Gently Down the Stream

Jun 8, 2022
Kate Walton

Hello from Steyer!

I’m back from my trip and writing once again in real time.

Today’s topic is ROWE, which stands for Results-Oriented Work Environment. Steyer has long operated with a highly distributed team, but over in the back office we’re taking things one step further by potentially going “full ROWE.”


You can learn more about ROWE via this excellent discussion (it’s free, but you may have to register). In the meantime, the too-long-didn’t-watch takeaway is this:

  • Unlike hybrid models, or even WFH (Work From Home) models, jobs on a ROWE team are not associated with any set place. There are no rules, or even guidelines, regarding where one works.
  • Unlike flex schedules, jobs on a ROWE team are also entirely detached from the concept of hours: there is no set work week, and there aren’t even “core hours.” A ROWE employee can work whenever they choose.
  • And (sit down for this one!): every single meeting—no matter who convenes it—is 100% optional. If you want to have a meeting, you need to tell people why and check if they’re willing to make it. As a result, there are literally no mandatory, recurring meetings.

Along with all of this autonomy of course comes a sky-high level of accountability. Each team member is equipped with a crystal-clear picture of what they need to deliver (seriously: I offered to laminate each “results” slide). And the understanding is that remaining on the team requires delivering against every single one of those commitments.

We are in the very early days of this experiment, so all I know now is that:

1. Elon Musk would hate it.

2. It’s not simple: while everyone on the team seems to appreciate the added freedom to manage their own energy and shape their own days, many also miss the camaraderie that comes from working at the same time and in the same place—even if that “place” is a digital watercooler like Slack.

So why is ROWE worth trying? Because (Pollyanna that I am!) I think we can course-correct over time to address the downsides and, if we eventually manage to get it dialed in, I think it will be an extraordinary competitive advantage, allowing us to attract and retain the best, most diverse talent. So, stay tuned—I’ll continue to report out!


P.S. Three more things for those of you who have another minute:

1. A quick aside to all current Steyer consultants: right now we are confining our ROWE experiment to the back office. Two reasons:

  • The full ROWE plunge can be quite disorienting, and we want at least a few months to work out the kinks before we make any new proposals to all of you.
  • We also need to think through the best way to apply ROWE principles to T&M engagements which are by definition measured in hours. We think it’s doable but it’s trickier than with managed work or salaried roles, and we will of course need to get both your buy-in and the buy-in of our clients, whom we want to keep right on delighting. So, no immediate changes for now—but we’re eager to engage with you on how to shape your Steyer experience going forward.

2. Relevant to ROWE is this meetup (open to all) that we’ll be hosting on June 22. Content professional Marrelle Bailey, who recently committed to a nomadic lifestyle, will be discussing van life!

3. That Good Jobs graphic that we promised to publish twice a year? Look for the first incarnation of it to hit our site on June 30th. The debut version won’t be as visually beautiful as I hope it will one day become (perhaps when all companies feel compelled to share such information?). But it will provide a clear snapshot of where we are in our mission to create as many high-quality jobs for creative professionals as we possibly can. We’re collecting fresh data over the next few weeks, finalizing the best way to display this information, and then *whoosh*: there it will be, blinking up at you.

Photo by Karim MANJRA on Unsplash