Implementing ROWE

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For most of my life I have worked in results only working environment. With one small exception I have been running my own businesses since 1996. Starting from ad agency, to web development, to internet marketing, to digital agency. Whatever the business we get paid when there are results.

When providing services some clients have shown indifference to the hours put in to generate results. Others however, think they should pay for the hours worked, but there shouldn’t be too many of those hours or it’s considered expensive, no matter what the results.

I have always had a result oriented view of business. If there’s a tool that consistently makes money then I will use it and find the resources needed to power that tool. I will not say we don’t have budget for that. That would be stupid.

In our digital agency the hour has been the main metric for measuring work and billing clients. There’s a lot of problems with billing by the hour. Time estimates are often wrong for unique projects. People buffer their hours to make sure they deliver on time. That makes deadlines unreasonably long or and price of the project will escalate to non-competitive levels.

Project managers stressed about the length of the lunch and the hours delivered every day. It was in some level very precise micromanagement. We had tried different methods of counting the hours and estimating the work. Everything we tried had some downside that came from counting the hours people put in.

Now we decided to ditch the “hour” completely and focus only on results. We put the price on the projects according to the results we expect to deliver to our clients and combine that with the results we need to keep ourselves in business. Then we dole out the tasks to our team of 10 designers, developers, PMs, marketing specialist and creatives.

To make this work we started to use Trello( Each person has a list of tasks that are either assigned by the project managers or forwarded from the previous stage. For example designer will move the task to front end developer who will move the HTML code to developer. Everything is visible to the everybody else.

We announced the new world order on Wednesday and discussed it with the team. Everyone was really excited as can be expected when you are informed that you don’t have to come to work anymore but you still get paid.

Thursday, the first ROWE day. One person didn’t show up at the office but his work was done in less time than expected. Everybody else showed up around 10am. Everything that needed to be done for the day was done on time.

Friday, the second ROWE day. We worked out some of the glitches in the system we built using Trello. All tasks that needed to be done were completed. One task was completed in a wrong way and pointed us in the direction of some of the communication problems we need to iron out.

My initial thoughts are that this system shows promise. Team members are completing tasks faster than expected. They actually worried that what if the new system allowed them to complete the tasks too fast and the project managers would just continue to pile stuff onto their lists. PMs worry about how to get the right balance between client results and our bottom line without overworking the team.

As with all new things the future seems bright. We’ll have a team meeting on Wednesday to sum up the first week. We’ll try to find ways to tweak any aspects that have come up and may derail or new system.

I’ll keep posting reports about this experiment.


Image: Old rusty clock mechanism by Brankomaster

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