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Time  for a ROWE; a Results-Only Work Environment

Time for a ROWE; a Results-Only Work Environment

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The buzz in Organization Development thought circles globally these days is employee engagement; that is, what can leaders, managers, organizations do to reverse this tide of disconnect before the proverbial organizational ship totally sinks in today’s current sea of change.

It is reported by a Gallup Poll, that on any given day more than 50% of employees in the United States are not engaged at work, and roughly 20% are actively disengaged. Even more startling is the approximation that all of this disengagement costs the United States some $300 billion a year in lost productivity. Scan your workplace, observe businesses that you frequent in your community; are workers focused on customer service, or are they more interested in communicating on their personal cell phone. Take a look around that bank office, is the teller talking to you about your needs, or instead chatting with the worker in the next cubicle, serving you haphazardly, but certainly not with focused intent.

The buzz in Organization Development thought circles globally these days is employee engagement; that is, what can leaders, managers, organizations do to reverse this tide of disconnect before the proverbial organizational ship totally sinks in today’s current sea of change.

Inventive thinkers, human and organization behaviorist concur that a large part of the problem seems to be that business models popularized over the years, and still currently being used by most organizations, have become as outdated as an eight track tape deck. This growing gap between what is known about human motivation and business operations seems to be fueling managerial, leadership and ultimately organizational dysfunction.

In a thought provoking book aptly entitled, “Drive” Daniel Pink convincingly shares how organizations and their leaders can better harness and unleash the inventive and creative thinking of employees in pursuit of mission-driven results.

Pink shares, “Most of us believe that the best way to motivate ourselves and others is with external rewards like money, the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake. The secret to high performance and satisfaction, at work, at school, and at home, is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.”

In other words, Pink suggests that organizational leaders and managers, who do not understand the dynamics critical for fostering a workplace of excellence and personal productivity only serve to create climates that diminish the value and output of a businesses’ greatest resource, a resource that just happens to be human.

You see, businesses are complex social systems, comprised of people, and leaders who understand the needs and aspirations of individuals in the workplace can create climates and opportunities that enable people to effectively contribute to achievement of the organizational mission and bottom-line. Contrary to pervasive thought in traditional management circles, autocratic control does not elicit the best from people, whether a Baby Boomer or from Gen-X.

Two former human resource executives from electronics giant Best Buy have crafted a work environment called the ROWE; a results-only work environment.  For organizations that are ROWEs, employees do not have to be at work at a certain time, or come at all; they must simply complete the work, meet timeframes, and achieve organizational goals. Of course, they must attend meetings when called. Companies trying this, contrary to naysayers, have found that profits, creativity and employee engagement have skyrocketed. Shocking was the fact that large numbers of employees in these companies were so conditioned to highly controlled work environments that they could not function in a ROWE; with some people quitting because they just did not know how to function in such a workplace. Others ultimately found a work flow that was comfortable, and now the employee, along with their families sing praises for the ROWE business environment.

This evolving workplace dilemma speaks to the challenge organizations are facing at a time when they need employees who are self-directed, agile and who can think critically.  Public, private and third sector businesses have created workers who are like robots putting widgets in a round peg without much thought. This can no longer work, the cultures and operational climates of organizations must shift if competitive edge is to be maintained and regained if already lost.

We are in a rapidly moving conceptual economy, and engaged workers on all levels who do more than just sit and wait to be instructed relative to what to do next are part of the inefficiencies and lost productivity we all witness daily; inefficiencies that must be remedied.

Is your organization ready to ROWE? Email your thoughts to dradefoe@gmail.com.

Dr. Anita Davis-DeFoe provides management, leadership and quality management consulting services to organizations world-wide.  www.theafiadevelopmentcorporation.org

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