influential within the organization.

Steadfast and able to stand up to criticism from peers.

Talk to this leader candidate about ROWE and how you think it’s a business strategy that could improve productivity, retention and employees’ sense of work/life balance. Have a five-minute presentation prepared, but avoid going too deep into the ROWE philosophy in this conversation. Look for interest. If you get it, set up a time to come back and talk more.

You and your partner may need to talk to a few people to find the right leader, or you may find one right away. However it happens, trust your gut. We learned this lesson after lots of frustration. When we were migrating teams at Best Buy, we spent a lot of energy trying to convince leaders that ROWE was a sound business strategy. We realized that it was better to foster believers rather than try to convince naysayers.

Step 4: Lay it on the line. Once you have a leader interested, secure his buy-in for ROWE. You’ve already screened him as a visionary leader and risk-taker who won’t get easily discouraged. To get your presentation started, visit our web site for support.

Encourage the leader to commit to leading the pilot ROWE team. Let him or her know that a pilot is only a test, and it doesn’t commit the entire company. Get the leader to agree to let results and metrics decide.

Step 5: March ahead. The first chapter in your journey, one of the most difficult parts, is over. You have the green light to conduct a ROWE pilot. Now, execute. Pilot a results-only work environment for six months, checking in periodically to address concerns that are hardest for co-workers, such as every meeting being optional. Once you’ve documented results, begin to share them with other departments to help spread the benefits and challenges associated with this way of working. When results are the only measurement, you can balance your work and life and effect change in your family and your community.

If you work in an office environment, you can have a ROWE. But no one is going to place it in your lap. You’ll need to do some work, but your hard work will pay off.

The authors co-created a results-only work environment while working at Best Buy. They can be reached via


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