Is ROWE A Culture Killer?

First here's a re-post of the definition of ROWE from CultureRx's website (emphasis added):

"Results Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence."

Increasingly I've come to take issue with the "presence" aspect of ROWE. I believe it works against a healthy culture. How can you build a great team when that team is rarely together? Imagine a basketball team where everyone practices alone- how do you think they would compete against a team that practices together? 

We are physical creatures and, as it's been proved many times, much of our communication is non-verbal. In my opinion Skype just doesn't make up the distance. Innovation, ideation and collaboration all degrade with distance. Not to say that you can't have a healthy mix of present/remote work. There are times when the best work is done heads down, with intense focus. I see that on my team all the time. 

Truly exceptional companies put organizational health first. I believe this requires presence. ROWE advocates need to consider whether their adopted philosophy is damaging their most important asset- their health. 

(Inspired by Patrick Lencioni's new book "The Advantage: Why Organizational Health Trumps Everything Else In Business" and a lunch conversation with Don Sedberry)

Watch Your Language

If you want to communicate with someone it is a lot easier when you are both speaking the same language.  This goes well beyond “English”. It has to do with a group of people collectively working to redefine words to have specific, contextual meanings. This is why “touch”, “phone” and “search” mean something so radically different now compared to 20 years ago. People came together and gradually redefined these common words. They could have made new words but it’s more effective to iterate on existing words.

I have observed that successful organizations are very purposeful about language. They work to select and re-define their common vocabulary. Often this starts with leadership but it must be a team effort. A language unused becomes jargon.

A common language acts like an OS for a team. It’s a platform that enables agility, communication, delegation and accountability. Projects and systems can run on that platform.

Language must start at the top. If the boss doesn’t speak the team language then it won’t stick. I’m learning this myself- I really need to watch my language.

Purpose Is King

I believe it now. I guess I "knew" it before. But believing always trumps knowing. It took me a while and, frankly, I'm a little embarrassed.

I kept peeling back the layers, looking for the core. I spent a long time hanging on the "culture" floor then a while with "passion" but they weren't where it was at. 

Purpose is fuel, it is focus, it is a lens that changes how the world looks. It informs lives, products, companies... really any "thing" we do. Without it organizations are full of archers aiming at their own targets.

Purpose leaves a huge void when absent. It slowly rusts businesses and lives. It degrades energy to persistence and erodes love to tolerance. 

Purposes joined can form a powerful river. Organizations and individuals that change the world have tapped into this raw power. The rest wait on the sides, held back by fear and probably some ignorance. 

Realizing my own purpose statement has been incredibly powerful. Now I have a wall to throw ideas and opportunities against to see if they stick. What is that purpose statement? To orchestrate creativity.

For most of my life I have felt uncomfortable around religious believers. I never really understood how they could believe in something so intangible. But now I kind of get it. Even if I may not share their specific beliefs, I understand how believing in something abstract can be transformative. No doubt in my mind- purpose is king.\


related note: about 6 months ago I attended a ThriveMap session put together by my business coach CJ McClanahan which included a worksheet that helped me reach my purpose statement. There is another ThriveMap session on June 29th. You can sign up here and I can't recommend it enough.