Wednesday, January 18, 2012

REWORK, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework is recommended by Frédéric Williquet. Frédéric is a Managing HR Consultant at SD Worx

This publication stands in the same category as Kawasaki's Enchantment and Ferris' 4-HourWorkweek. Bold, smart, short, easy to read, these books do not try teach us any theories, but they let us feel the trends of the 21th-century workplace.

Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson are the leaders of a successful software company called 37signals. In this book, they share the recipes of their entrepreneurial success and give their points of view about different aspects of launching and running a company.

The book is hard to synthesize. It is a collection of ideas and statements about how a business should be run. It could have been titled “Lean Business” or something like that.

Things They Like

Here are a few examples of what Fried and Heinemeier Hansson are in favor of:
  • Constraints, because embracing them enhances creativity;
  • Good enough (a case against perfectionism);
  • Quick wins, as they fuel momentum;
  • Tiny decisions, because they are temporary and thus let you change your mind when you realize you've made a mistake;
  • Fights: naming your enemy (a big competitor) helps you get noticed and ignite passion;
  • Underdoing one's competition, meaning that developing a product that has less features than the competition can be a very competitive strategy;
  • Saying no, i.e. resisting the temptation to satisfy every customer request;
  • Obscurity, defined as the period when your company is too young and small to get noticed, allows you to make bolder choices;
  • Great writers, because good writing is a sign of clear thinking;

Things They Hate

And a few of the things they advocate against:
  • Workaholism, because it leads to inefficiency: workaholics prefer staying late and feeling like heroes than imagining smart solutions and focusing their energy on what really matters.
  • Learning from mistakes, as learning what not to do is not as useful as knowing what to do.
  • Outside money: the investors will always end up telling you what to do, with their own financial interests in mind.
  • Mass, i.e. procedures, formal rules, policies, long-term contracts and road maps, office politics, etc. don't let you change things as quickly as you'd like.
  • Meetings, which are basically a massive waste of time.
  • Heroes, because sometimes it's better to be a quitter than a hero. If you realize that a task is going to be much more difficult or time-consuming than anticipated, you should give it up.
  • Estimates, as we human beings are really bad at estimating.
  • Long to-do lists (don't get done).
  • Press releases, which are comparable to spam.
  • ASAP, because when everything you ask is “ASAP”, people can't tell anymore what is really a priority.

What's in It for HR pros?

Rework has an interesting chapter about hiring. It can make us think again about the way we recruit and select. For example, in the authors' view:
  • Resumes are spam. They are of much less use than cover letters.
  • Requiring five years of experience is irrelevant.
  • We should exercise a profession ourselves before hiring someone else to do the job (OK, that might be easier in small companies than in Fortune 500 corporations!).
The book also offers a fresh perspective on our work habits. We in HR might play a key role in fighting against bureaucracy, workaholism, or useless meetings. In our own organizations, big or small, we could be the advocates of the type of lean management presented by Fired and Heinemeier Hansson.

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