New Series Tracks Shift in D.C. Government Office’s Work Culture

Behind the Scenes as Agency Transforms into a “Results-Only” Workplace

Washington D.C.’s Chief Technology Officer Bryan Sivak told his 550-employee agency in June that they would soon be transitioning to a “results-only work environment.” The so-called ROWE workplace is one where employees are free to work when they want, where they want—so long as they meet predefined goals. Electronics retailer Best Buy developed it at their Minneapolis headquarters in 2003.

Other private companies have since experimented with the radical workplace arrangement. But no government agency of this size in the country has attempted to “go ROWE.” Sivak is mindful of the myriad challenges he faces, from getting buy-in from skeptical employees to complying with a bureaucratic system that equates time spent—not results achieved—with work.

Sivak, a 35-year-old former Internet entrepreneur, believes ROWE will allow the D.C.’s Office of the Chief Technology Officer, or OCTO, to boost employee morale, reduce turnover, and increase productivity by 30 percent at a time of budget cuts and hiring freezes. He hopes to transform OCTO into a results-only workplace by January 2011, and has agreed to let the Center for American Progress’s Doing What Works project sit in on internal meetings and chronicle the agency’s successes—or failures—as they happen, in real time.

“Going ROWE,” the series following Sivak, will publish every Wednesday.

Editorial disclosure: CAP’s Doing What Works project is a Rockefeller Foundation-funded initiative that advocates for government reforms that save taxpayer dollars and improve the delivery of public services. To that end, we support initiatives like OCTO’s, especially when accompanied by rigorous performance measurement and public transparency.

We are nevertheless committed to an honest portrayal of D.C.’s ROWE experiment whether it succeeds or fails. In some circumstances, we will share written material with OCTO employees before we publish out of consideration for the privacy of the people depicted.

Articles in this series: