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Why Work Sucks & How to Fix it: Measuring Performance

By Todd Ballowe

Why Work Sucks & How to Fix it: Measuring Performance

Recently I saw two different websites (Tim Ferris and Verasage) both extolling the virtues of the new book, “Why Work Sucks and How to Fix it,” and after reading the first chapter, I think everyone in business needs to check this out.

The short and sweet premise is that the workforce around the nation, especially the knowledge worker segment, is changing it’s expectations and many workplaces that embrace the change can see a dramatic increase of productivity and employee loyalty. If you care at all about employee engagement, this book seems to be a must-read.

Now, I haven’t had a chance to read the whole book yet (free copy *cough* *cough* I’d love to review it *cough* *cough*), but the first chapter is free to download at the authors’ website,

How do the authors claim the workplace is changing? Smart employers are realizing that employees aren’t satisfied with traditional ideas about work/life balance and traditions that they believe add little value- like the traditional 8-5 workday. To adjust to these changes and measure performance accordingly, the authors developed ROWE: the Results-Oriented Workplace Environment, which most-notably has been instituted at Best Buy, where the authors developed the program.

A fantastic example of the thoughts in the book are expressed in an interview at Ferris’s site, concerning a subject the authors call “Sludge.”

Sludge is when someone says, “10:00 a.m. and you’re just getting in? I wish I could come in late every day.” The belief being expressed here is that work happens between 8:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. The person who isn’t in the building at 8:00 a.m. is therefore not working.

Of course, to a certain extent, we’re all knowledge workers now. The person could have been at home coming up with the next great idea. Yet they’re being slammed based not on what they produced, but where their body was at 8:05 a.m. It’s ridiculous.

Throughout what I’ve seen about ROWE, there’s a common call to give up tracking people’s time and forcing them into a traditional schedule filled with meetings and micro-management, and instead letting them know what results are needed and giving them the freedom to accomplish their tasks.

I can’t wait to grab a copy of this book- ROWE looks like the key to employee engagement that the current workforce is looking for, and what many workers will soon be demanding from their employers. Would your workplace be able to pull it off?



  1. Sarah
    Jun 27, 2008 @ 08:20:04

    In my experience, the environment where ROWE really works is where there’s a directive from the top. A major means of implementing ROWE that I’ve seen to be extremely effective is the flexible work arrangement (telecommuting, compressed work week, embracing part-time schedules). Even then, old habits die hard. It seems the urge to schedule meeting after endless large meeting is like an addiction for some. Some people are fine to dial in to meetings or web conference. But many feel like meetings are best in person. One strategy is to have a “meeting day” in the office for most people in a functional group, like a mid-week day, where larger meetings can be concentrated on that day. I think this is useful on so many levels – limiting the number of unnecessary large meetings and moving the bulk of working meetings to smaller functional groups of 3-5 that can work it out together with conferencing technology throughout the remainder of the week. This is a kind of tactical take on one aspect of ROWE. . . but one that can only exist when the strategic framework is setup well from the top-down.


  2. Ed Adkins
    Jul 02, 2008 @ 12:42:18

    Sarah – thanks for your input. We’re definitely interested in the whole concept of ROWE- and the strategic framework that you say is needed intrigues the heck out of me.




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