Why Project Management and ROWE Don't Mix
The fundamental basis of the ROWE (Results Only Work Environment) approach is that employees are rewarded for the results they achieve rather than the hours worked. Employees are allowed to decide how, where and when the work is done. This gives employees freedom but at the same time the organization gets the results they want because the employees are motivated and focused on achieving their goals. This strategy was devised by Ressler & Thompson and is documented in their book "Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It".
Technology companies, in particular, often offer flexible working arrangements. Notably Google, who allow their engineers to spend one day every week pursuing projects of their own choosing. This has led to some extremely successful innovations. ROWE was developed from these and other models to motivate staff, by improving their work/life balance, and increase productivity.
Naturally, clear goals must be defined but this approach has complete flexibility and the technology is readily available to make it possible to work from anywhere at anytime. It sounds almost too good to be true – but you know what they say about anything that seems too good to be true…
When it comes to working on major projects, the ROWE approach raises more issues than it solves. Many project tasks require collaboration between team members and often between different teams, which is difficult enough if the teams are in different locations but even harder when individual team members can choose where and when to work.
ROWE underestimates the importance of impromptu discussions and bouncing ideas off colleagues and even the social aspects of a traditional work environment. It is not conducive to building a team but aimed at individual goals and job satisfaction.
The often-cited advantages of ROWE, such as loyal staff, higher productivity, better job satisfaction and improved work/life balance can be achieved by other methods which don't have the same downsides for projects.
The main disadvantages of a Results-Only Work Environment for projects are:
• The physical location and working hours of staff are important in projects for requirements gathering, specifications and the many collaborative tasks.
• When you need to talk to other members of the team they may or may not be there. And let's not forget that not everything can be achieved electronically. Brainstorming sessions, for example, impromptu discussions to clarify requirements and even casual chats at the coffee machine frequently throw up unexpected problems or opportunities.Continued on the next page