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BEST BUY: We Ended ROWE/Work From Home Because It Defines Leadership as 100% Delegation....

You probably saw all the on-line drama recently about Yahoo's CEO ending remote/work from home arrangements.  Lots said about that one with people agreeing/disagreeing across the board.  

What a lot of people missed was that Best Buy took a similar, if not as extreme step, by ending it's ROWE program last week.  ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment, and under ROWE an employee can work whenever and from wherever they want.  While Best Buy didn't eliminate working from home entirely, it now has to be negotiated on a case-by case basis rather than existing as a right at Best Buy HQ.

The CEO of Best Buy, Hubert Joly, took a lot of heat for his decision, so he came out with some clarifying notes.  More from Joly via the Star Tribune:

"Finally, there is the execution of leadership. This, of course, is closely related to Best Buy’s recently cancelled Results Only Work Environment (ROWE). 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.

Well, anyone who has led a team knows that delegation is not always the most effective leadership style. If you delegate to me the job of building a brick wall, you will be disappointed in the result! Depending on the skill and will of the individual, the right leadership style may be coaching, motivating or directing rather than delegating. 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."

So Joly says that 100% delegation once objectives are set is madness.  Interesting.  In the spirit of equal time, check out this link from the founders of ROWE responding to what they consider to be ROWE myths, including the assumption that's it's all delegation, all the time.

Take a look and soak - it's an interesting conversation.  My gut tells me that the delegation angle is window dressing, and when times are bad, people want butts (plural!) in seats.


Josh Westbrook

It is interesting. There's just too many moving parts in this debate to honestly say which is better. It gets complicated and is obviously dependent on the company, the department, the manager, the culture, etc...

I think a key component is being very very (almost obsessively) specific about what's expected up-front. For example, if the manager is only going to discuss high level goals with the ROWE employee that need to be delivered far out into the future, it increases the likelihood of failure. This works better when there are short term, easy to understand deliverables that can be objectively seen on a regular basis. These short term goals should be leading indicators for the high level goals and objectives that the manager is likely responsible for. It's just easier to stay on track this way. Defining the work in a way where you judge people on whether they get first downs, and not just whether they get touchdowns is more effective when there is minimal face-time.

Also, if you have this ROWE set up, you have to eliminate people in a hurry that don't live up to the expectations. Being that the have an awful lot of time to be unproductive, this can create problems quickly. This is likely what's happening at Best Buy and Yahoo.

Sarah Charton, SPHR

I think Joly has missed the point. His criticism of "one-size-fits-all" applies equally well to working in the office. I've worked at several firms where it was widely believed that "face time" was productive, and I can assure you that this is not the case.

It's not necessary to approve remote work on a full-time basis across the board: we handle it on a case-by-case basis. As a result, we have employees who work remotely a day or two or three per week, and we also approve it on an occasional "as-needed" basis. These employees are all extremely productive.


points to ponder...

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