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Focus on Results to Keep Clients and Employees Happy


Jim Hodgson

There are a lot of ways to measure an individual’s work performance. When you think of a manager, perhaps you imagine her stopping by an employee’s office to see if he’s in his chair during work hours, or checking whether he’s spending too much time on Facebook.

As a ROWE, or Results-Only Work Environment, we stick to asking the truly important question: Are we delivering the results that matter?

What is ROWE?

ROWE is a management strategy created by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler of CultureRX, popularized by their book Why Work Sucks and How To Fix It. It requires a certain amount of vigilance to maintain a ROWE, because it’s so easy to fall into non-ROWE practices, or what the authors call “sludge.”

Ever been to a mandatory meeting because, well, because there’s a meeting every Monday, no matter whether there’s anything new to discuss? Ever walked into the office a few minutes late and been hailed with a comment like “Nice of you to join us!”? Thompson and Ressler argue that these are all examples of sludge that should be eradicated so that employees can achieve maximum productivity.

Thinking about what’s most important

What is most important to a company?

  • That all their employees are in the office 40+ hours a week, or that they have happy clients?
  • That vacation is rigidly measured, or that they are happy employees?
  • That everyone uses the same tools, or that everyone is as productive as they can be?

In all cases, Highgroove favors the latter.

Why does Highgroove commit to ROWE, when it demands much greater effort and much greater respect?

The answer is simple: Focusing on anything but results is sludge, and sludge impedes progress and dulls engagement and productivity.

Eyes on the ROWE prize

It takes time to establish your company as a ROWE. It can be challenging to come up with measurable results, and it’s even harder to allow others the freedom to achieve those results without checking up on them. But there are a few tools that help us stay on track:

  • Each week, we use Reflecticle to survey Highgroove happiness, as well that of our clients. This helps us keep a finger on the pulse of what’s going right in our projects–and sometimes, what’s not going as well.

  • ROWEapp helps us track results. Each of us can tell at a glance how close we are to achieving a result, or whether we need to step it up to meet deadlines.

  • After every project, we do restrospectives, where we check back with a client. You know the saying that “hindsight is 20/20”? We’ve found that we often get great insight after a project that we don’t get during development, or immediately following a launch.

“Being a ROWE is a thing that you have to constantly think about and practice,” says Chris Kelly, Highgroove developer and methodologist. “Craftsmanship is one of our core values, and if you ever think you’re done learning and improving, you’re wrong. This is our culture. This is our craft.”


Jim Hodgson

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