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Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency Results Only Work Environment case study


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CultureRx are thrilled to announce this landmark case study today from a client that was the first in the field of education to implement ROWE. In 2011, Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency began with a pilot program of ROWE for a group of 50 employees. The success of the pilot program brought a full-scale rollout of ROWE to all 240 employees in the organization.

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Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency Results Only Work Environment case study

  1. 1. Education Agency Demonstrates Value to Taxpayers by Focusing on Results How one organization led the way by becoming the first Results-Only Work Environment in education ALL CONTENT 2013, CULTURE RX. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
  2. 2. In August 2011, a group of 50 staff members at Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency (PLAEA) began to pilot a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE). Why did they want to go ROWE? What happened on the journey? And how does ROWE fit in with the education model? We will examine the results of the initial pilot program and the success that led to ROWE implementation for all 240 employees in the organization over the course of two years. INTRODUCTION Located in rural Pocahontas, Iowa, PLAEA’s mission is to ensure success for all learners through collaborative partnerships. The publicly funded organization serves school districts in 14 counties across 8,000 square miles. This includes 44 public school districts and 11 accredited non-public schools, which are comprised of 30,000 students and 3,500 educators. Jeff Herzberg is the Chief Administrator at the Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency. Herzberg’s leadership team brought CultureRx on-site for a Leadership Seminar in January 2011, and went on to adopt ROWE through an onsite ROWE Team Workshop in August 2011 for a group of 50 staff members. After the success of their initial launch, they planned to continue rolling out ROWE to the entire organization. In September 2012, PLAEA once again engaged with CultureRx - this time to conduct Train the Trainer ROWE Certification for selected individuals at the agency. Certified trainers implemented ROWE throughout the rest of their organization and now all 240 employees are in a Results-Only Work Environment. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  3. 3. The First Education Agency to Go ROWE School districts around the country have been facing many hardships: budget cuts, lack of qualified staffing, meeting educational standards, and demonstrating the “return on investment” to taxpayers are just a few of the many challenges facing schools in the United States. An excerpt from their initial Pilot Study explains why PLAEA chose to implement ResultsOnly Education: Like a wildfire on the prairie, the concept of a Results-Only Work Environment has spread quickly at Prairie Lakes AEA. Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It, written by Jody Thompson and Cali Ressler, can be found on desks, shelves and in the hands of staff members throughout PLAEA. Our desire at PLAEA is to create a workplace for the 21st century. We want a work environment that honors the adult professional and is truly “a workplace for grown-ups.” In a Results-Only Work Environment, people can do whatever they want, whenever they want, as long as the work gets done. At the same time Why Work Sucks made its appearance, we also connected with Daniel Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. We like to say that Pink provided the research and foundation, and ROWE is the vehicle we’re driving to work. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  4. 4. In order to attract, as well as retain, the amazing people already working at Prairie Lakes AEA, we realized it was time to shed the work environment of the 1950s. Attracting a new workforce to north central Iowa takes some creativity. We aren’t able to offer a signing bonus or compete with very many other companies when it comes to salary. What was going to be our edge? What would make Prairie Lakes AEA stand out from the crowd? Why would people want to work for us? We decided to take advantage of the perfect storm circling in the workforce and education. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  5. 5. Challenges Along with hiring and retention challenges, PLAEA faced financial struggles and dwindling budgets. With a geography that spans 8,000 square miles across 14 counties, the Prairie Lakes AEA region may be geography-rich, but they are losing population. While they may be geography-rich, they’re losing population. The area has seen enrollment drop by almost 3,000 students since 2005. The public schools that they serve have budgets based on the number of students in school districts. With the enrollment decline, the school districts now receive fewer dollars to meet the needs of the people they serve. On top of that, state budget reductions swept $1.4 million from their savings account in 2011. Their own workforce has been reduced, as well. The decline in enrollment means fewer kids to serve and fewer dollars available to employ staff. Expectations and ideas were shared with the 1,700 people who attended the Education Summit in July of 2010. The vision for education in Iowa was clear: “Now more than ever we, the taxpayers, expect you to produce results on our investment.” To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  6. 