Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Evolution of T.I.M.E. - Part 3

With the intent of rolling this out at the beginning of 2009, the committee put together what we called the "T.I.M.E. Declaration," which consisted of ten bullet points outlining the underlying mindset of T.I.M.E. It was hoped that this would help others better grasp, and eventually embrace, this new workstyle. We started with ROWE’s 13 Guideposts and adapted them to fit our unique culture.

1. Work isn’t a place you go – it’s something you do. Nobody should feel guilty, overworked, orstressed-out as a result of their job.

2. Associates can work wherever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done and both internal and external customers are always taken care of.

3. Associates have the freedom to work in the style that works best for them as long as they meet the objectives and performance criteria of their job and have no negative impact on other Associate’s productivity.

4. Associates make themselves available on a consistent basis to other Associates via their choice of Instant Message, Telephone or E-Mail and manage expectations and their availability appropriately, realizing that there may be periods of time when the Associate is just not available.

5. People have an unlimited amount of "paid time off" as long as the work gets done. There is no concept of vacation or personal time. However, any hourly Associate is paid the vacation and personal time as defined by the company.

6. The company will not incur any additional expense or un-reasonable IT requests to facilitate associates working outside the office. It is up to the Associate to make T.I.M.E. work for them not look to the company to provide the solution.

7. All meetings with the exception of mandatory and staff meetings are optional as long as the Associate contributes in advance if their input is needed, reviews the notes from the meeting and is responsible for any action items that apply to them.

8. All internal meetings are open and anyone can attend any meeting including requesting a forum at the Team Leader Meeting. You must announce yourself or be logged into the Live Meeting to attend. It is up to the meeting facilitator to manage the flow and content of the meeting.

9. It is the expectation that all Associates including Team Leaders think through their goals and objectives and plan ahead to avoid last minute scrambles taking into account that external customer expectations may be different than ours.

10. No one is measured on how many hours they work or how they spend their time, just the results that they produce. There are no defined work schedules, only schedules defined to meet the needs of our internal and external customers.

The Declaration was sent to the entire staff on Dec. 22, 2008 by Jmîchaeĺe, with a note saying to review and discuss with your Team Leader any additional concerns or questions, as it was to be approved in the next Team Leader meeting. On January 7, 2009, the finalized T.I.M.E. Declaration was delivered to all associates and we were off and running!

Snow storms? Bring ‘em on! School vacations? Sweet, the kids need a break now and then. Got tickets for opening day at Fenway? Lucky dog, see ya!

The shift to the new workstyle impacted different people in different ways, as one would expect. For some, it was hard to fathom that they could just stop working and leave if they wanted to. You were no longer required to go into the office, and sit at your desk for a set number of hours. Instead, you were able to manage your work on your own . . . as long as it got done. I likened this to transitioning from high school to college. I don’t know if it’s still the case, but when I went to college, they didn’t necessarily take attendance in each class. Instead, if you missed class, you were responsible for the content and any work that was assigned. Get your work done in an acceptable manner, and you were pretty much good to go.

We were being treated like grownups. How cool is that?

Until the next installment,

Karen Mathews
Product Manager

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

The Evolution of T.I.M.E. - Part 2

The time for the meeting to discuss this otherworldly workplace notion finally arrived. As you can imagine, everyone was quite punctual to this one. Jmîchaeĺe gave a quick overview of something he’d been reading. He was very happy with his lifestyle and the freedom he felt and wanted to pass this along to all the associates in his company.

He cited a book called Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It by Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson, the developers of a management strategy called R.O.W.E. – Results Only Work Environment. He encouraged us to actually not read the book (yes, I cheated and went out and bought the damn thing on my way home that night), but instead consider their statement that “work isn’t a place you go, it’s a thing you do.” Also, imagine a work environment with no more vacation days, no more personal days. If you need to take time off, do it. It won’t be tracked anymore.

Whoa. I suddenly felt as if I were about 16 and my parents asked me to consider if a new Ferrari would work as my first car. There was a time of rather stunned silence, but then questions started pouring out. So anyone can work from wherever they want, whenever they want? Yes, as long as the job gets done. What if someone only works a couple hours a week? If they’re getting their tasks done, then fine. But we’d also have to consider if they have enough to do. So, someone could join a conference call while at the beach? Yup. What if you needed to contact someone who’s not showing online in our company IM system? Try calling them. If I want to take tomorrow off, I don’t need to submit anything or get approval? Nope, just post it on your calendar. And perhaps alert others who work with you, as a courtesy.

Good gravy! Could this be for real? It felt so liberating, yet unreal. How could someone possibly say no to this? There was initial excitement, but as the meeting progressed, folks starting airing some concerns. What about those who slack off? We still work with clients who have a traditional “workstyle,” so how to deal with that? What if you simply cannot reach a person who’s crucial to what you’re trying to accomplish? Do I have the self-discipline to make this happen? Will I be getting phone calls at 10 PM from someone who prefers to work late at night? Does this mean I’m “available” 24 hours a day?

It was a lot to consider. We started meeting in the late summer, with the idea of hashing everything out and launching this new workstyle at the beginning of the new year. One thing was crystal clear from the get-go, though. If you wanted to take advantage of this, you had to make it work. Don’t look to the company to provide all associates with laptops and T1 lines to their homes. There was immediately one hard, fast rule: MeetingMatrix was not to incur additional expenses because of this new undertaking.

We established certain questions we all needed to ask of ourselves and our departmental teams. We agreed to have regular meetings to consider next steps, and to get buy-in on all aspects of this endeavor which would show themselves over time.

First on the agenda, though, was to come up with our own name. There was a brainstorming session and we eventually agreed to go with T.I.M.E.,which stands for Task Inspired Management Environment. We absolutely loved the irony of that name, because one “mandate” is that no one is measured by how much time they put into the job, but rather the results they produce.

As word spread about what we were doing, the resistance we encountered was quite surprising. Initially, it was hard for other associates to look past the fact that there were no longer any vacation or personal days. It took a good deal of coaxing to get them to understand that it didn’t matter. Later, it appeared that despite completely eradicating all past “rules” of work, people needed guidelines to help them travel this new path. So, our committee had each person talk directly to their department to uncover and document concerns and questions, and bring them back so we could address them collectively.

To be continued (again)...

Karen Mathews
Product Manager