Implementing ROWE

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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 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 the 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 the 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 on 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.

ROWE – results only working environment

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 specialists, 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, the designer will move the task to a front-end developer, who will move the HTML code to the developer. Everything is visible to everybody else.

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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 a new system.

The checklist for implementing ROWE:

Set your goal!

What is the result you are after? What is the result you what to accomplish?

Split the goal into sub-tasks

Split your goal into the smallest units of progress that have any meaning. Every task you do is the next step you need to do to move forward. When you have done the task, then you arrive at the next step that you need to take.

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Repeat that until you achieve your goal.

Task size

Make sure the tasks you have are manageable. The right size means that one task should not exceed 1 to 2 hours in time. 2 hours is already stretching it. It’s OK if you get into the flow-state and work for more than 2 hours.

For example, when I create slides for my seminars, then I usually work in 1 to 2-hour sessions. Sometimes when I don’t have important next task scheduled then the sessions can stretch up to 4 hours.

However, if you schedule a 4-hour session, then you will likely fail to follow through or even start.

Next step

When you finish a sub-goal then make sure you know what the next step will be and when are you going to do it. Do not leave too much time between the steps of one goal. You will lose momentum, and you will be less likely to get the results you want.

Keep your eye on the result

To stay motivated, measure your progress towards the result you want to get. The result may be far in the future, but understand that each step will take you closer. Persistence is the key to all accomplishments.

When you reach a particularly important milestone, then give yourself a pat on the back and celebrate your progress.

For example, if you are writing a book, then the smallest step may be one page. In some cases, even 100 words can be a step. A chapter is a medium goal, and a 50 or 100-page section is a major milestone.

The same applies to fitness. In running, getting to run 10 minutes non-stop may be the first step, but it may as well be just to get out and walk to the next street corner.

I’ll keep posting reports about this experiment.

Image: Old rusty clock mechanism by Brankomaster

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Priit Kallas

Founder of I created FixWillpower to help you reach your goals. I have struggled my entire life to be consistent and avoid procrastination. The goal is to have a good life, do the things you love and get your results with minimum effort. FixWillpower website is about how I create motivation and productivity in my life. I write about the tools and techniques, best books, scientific research, and everything else that helps you move faster and stay on track. Minimum effort doesn’t mean slacking off. Minimum effort is about effectiveness and productivity. If there is a way to reach a goal in a shorter time or with less exertion, then you should use that. I will help you be smarter and reach goals faster. About FixWillpower

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