6. The Pilot In January 2011, Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson braved the cold Pocahontas winter (even colder than the Minneapolis winters they are used to!) to meet with all PLAEA leadership for a Leadership Seminar. The creators of the Results-Only Work Environment identified two outcomes for this session. Leadership Team members would leave the Leadership Seminar: 1. “Disturbed” about the lack of results clarity in the agency and fully understanding the definition of a Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE); and 2. Questioning beliefs about how we approach work and realizing that it’s time to throw out the notion of ‘workplace flexibility’ and move to Autonomy + Accountability through a Results-Only focus. Additional teams were studying the book which led to the question, “We want to be judged on results. When can we go ROWE?” In July 2011, the invitation to participate in a ROWE pilot went out to all Prairie Lakes AEA staff. About 50 staff members (16 teams) eagerly volunteered to be part of the pilot. The majority of these teams work directly with school districts. A few, such as the team of administrative assistants, are focused on more internal service and support. As part of the training workshops conducted by CultureRx, each team was responsible for answering five questions: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. What is your outcome? Who is your target audience? What activities will help you achieve your outcome? What activities will NOT help you achieve your outcome? How will you measure success? To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  7. 7. Herzberg reports on the success of the Pilot: Each of those teams at PLAEA became very focused on results -- a mindset that’s made a tremendous difference in our work. Staff report being more satisfied and more productive with their work, as they’re able to bring a laser-like focus to improving the learning outcomes of all the children and students we serve. Students and adults need to be engaged and active participants in the work they do --and we can accomplish this in Competency Based Education and our Results-Only Work Environment. As we move forward with expansion of ROWE to the entire agency, we believe that focusing on results ensures that the children we serve receive what they need to be successful. We are less focused on time now, as we know it is the results that matter. We are trying to block out the noise and clutter of all the things we used to ask people to do that did not lead to improved results for our students. We are moving to an environment in which we make all meetings optional; do not require people to update their calendars on a daily basis (they still keep one for themselves, because they know where they need to be to achieve their results) but rather focus on the work that needs to be done; and we are trying to involve more of our staff members in our Agency’s leadership. We hope that the people closest to the decision impact will embrace this enhanced autonomy and decision-making authority -- because we know that this will lead to a more effective and enjoyable work environment. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  8. 8. Results: An example in Special Education It’s not about the paperwork; it’s about the kid. PLAEA staff support teachers and students with various educational needs in the Prairie Lakes area. One of those needs is in Special Education. Special Education is highly regulated and bureaucratic. Through the groundwork done during the ROWE Pilot, staff found that they were focusing on paperwork, compliance, and checklists while losing sight of the real outcomes. They wanted to refocus their goals on giving each child what he or she needs and deserves, and setting appropriate measures to make sure that was happening. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  9. 9. David Cole, Special Education Consultant spoke about his team’s goals and how they were measuring results as a team: “Our goal with our ROWE project was to increase reading Accuracy rates when we began were at X. We were able to get in there with students and teachers in a collaborative model.... And it worked. Students raised reading accuracy scores and when we were done all of the students were reading above the 95th percentile.” [watch the video testimonial here] To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  10. 10. Organization-Wide ROWE Implementation With the successful conclusion of the ROWE pilot, all of PLAEA’s 240 staff members were eager to adopt ROWE throughout the organization. The leadership team at Prairie Lakes AEA made the decision to partner once again with CultureRx for the Train the Trainer ROWE Certification program. A select group of staff members became ROWE Certified Trainers, became responsible for training all of the remaining staff and implementing ROWE throughout the organization. A few of the key outcomes of ROWE at PLAEA: • • • • • Value to taxpayers with renewed focus on results Greater efficiency and productivity Talent attraction and retention Elimination of wasteful, non-productive meetings Clarity and direction in goal-setting/measuring Logistically, ROWE allows their staff to be more efficient and in control of their time. Most of the staff are on the road, driving to schools, meeting with teachers and students. ROWE held the keys to having the kind of “grown up” work culture that they needed to succeed and focus on results. Each professional was trusted to make the right decisions with their time, work where they needed to be, and not focus on a timeclock or face-time at the office. Connie Johnson is one of the employees who became a ROWE Certified Trainer. She says that the agency is now (August 2013) in the middle of hiring 30 new employees to replace retirees and a few voluntary turnovers, and adding new positions. She cites ROWE as a major benefit for attracting and retaining great talent. “We’re in a rural area so it’s difficult to sell the location to potential candidates. Knowing that they don’t have to move out of the larger cities to work at PLAEA is a huge benefit when it comes to hiring.” 