The Cohen-Miller Report: A New Way To ROWE Your In-house Boat

by Emily Cohen

I’ve recently been researching best practice strategies that accommodate the diverse and challenging needs required to effectively manage a multi-generational creative team. This entry highlights one practice that is gaining some attention and has already demonstrated great results.

Over a decade ago, Best Buy piloted an innovative new management strategy aptly entitled: Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Under the ROWE plan, each employee is free to do their job whenever they want providing that the work gets done. As long as they meet their targeted objectives, staff can change when and where they work without seeking permission from a manager or even (gasp!) letting them know. Based on an 18 month study of 775 employees at Best Buy’s Minneapolis headquarter, researchers found that ROWE reduced costly employee turn over by 45% and increased productivity 41%.

In March of last year, President Obama further promoted the program by announcing that the federal government is launching ROWE in the Office of Personnel Management. Obama addressed one of the underlying issues of current management challenges: “It’s about attracting and retaining top talent in the federal workforce and empowering them to do their jobs, and judging their success by the results that they get — not by how many meetings they attend, or how much face-time they log, or how many hours are spent on airplanes. It’s about creating a culture where, as Martha Johnson puts it, ‘Work is what you do, not where you are.’”

In a traditional work environment, productivity is measured by hours worked, not always by efficiency of time, and involves endless in-person and often unnecessary meetings; two things the younger Y generations abhor (working long, unnecessary hours in particular and not leveraging alternative communication opportunities beyond face time). ROWE is a completely refreshing alternative with proven results. ROWE focuses on output and results, not time incurred or how, where, and when the work is getting done.

To be clear, ROWE isn’t a work flex program, which is often very hard to manage and track, but rather is based on working more efficiently and productively. ROWE works particularly well with our increasingly diverse work force, each of whom have different work-styles, personal challenges and frequently work across multiple time zones and locations.


3 thoughts on “The Cohen-Miller Report: A New Way To ROWE Your In-house Boat

  1. Brooke

    Wow! This is a very enlightening article. I work in a “traditional” work environment. I am a very efficient employee, and have trouble understanding those who are not as efficient, work long hours and have trouble meeting deadlines. I think I will share.

  2. Ambrose

    Sorry to leave my comment here but I can’t find a Contact Us link on this page. In the second paragraph, there is a sentence that ends with “letting their them know”. I believe this should read “letting them know”.