Blowing Up Business As Usual

There's no shortage of approaches to organizational and performance management — from balanced scorecard and total quality management to management by walking around and rightsizing, just for starters. One of the latest and most intriguing: the Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE), a management philosophy pioneered by Best Buy that lets employees decide what to work on and when. Giving them control over their time, the theory goes, makes employees not just happier but significantly more productive.

The idea seems radical — unlimited paid vacation time, no schedules, no mandatory meetings, and no judgments from co-workers and bosses about how time is spent. Both the press and business gurus alike have lauded Best Buy for reinventing its culture. But is it a model others should follow? Is it demonstrably more effective than traditional approaches?

We took a closer look at ROWE to find out where it works (and where it doesn't), and to see how it compares with other methods.