ROWE Creators Set the Record Straight: Best Buy CEO Doesn't Understand ROWE
It’s disheartening to us that Best Buy's CEO, Hubert Joly, complains of his ideas being “misconstrued” and then in the same breath completely misconstrues another important idea. That idea is Results-Only Work Environment, which up until a few weeks ago was the innovative work culture of Best Buy’s corporate offices.
Since his announcement, Joly has repeated several inaccuracies about ROWE that make it very obvious to us, the creators of ROWE, that he does not understand the principles behind it, nor do the people advising him.
Myth #1 - ROWE is delegation
“This program was based on the premise that the right leadership style is always delegation. It operated on the assumption that if an employee’s objectives were agreed to, the manager should always delegate to the employee how those objectives were met.”
In fact, ROWE is the very opposite of delegation. What Joly is describing is a “command and control” workstyle, which ROWE advocates against. The process of manager and employee setting measurable results and clear expectations is the first step. Joly derails in the next step however, when he says “the manager should always delegate...how those objectives were met.” Absolutely not! Employees have the freedom to decide for themselves - using common sense - how, when, and where the work gets done. It is the opposite of delegation, in that employee and manager have ongoing, objective performance conversations about how to get the best results, and the employee has the autonomy to get the work done in the way that he or she works best.
The beauty of a ROWE is that it’s equal parts accountability and autonomy. No results? No job. Not ‘no results? All hands on deck!’
Myth #2 - If you can see people at the office, you know they’re working!
"It makes sense to consider not just what the results are but how the work gets done. Bottom line, it's 'all hands on deck' at Best Buy and that means having employees in the office as much as possible to collaborate and connect on ways to improve our business"
The idea is that by gathering everyone together for a big feel-good huddle in the office and getting “all hands on deck” you will turn the ship around. We have no problem with people working at the office and collaborating face-to-face. But making it mandatory and not allowing employees to make common sense decisions about where and when they get the work done? We do have a problem with that. It shows that Joly has an old-fashioned sense of collaboration, a persistent myth that communication and collaboration can’t really be done without a sit-down meeting. In fact, when leadership commands ‘all hands on deck’ they’re really saying ‘we don’t know how to get everyone on point’.
In fact a recent Harvard study debunked the benefit of office face time myth.
ROWE says that employees can meet in person when it’s necessary to achieve agreed-upon results. Let people decide that for themselves.
Myth #3 - ROWE is a one-size-fits-all program
“A leader has to pick the right style of leadership for each employee, and it is not one-size-fits-all, as the ROWE program would have suggested.”
Joly is now asking everyone to work in the same way: in the same office, in the same old cubicle, the same 9-5 hours, the same wasteful commute ... and he says that ROWE is a one-size-fits-all program! How perplexing! We’ll say it one more time: ROWE is a shift away from office politics and rules, and a focus on what really matters: the work.
What is one-size-fits-all is the expectation that everyone is accountable to results. Period. In other words, a ROWE.
Either Joly truly doesn't understand what ROWE is or he doesn't know how to lead in a ROWE. Either way, he just doesn’t get it.