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        © 2017 by 33 Talent  EA Singapore: 13C6298

Can You Manage Work Without Managing People?

Ever since 2003, when it was invented by two Best Buy employees, there has been the concept of the ROWE™ (Results-Only Work Environment™). Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson realized that a company was more productive if it managed the work that was being done rather than the time that people were spending on the work and the place that they were doing the work. Employees were granted 100% autonomy and were given 100% accountability.

People could work from home, they could take as much holiday as they wanted, even meetings were optional if they didn’t feel that they needed to be there. However, the other side of the bargain was the people needed to produce agreed results, and their superiors would manage the results rather than how the people achieved them.

Fast forward 12 years, even taking into account that businesses like Yahoo have rejected such practices, are the demographic indications suggesting that a ROWE™ could still be a long-term answer to workplace engagement and productivity?

I can say that the results in my own business have been astounding, but first let’s look at some of the demographics that are supporting this movement:

  • By 2020, at least 50% of the U.S. workforce will consist of Millennials (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

  • 63% of employees worldwide are “not engaged” and 24% are actively disengaged (Gallup)

  • 89% of organizations will offer mobile working solutions by 2020, and overall office space will decline by 17% by 2020 (Citrix)

  • 46% of HR Professionals think that 20% of their workforce will be temporary contract workers by the year 2022 (PWC)

I’d just like to draw a few conclusions from these statistics and my own experiences:


When dynamic response and efficiency are the currency of the current economy, paying people for results and not the time that they waste sitting at their desks playing the corporate political game will go a long way to helping you compete in this new business environment. This will also give the critical Millennial generation more control over their careers, more variety and most importantly ensure that they stay engaged for longer.


According to a recent PWC report “The World of Work in 2022”, the portfolio career is going to be one of three main employment avenues in our future. How companies manage that trend is going to be crucial, and ROWE™ will play a key role in ensuring success. Sitting tied to a desk between compulsory hours is not.


The days of turning up at 0900 and leaving at 1800 will end, it’s not even a debate. It was invented for the industrial revolution and we are moving on. Yes, Marissa Mayer made a statement about wanting her people to be in the office, but was she really putting results first? Maybe – she needed control back and didn’t have the trust or engagement or understanding of her workforce thus leaving her no option. Or you could see it as a PR stunt more than anything else.

There are times when being in the office is a tool to getting the Results, whether it be a sales buzz, team bonding or just plain old fashioned face to face catch ups. However, the dictation on this is the difference – it’s a small distinction but paramount. Forcing people to turn up does not mean they are present. In fact, I have found countless times that if they choose to because they think it’s best for their results or productivity I guarantee they will perform better.

I have personal experience of implementing ROWE™ in 33 Talent. Our guys are now amazingly engaged – just check out anonymous employee reviews on JobAdvisor for a feel of this. We trust them to do what they know they have to, when they have to do it, and they know they have my full support so that they come to me for help without fear. I lead by setting tangible targets and growth goals and don’t have to waste time playing the hardball executive to scare them into action. I never tell them when to do things because the Results focus tells them all this and the support and tools empower them to be able to do so without stress or worry clouding their judgement.

Can you manage work rather than people? Absolutely. In fact I would argue that you absolutely need to. Managing work instead of people then leaves you free to be a Leader as opposed to a Manager. This is giving as opposed to taking and far more beneficial for you, the company and the employee. ROWE™ (and other work place and culture revolutions) are undoubtedly part of our future world of work.

I love ROWE™ but I know there are naysayers. What is your view?