Best Buy ends flex schedule program that OPM tried


Federal Times last December brought you the inside story of how the once-ballyhooed Results-Only Work Environment program fizzled when it was tested at the Office of Personnel Management. In a sad postscript to that story, Best Buy — the home of ROWE, where it was first pioneered in 2005 — has just announced it is also canceling the ROWE program.

According to CNN:

Best Buy said some of the 4,000 non-store employees who took advantage of its work-from home program still may be able to telecommute or set flexible schedules. But as of Monday they’ll no longer have the freedom to make those decisions without a manager, as they had in the past.

[…]  [L]ike Yahoo, Best Buy has since fallen on hard times, and the company recently brought in a new CEO. The big-box retailer has struggled to compete in a market increasingly dominated by online stores like Amazon, and ROWE didn’t fit into the company’s turnaround plans.

The twist that set ROWE apart from your run-of-the-mill telework program is that employees had complete autonomy to decide where and when they worked, as long as they got the job done. Want to skip town, go to the beach, and cram a day’s worth of work in from 10 p.m. to 2 a.m.? That was possible under ROWE, assuming you could get everything done that was expected of you.

According to reports exclusively obtained by Federal Times, ROWE flopped at OPM because managers weren’t able to hold poor performers accountable, employees had no idea if they were succeeding because they weren’t getting enough feedback from their managers, and the quality of work slumped in some cases.

While ROWE is still in effect at other businesses and local governments, it’s a disappointing development for a management idea that once was touted to be the next big thing. OPM Director John Berry at one point hoped ROWE would transform the federal workplace, and after its initial success at Best Buy, was featured on the cover of Businessweek magazine.

UPDATE: Best Buy spokesman Jonathan Sadler provided this statement: “We of course believe in employee flexibility and are simply just looking for it to come in the context of a conversation between that employee and their manager. It used to be a right about which a manager had no say, now it’s that conversation.”


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  1. moretothestory on

    Just another borrowed off-the-shelf idea by HCM consultants at the OPM who simply lack the focus and breadth of experience to develop original and creative productivity measures. Once the leading flagship of our national government with respect to human capital management, OPM continues to demonstrate it no longer has the capacity to fulfill this role in the 21st Century. In short OPM has become largely irrelevant in the 21st Century. OPM leadership has openly proclaimed they no longer can (will) provide oversight to a number of HCM programs and have gone as far as lobbying agencies to support dismantling a number of government wide personnel programs which call “outdated, too rigid…” etc. Yet OPM officials have failed to offer any details on what or how these dismantled programs such as current federal hiring, classification of positions, pay, etc. will be replaced. Dismantling these programs as proposed by OPM given its current and growing record of failed projects, initiatives, etc. would be catastrophic. OPM’s past and continued failed oversight, failed leadership and new mission priorities have compromised OPM’s capacity to lead federal HCM in the 21st Century. More effective, efficient and responsive options readily exist today that can provide the consistency, uniformity and needed oversight of federal HCM programs at a fraction of the FTEs, time and costs currently spent by the OPM.

  2. moretothestory is exactly right. OPM leadership chases the latest shiny object (i.e., closing “skills gaps”), but they lack the intellectual capability to execute true solutions. The internal culture at the OPM is focused on pleasing the political appointees and ignoring true subject matter expertise. The inmates are running the asylum and the only answer for true HCM professionals is to leave. That’s what I’m doing.

  3. Perhaps ROWE is why you can NEVER get waited on if you are foolish enough to actually attempt to purchase items in a Best Buy store. They are best when used as a physical showroom for online retailers. Look at Best Buy, handle item at Best Buy, purchase item online and have it mailed to your home. Waiting for it to be delivered 5-8 days is still better service than you receive at Best Buy.

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