Friday, June 1, 2007

Productivity and the Result-Only Work Environment

It's the weekend, our time for something non-technical. But even if we are not working, we can still think about work, can't we? At least this is what Lise Belkin did in this New York Times article: Time Wasted? Perhaps It's Well Spent. Amongst others, the article mentions a few points from an often cited 2005 Microsoft survey on productivity. On average we spend 45 hours at work every week, and deal with 45 emails every day. According to a separate poll conducted by Staples, 49% of business managers make calls and check email behind the wheel and 18% check their email in the bathroom (!). So we do indeed work a lot. But we also think that a lot of this time is wasted. According to the same Microsoft survey, we spend 5.6 hours each week in meetings, and 71% of them are considered not productive. And out of the 45 hours we spend at work, we think 16 are unproductive. There seems to be a feeling of frustration about our own productivity, and a sense that something can be done to make us more productive. But what? Doing longer hours doesn't work. Some feel that Getting Things Done (GDT) is our way to salvation. Belkin's article points to another method implemented by 75% of the workforce at Best Buy's corporate headquarters, which is called Result-Only Work Environment (ROWE). ROWE puts an emphasis on what is being produced, not how it is produced. ROWE is about results, not the how much time you spend to reach this result. What about you give a try to ROWE? Maybe you can start your next workday not by thinking that you will be at your desk for the next 8 hours, but with setting goals you want to reach during that day.

1 comment:

  1. If the average is 45 emails a day and 5.6 hours in meetings, I am certainly on the far right side of the Gaussian curve. GTD, while it might not be the way to salvation, has very interesting concepts and, if you don't want to go fully to the pen-and-paper implementation of it, have a look at a software called ThinkingRock. ROWE, from what I've seen on the web site, I am wondering how this can work... let's take the example of North American retail. There are fixed days in the year (black Friday for example) that are independent of how the company is structured... without a schedule (e.g. need to get the rebates and crazy promotions in place for the Thanksgiving week-end, and need for a work back plan to achieve it), how would that work. And if employees don't count hours, isn't this a way to expect over-hours from upper-management. Interestingly, while looking at more information about ROWE, I noticed that there doesn't seem to be any page about this on Wikipedia, while GTD has a very extensive section.