Going ROWE: The Guinea Pigs in the Basement

By Gadi Dechter

Associate Director of Government Reform
Center for American Progress

This is the second in a series of weekly dispatches from the District of Columbia’s information technology department, which is
transforming into a “results-only work environment” where employees can
work where they want, when they want—so long as they meet predefined

Washington’s 35-year-old Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak predicts a radical results-only culture will boost worker productivity
by 30 percent and enhance employee morale at a time of hiring freezes
and budget cuts. Sivak has agreed to let CAP’s
Doing What Works
project attend internal meetings and planning sessions as his
550-person agency tries by January 2011 to become the first government
department in the country of its size to “Go ROWE.”

Week 2: Making metrics

Thursday, October 14, 2010: A driving rain draws large afternoon crowds into the District of Columbia’s flagship library downtown. People
queue up for Internet terminals in the lobby. High schoolers hide out
in the glassed-in “Teen Space” on the second floor. The homeless hide
out in the men’s rooms.

Even the library basement is full, though the 40 software developers, business analysts, database administrators, and project managers
gathered in a windowless room aren’t here to escape the weather. These
employees of D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer are plotting
their permanent escape from the 9-to-5 grind.

“We are the guinea pigs,” Peter Olle, deputy chief technology officer in charge of applications, tells his assembled workers. They are among
the first of the agency’s 550 employees selected to transition in coming
weeks to a “results-only work environment.”

Today’s topic: metrics. In a results-only world where workers may not be visibly on the job, managers need precise ways of measuring whether
subordinates are in fact getting work done.

Read the rest of this column and earlier installments from the Going ROWE series.

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