ROWE: How Best Buy Smashed The Clock and Increased Productivity

Businessweek has a great article about BestBuy's Results Only Work Environment.

At most companies, going AWOL during daylight hours would be grounds for a pink slip. Not at Best Buy. The nation's leading electronics retailer has embarked on a radical–if risky–experiment to transform a culture once known for killer hours and herd-riding bosses. The endeavor, called ROWE, for "results-only work environment," seeks to demolish decades-old business dogma that equates physical presence with productivity. The goal at Best Buy is to judge performance on output instead of hours.

Hence workers pulling into the company's amenity-packed headquarters at 2 p.m. aren't considered late. Nor are those pulling out at 2 p.m. seen as leaving early. There are no schedules. No mandatory meetings. No impression-management hustles. Work is no longer a place where you go, but something you do. It's O.K. to take conference calls while you hunt, collaborate from your lakeside cabin, or log on after dinner so you can spend the afternoon with your kid.

There are downsides to this type of flexibility of course, and the article examines some of them. But overall, I think employees are happier when they feel like they are in control of their schedules, and that is what ROWE provides.

  • I think Best Buy is doing a great thing. Giving employees greater latitude and using better ways to measure productivity can only help their bottom line. I hope other employers will read this and make changes in their organizations.

    Peter Mullison

  • Bravo Best Buy. What does it matter the number of hours one sits at their desk? In my experience, long hours usually was all a big game to see who could be last to leave. Unfortunately, those the employees were among the least productive but the most likely to be promoted.

    It’s about productivity. That is what determines profits and great output. I often asked my direct reports who seemed to spend long hours at work, why it took them so long to get done what I thought should take far less time? Perhaps it was all the personal phone calls, e-mails, coffee breaks and sucking up that required so much time.

  • So that’s why when I went to the Best Buy store yesterday (just after 10AM) it took 30 minutes for someone to come into the MP3 department. There were three of us customers all rolling our eyes and wondering where everybody was.

    Seriously this policy has lots to admire but even more to look at skeptically. This can be a recipe for leadership abdication. For example, What happens if the boss sets your goals so that they take 65 man hours to accomplish?