Having the right technology in place for a more productive, results-driven workplace

Mike Landman, CEO, Ripple IT

The intersection of freedom, great work and technology.

At Ripple, everyone from the office manager to the CEO has complete control of their own time — no vacation days, no sick time, no mandatory hours at the office. Just get your job done and be great at it. And we’re far from the only company that works that way. It’s called a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), and it’s a movement that’s here to stay.

The origins of ROWE date back to 2005, when Cali Ressler & Jody Thompson convinced management at Best Buy that enforcing rules about when and where people work sucks — that people can be productive across time and place, just as people can sit in the office all day and get nothing done. Best Buy bought into their idea and implemented it across the corporate office of 4,000 people. Cali and Jody went on to write Why Work Sucks, and in the past 5 years, many companies, big and small, have become a ROWE.

The mantra of a ROWE is “Work where you want, when you want, so long as the work gets done.” It sounds radical, and lots of people think it won’t work at their workplace. But it really isn’t that radical, and almost every company has one department that’s always been a ROWE: The sales department.

Most sales departments and most sales people are judged by one primary outcome — results. Sales people work from home, from the road, from coffee shops, in the middle of the night, over lunches, and in most companies enjoy a level of freedom and autonomy that no one else gets. Why?

Because management has figured out how to measure sales in a meaningful way. Working long hours might be one way to make lots of sales, but there are many other ways, and most managers don’t really care how sales people get there (within cultural and ethical boundaries of course).

At Ripple, being a ROWE has had amazing results. We do more work with less people, are more profitable, have virtually no voluntary turnover, and in general have employees with more fulfilling, less stressful lives.

Being a ROWE requires 3 things:

1. A very clear set of goals. I was used to making “proxy goals” for people. Things like getting to work on time, or limiting time off, or answering a certain number of phone calls. Of course the real goals are things like sales made, happy customers, and quickly resolving service issues. ROWE requires letting go of the small stuff, and focusing relentlessly on the big stuff.

2. A willingness to let people manage their own time, and the courage to remove the people that can’t or won’t. For most companies voluntary turnover in a ROWE approaches zero. But involuntary turnover almost always goes up. The people that need micromanaging don’t fare well in a ROWE. Rock-stars thrive.

3. Technology. It’s a false promise to tell people they can work from wherever they want, then to make the office the only useful place to work. To really embrace ROWE, we always have to make sure we have the easiest, most accessible systems. We make sure that communicating from home, the mountains, or anywhere with Internet access is just as easy as communicating from the office.