100% autonomy and accountability are the reigning forces now at Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency. Johnson says, “We’re not just accountable for our time; we’re here to make sure kids are learning.” To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  11. 11. Employees listed the following results and “wins”: • The opportunity to work with principals and teachers and spend more time IN my schools vs. organizational meetings. • My calendar is not divided by home and work. I just worry about what needs to get done. I have become better at planning ahead vs being reactive. • Forming a productive relationship with a challenging district and being able to work strategically with them on current needs. • The powerful conversations that our staff are having now. Seem much more authentic and focused. Love to hear stories from our staff. • Working with a school who is now understanding that they NEED to have consistent behavioral interventions at Tier 1 and Tier 2. They aren’t implementing them as they need to but my goal is to get them there. • Go ROWE!!!! It has made such a difference in my work life as well as my home life. I have achieved a good balance, and my work gets done and gets done well. To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  12. 12. Testimonials for CultureRx Training: Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency (PLAEA) had the opportunity to spend two days with one of CultureRx’s Master Trainers for the Train the Trainer ROWE Certification Program. Our Master Trainer was a fantastic representative of the organization that prides itself in focusing on results. The results that our team accomplished in just two days were simply amazing. She was personable and fun, kept us on task to accomplish our goals, and had great content knowledge depth. She modeled the ResultsOnly Work Environment in everything she did. I cannot say enough positive things about our friends from CultureRx - but perhaps the greatest compliment is recommending them to my colleagues in education and other professions. If you want to change the way you work and the way your organization thinks about work, CultureRx is the prescription for you! Jeff Herzberg Chief Administrator, Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  13. 13. CultureRx’s Train the Trainer ROWE Certification Program isn’t just about learning the research and foundation of a Results-Only Work Environment. We were able to bring issues that we’re wrestling with and our Master Trainer was able to help us think through potential solutions. I LOVE working with funny, quick-witted and smart people and our CultureRx Master Trainer brought all of that to us. (Actually, all of the CultureRx friends we’ve worked with have those qualities!) Perhaps the best part, for me, was the firing squad. Having multiple opportunities to face questions and respond with “ROWE-approved” answers really prepared me for the future and deepened my resolve to moving this mindset forward at Prairie Lakes AEA. An added bonus - we now have access to all of the resources in the online community. We are committed to bringing a ROWE revolution to education!” Connie Johnson, Director of Marketing and Communication Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  14. 14. Learn more Learn more about Prairie Lakes Area Education Agency at About Results-Only Work Environment “The Results-Only Work Environment is one of the biggest ideas in talent in the last decade. ROWE is more than a nudge in the direction of more flexibility and autonomy—it’s a radical shift in the way we think about work, responsibility, and success.” —Daniel H. Pink, author of Drive and A Whole New Mind To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at
  15. 15. Results-Only Work Environment (ROWE) is a management strategy where employees are evaluated on performance, not presence. In a ROWE, people focus on results and only results, increasing your organization’s performance while cultivating the right environment for people to manage all the demands in their lives...including work. With ROWE: • Teamwork, morale and engagement soar, which leads to fewer workers feeling overworked, stressed out or guilty. • Employees have equal parts autonomy and accountability. • There is no judgment on how people spend their time, so people at all levels stop wasting the company’s time and money. Bottom Line for your Company: • • • • Increase productivity, innovation & efficiency Talent attraction and retention Optimization of space Elimination of wasteful processes Get CultureRx training for your team or book a speaker for your next event: visit or To lear n more about Results-Only Work Environment, visit us at