TIARA: The essence of a results-only work environment

There is increasing recognition that an employee's performance is rarely determined by how many hours they spend at their desk. While there is a separate discussion on whether it is useful to focus on individual performance at all versus creating a high performing team (the short answer is: it depend), in either case the measures required are similar.

Moving to this type of environment, variously referred to as an activity-based workplace (ABW) or a results-only work environment (ROWE) can be summarised in the TIARA principles:

  • Transparent: The results required of an individual or team should be documented and to the maximum extent possible, public.
  • Integrated: Peers should have visibility of the work being accomplished by individuals, even if they are operating at a remote location or from home.
  • Aligned: There should be a clearly-defined link or series of links from the activities being completed and the strategic objectives of an organisation.
  • Responsible: During planning, employees must be given the opportunity to accept responsibility for their workload as reasonable, and if not, to suggest a compromise level of accomplishment.
  • Agile: Planning and review cycles must be short and consistent to ensure that assignments remain relevant and of maximum value.

If you are serious about managing based on results rather than attendance, these principles are essential. They align incentives while empowering your employees to achieve sustainable patterns of results which are of value to the organisation.

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Tom Graves (not verified) — Sat, 12/10/2013 - 18:57

Good points, Stephen. One question, though: I don't see anything here to deal with the dimension of distance from 'results' - the way in which an essential contribution may be several steps removed from the point-of-end-delivery.

There's a crucial distinction between linear versus systemic: TIARA easily covers the linear-connection case, but I'm not sure how well it would cover the systemic-connections. For example, a staffer who spends much of his/her time helping others to achieve their outcomes will probably deliver not much in results that can be directly attributed, but will have very real impact on results that would need to be indirectly attributed. If the indirect connections are 'invisible' because of a linear-only model, people can be actively penalised for helping others to deliver needed outcomes - resulting in significant damage to overall results. A linear-only model also actively rejects any value for the work of enterprise-architects and other generalists - or even, for that matter, for any form of management.

Your Transparency dimension should help in this, and perhaps also the Integrated and Aligned dimensions, but would this be sufficient? If not, what else would need to be added to TIARA to make it work better at a systemic level?

Stephen Bounds — Sat, 12/10/2013 - 23:12

Thanks for your comments, Tom.

The concept of a staff member who is vital to overall performance of an organisation, even if they have few tangible outputs is difficult for many to grasp. I've talked a few times about adjusted plus/minus metrics in the past as a way of tangibly measuring contributions to a team, but the difficulty is whether a meaningful score could be determined in the context of an entire organisation of hundreds or thousands of employees.

"Alignment" is actually the main game here. Transparency is primarily an accountability and co-ordination mechanism; Integration is about maintaining a cohesive and well-operating team when traditional bonding mechanisms based on co-presence are weak or nonexistent.

Ultimately, if an organisation is both Agile and Aligned, then everyone knows what is most important to achieve next, and that prioritisation is an accepted view globally. In this context, the choice of where to focus indirect or enterprise-wide support becomes far simpler: Just always contribute to the highest priority activity that can benefit from your expertise.

The obvious objection is that a short-term focus leaves more strategic work stranded. However, this is only true where the selection of priorities ignores long-term strategic considerations, and where consideration isn't given into how to chunk long-term execution into immediately actionable chunks.

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