Smashing the clock

When I started at the Olivetti Research Lab back in 1996, the topic of ‘how many hours people actually worked’ came up in conversation one day.

“Here”, I was told, “you aren’t judged by the number of hours you work. You’re judged by what you produce.”

It was a very good philosophy, and I’ve tried to adopt it in more recent years with people who have worked for me. The hours were flexible, and the number of hours were also flexible. (The unspoken, but understood, corollary was that simply turning up at your desk each day for a certain amount of time wasn’t enough. You had to be productive, and people who weren’t would sometimes be encouraged to pursue their careers elsewhere.)

That was 10 years ago, and it’s much more common now. It’s a bit surprising, though, to see a company like Best Buy wholeheartedly endorsing this approach, as described in this BusinessWeek article. Excerpt:

The endeavor, called ROWE, for “results-only work environment,” seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours….

Since the program’s implementation, average voluntary turnover has fallen drastically…

Meanwhile, Best Buy notes that productivity is up an average 35% in departments that have switched to ROWE.

Thanks to Claes-Frederik for the link.

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1 Comment

Great idea, just so long as managers don’t fall into the trap of paying software engineers for producing X lines of code and fixing Y bugs! I am also sceptical of how Best Buy’s shop floor workers will take the news that in Head Office they swan around “free to work wherever they want, whenever they want”.

I agree clock watching is evil.

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