I've joked with friends a lot lately about how strange it is that we moved through a school system that trained us to be increasingly independent, given increasingly more freedom to manage ourselves and our learning, only to finish university and find this independence ripped away. Entering the grown-up, 'professional' world, suddenly you're no longer trusted to manage your work or your own time, instead relegated to function in a way you haven't had to since elementary school - your success dependent on conditioning yourself to show up on time, adhere to rules and obey authority figures, rather than producing work worth doing. And you don't even get nap time like the last time this was your reality.
The idea that you can do whatever you want, whenever you want might sound silly at first, even childish (thanks no doubt in part to memories of the "Do what you feel" festival depicted on the Simpsons back in the day when I was in elementary school). But in truth, it's been shown to not only make work suck much less from the employee perspective, but also produce far less sucky work that leads to better results for employers (hence, the name).
Since we are conditioned to follow an industrial model of quantitative rather than qualitative value, you of course need some proof. Two human resources professionals, published a book last week on Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, as part of the quest to provide just that. They first made their ROWE, or results-only work environment, philosophy a reality for the 3,000 employees at Best Buy's corporate headquarters. The shift was so successful that it made the cover of Business Week in 2006.
In a ROWE, the person who attempts to climb their way to the top via contact reports, status reports, time-sheets, and otherwise creating the appearance of working by managing time instead of results, will find themselves falling off the rungs. It isn't about putting in hours but rather, turning out great work.
Successful people in this paradigm will be creative, receptive to changing environments, assumptions and problems, rather than simply doing what they are told. It doesn't make any sense for managers and employers to fear letting people do whatever they want, because really, how many people do you think truly don't want to do anything? There is no better way to build your personal brand than to be focused on the results of what you do, rather than where and at what time you do it. At the end of your career, would you rather say, "I worked this many", or "I accomplished so much"?
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