Thoughts on Cultural Maturity and ROWE

This post is inspired by some of the comments around my SmallBox post on our new core value "Freedom". I wanted to post a blog that went deeper into my thinking on cultural maturity and specifically my fascination/fear around ROWE. ROWE stands for Results Only Work Environment. Here's a quick definition from CultureRx's website:

"Work Environment is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results – increasing the organization’s performance while cultivating the right environment for people to manage all the demands in their lives...including work."

I have been flirting with ROWE related ideas for the last year. My business buddy Michael Reynolds is a big proponent of ROWE and has successfully implemented it at his company SpinWeb. But I have struggled with adopting ROWE at SmallBox. I had some legitimate concerns including the fear that our team culture would suffer. What if everyone started working remotely? What if people abused the freedom? I didn't want to extend freedoms that I would rescind later.

At the core of my concerns was my fear that the SmallBox team wasn't cultural mature enough to handle real freedom. Of course, with freedom comes responsibilities and accountability but it still scared me. But I realized, as we wrapped up 2011, that we were ready. We had the right team and our culture was mature enough to handle it. As a company we had got through out teenage years and were entering adulthood. We could be trusted with something as radical as freedom. 

So as much as I love the idea of ROWE I don't think it's for every organization. It's not for organizations that are still, culturally, in their adolescent or teen years. ROWE is for adults and let's face it, not every culture is operating at an adult level. Most are still hanging out in High School mode- gossiping, in-fighting, pettiness. It requires a team where every team member can hold the other accountable. From intern to CEO. 

We weren't ready to extend these freedoms a year ago but I think we are now. Let's see how it goes!