How do you track results instead of time?

You may have guessed that in a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) the focus is on results. Not time, not physical presence. For years, organizations have tracked success by looking at time cards and making sure everyone is at their desks. That’s the old currency.

What does it really mean if you put in 60 hours last week? Did you help your customers? Did you meet your goals?

The new currency is simple: results. But how do we measure results in a ROWE? We at CultureRx get this question a lot. And, contrary to tracking time, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. There are as many different ways to measure results as their are businesses and organizations. You must first understand your desired results and then do what works for you.

Here are some guiding principles to help you figure out how to measure your results:

The conversation about results is NOT top down. It is a two way conversation between employees and their managers.

Once those outcomes are identified, you want to track it. In the olden days, people would run time reports to show success. Let’s get those results out in front of people with the new currency.

ROWE organizations track results in many different ways. Some use reminders on Outlook calendars, some use Excel, and others use the Performance Management System already in place. You can also look at tracking performance using social goals with a tool we recommend called WorkSimple. For more about Work Simple, visit

Does this mean as government employees ROWE violates all of the legal requirements of accounting for 80 hours in a pay period? No. It means that your goal each week is something bigger than filling out a timecard. The timecard ends up being an administrative task to maintain compliance. But, your outcome is something bigger, it’s your purpose for doing the work, and that’s what you want to track.

Bottom line: focus on results. Track it. See what you can accomplish when you free yourself and your employees from the tyranny of the time clock. You will be amazed.

For more information on Results-Only Work Environment, visit or follow Stacey on Twitter @StaceyMSwanson

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Terrence (Terry) Hill

Thanks for the tip in using! I like how it tracks goals and accomplishments (now, later, and someday). Now to get my team engaged. It reminds me a lot of Rypple, which has similar social goals and feedback mechanisms. This is part of the answer to reinventing the performance management process – implementing social goals, tracking accomplishments/results socially, and evaluating effectiveness by socializing feedback. GoROWE!

Andy Lowenthal

I’m a supporter of alternative or even radical work environments as a way of achieving new and different outcomes — and I admire ROWE’s leadership in this area. I agree that results are more valuable than time card compliance. One question that I wrestle with is what happens when the desired results aren’t clear for an employee or team that operates within ROWE? Are ROWE failures correlated to ambiguous office missions and/or position descriptions? In other words, would stronger management make the difference?

Stacey Swanson

Andy- Great questions! When we help clients get to ROWE, whether they are in the public or private sector, we help them with the results piece. In a ROWE, the results are clear or there’s no ROWE. Strong leadership makes for a successful ROWE. There may be managers with varying skill levels and experience. For managers that need additional coaching, we rely on internal HR or other leaders to assist. And the key, employees have a voice in setting the results- it is not top down. That shift makes the results more clear as employees want to make sure what measurement is being used to evaluate their work.

Corey McCarren

At previous jobs, I’ve seen far too many people punch in and out just to not finish all of their required tasks. I think the ROWE model definitely requires trust, not just of the employees to do their work, but also to tell their employers if they have too much on their plate to accomplish in about 40 hours. There will be some 50 hour weeks, it’s just part of the model. The average limit should still be being in the office 40 hours a week, but if you’ve finished your required tasks plus some and it only took 34 hours, I don’t see the big deal.

Stacey Swanson

Corey- you make some key points, but the definite focus in a ROWE is achieving the results- not whether or not you achieved your goals by coming into the office each day. And by putting a limit on place and hours, it steers the conversation away from results. And who doesn’t want to see a government focused on results? I would welcome that! And love our government clients who are progressive in paving the way for results!

Andrew Krzmarzick

Is it as simple as breaking up tasks into something more akin to widgets that can be counted? For instance, the overarching task might be “Read and analyze the new Executive Order from the President.” Let’s say it’s 200 pages long. Estimate it takes an hour to read 50 pages. Allot an hour per day for each of 4 days. M, T, W, Th. Done by end of week. Next task might be: “Write up a summary” – and the process works the same.

Seems to me that this puts more impetus on employee and manager to think more specifically about the work that people are performing – how long it takes? what’s realistic for accomplishment? This approach requires a much more projectized work environment.

Stacey Swanson

Andrew- Looking at the measurement piece- first you are going to look at what outcome you want to achieve and then work backwards into the tasks/activities. For reading an Executive Order, what’s the outcome? Informed staff? Provide support to an agency? What happens if it isn’t read is sometimes a good way to realize an outcome. Once the outcome is established, the employee will determine what activities need to take place to achieve the goal. This approach can work for ANY job- call center, receptionist, project manager, IT programmer. Each role has an outcome they are working to achieve. Its tying the entire organization to that outcome that is key.

Terrence (Terry) Hill

Great advice Stacey – begin with the end result. Whether it’s to implement a new system, hire employees, train them, process retirement applications, process passengers through security, issues grants or contracts, rescue hostages, etc. We need to stop fixating on the 40-hour workweek, which is an arbitrary number, and 8 hour days. The line between work and personal lives is no longer clear and the modern-day contributor is not too concerned about that. It’s more important to make a contribution than just “doing time.” I’m a believer!

Inas Hafez

Interesting! I’ve always struggled trying to fathom time record, and how it actually relates (or not) to outcomes. Will surely have a good look at ROWE! thanks!