on 4 June 2010
I want to like this book more than I actually do.
I want to like it because I agree with much of what the authors are trying to achieve. Or, at least, what I think they're trying to achieve.
The book sets out to challenge many of the assumptions we make about the world of work and commerce. And how we spend our time and structure our activities.
The authors make lots of good points about how inefficient and bureaucratic work often is. They draw your attention to the often bizarre characteristics of workplaces and offer ways in which it could all be different.
This is the sort of 'stuff' that I like.
Like most people, I've worked in several dysfunctional organisations. Like families, organisations (in either the public or private sector) do things that don't make much sense. But they do them because, 'we've always done it this way' e.g. 3 hour meetings where many attend just because they've got to be seen to be attending!
Rework then, sets out to offer us all an alternative.
But as a book, Rework failed for me.
I found the short (often very short) chapters, well, just too short. Arguments that needed further development were - I felt - left in mid-air, underdeveloped and under explored.
At times, the book felt like a loose collection of odd ramblings with no concrete structure upon which to pull concepts together.
Many of the suggestions would possibly work in smaller organisations but would cause real problems if you tried to apply them in bigger, more bureaucratic settings.
In conclusion, I highly commend the authors for trying to challenge how the world works. Things do really need to be re-worked. But so does, unfortunately, this book!
on 4 October 2010
This book is generally viewed as "brilliant", "awesome" etc.
It's OK. It's very short, more of a collection of tidbits than an actual structured argument .. and while there are some useful things in there it's not as revolutionary as some people seem to think.
It's an OK book .. probably better than OK .. but I think most of the praise comes because it's from the guys behind Ruby on Rails / Basecamp .. rather than because the book itself. Also, I can't help noticing that a lot of the people who say it's amazing don't actually seem to have run businesses .. so what might seem an amazing insight to them might just be "quite interesting" to a more experienced hand.
on 16 March 2010
If you've used any of the 37signals software products, you'll understand why the authors have an awful lot of credibility to write a book about running a small company.
ReWork sets out their vision of what has worked for them, getting from day one, to turning over millions of dollars, and having hundreds of thousands of customers.
The book is short, simple, and concentrates on the basics, rather than going into hundreds of pages of detail and case studies. This isn't, after all, an academic treatise needing lots of evidence... nor, however, is it an autobiography. Instead, it's a straightforward set of views about what they found works for them.
I would strongly recommend this book to anyone thinking of setting up their own business.
My only criticism of the book is that, while it has a wider scope than their first book - "Getting Real" - much of the material appears to be lifted directly. Getting Real was about running coding teams, this is about running the wider businesses. I'd NOT read Getting Real before - I ordered the two together, and read them back to back - this wasn't particularly worth doing. Read this one, and skip the older tome.
on 10 April 2010
I was very disappointed with this book, particularly in light of all the positive reviews. It reads like a series of pretty random blogs and while some good points are made, there's certainly nothing earth-shattering here. Apart from that I particularly disliked the large number of pages in the book which contained pictures or were title pages for chapters. (A "chapter" which is not even one and a half pages long does not merit a full page for it's title.)
If Joseph Schumpeter were to design a "creative destroyer," he would probably come up with a business thinker who bears a striking resemblance to Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. To me, they seem to be iconoclasts who are impatient to build rather than anarchists whose objective is chaos. They quickly indicate a healthy respect for the nature and extent of difficulty when challenging the status quo. But they are not deterred by that difficult, as their success with 37signals clearly indicates, and they probably have more confidence in their readers' (as yet) unfulfilled potentialities than most of those readers do.
Consider this passage in Chapter FIRST: "There's a new reality. Today anyone can be in business. Tools that used to be out of reach are now easily accessible. Technology that cost thousands is now just a few bucks or free. One person can do the job of two or three or, in some cases, an entire department. Stuff that was impossible just a few years ago is simple today." That said, Fried and Hansson realize that many people who read that passage will heartily endorse its spirit but decline to embrace and leverage the opportunities that the new reality offers. For them, the "real world" is defined by what James O'Toole so aptly characterizes in his book, Leading Change, as "the ideology of comfort and the tyranny of custom."
This so-called "real world" has advocates who, Fried and Hansson observe, "are filled with pessimism and despair. They expect fresh concepts to fail. They assume society isn't ready for or capable of change. Even worse, they want to drag others down into their tomb. If you're hopeful and ambitious, they'll try to convince you your ideas are impossible. They'll say you're wasting your time. Don't believe them. That world may be real for them, but it doesn't mean you have to live in it." By now you have at least a sense of the thrust and flavor of Fried and Hansson's perspectives on how (literally) anyone can rework what she or he does...and rework how she or he does it...to achieve and then sustain success in all dimensions and domains of one's life. Indeed, one of the most important insights shared in the book is that the most valuable business lessons are also the most valuable life lessons. For example, here are ten of several dozen that Fried and Hansson discuss:
Learning from mistakes is overrated.
Planning is guessing.
Scratch your own itch.
Not enough of [fill in the blank] is a cop-out.
Be a curator, not a custodian.
Reasons to quit.
Note: The material in this chapter is wholly consistent with the gambler's adage, "Know when to hold `em, know when to fold `em" as well as with Seth Godin's observations in The Dip: A Little Book That Teaches You When to Quit (and When to Stick).
Long lists don't get done.
Emulate great chefs.
ASAP is poison.
Granted, the tone of Fried and Hansson's narrative is sometimes confrontation, in-your-face, but I think that is necessary because their separate but related purposes are to challenge their reader to "rework" or, in some instances, "blow up" assumptions and premises about business success that are no longer true (or never were), and, to encourage their reader adopt a new mindset, then formulate and execute new strategies and tactics that will achieve sustainable business success.
If you need some fresh perspectives on how to get more done with less, including less stress, and with more joy, look no further. And if you share my high regard for this book, I highly recommend Godin's Linchpin, Guy Kawasaki's Reality Check, Scott McLeod's Ignore Everybody, and Hard Facts, Dangerous Half-Truths and Total Nonsense co-authored by Jeffrey Pfeffer and Robert Sutton.
on 25 November 2015
This book is nothing short of life-changing, if you are ready for it. It is quite unlike most business books in three major ways: it is more of a philosophical treatise, it is structured in aphorisms and it is passionately authentic.
This book is about the philosophy that the co-founders of Basecamp (formerly 37signals) stand by. The power of this idea is that they rely on logic, sound argument and reason—together with their objective success: Basecamp serves many millions of clients. This idealistic approach is a rare thing in a "business book"; it does not pander to its audience and is at times extremely blunt. This tone, which has all the hallmarks of the personality of Jason Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson (who is also the author of the Ruby on Rails framework), works perfectly. They state the principles that have worked for them and allow the reader to weigh its potential power on their own.
This places the onus of profundity strictly on the reader, and this makes for some truly incredible moments when you'll reflect: "This is just the thing I've been looking for."
There is no question that this—along with Derek Sivers' "Anything You Like" and Richard Branson's autobiography "Losing My Virginity"—is the most important book I have ever read about running a business, and the relationship between authenticity, passion and making a difference. I can do nothing but suggest that you purchase this book. You will find yourself reading it time and time again, which indeed is the hallmark of a wonderful book. It becomes wiser the more you allow it to seep into your consciousness.
I will say this: those who claim the book is "disjointed" are no doubt looking for something else. Whilst it is true that at times a short aphorism will end, leaving you thinking: "I want more of that!" This is just part of the brilliance of their philosophy. It is far better to be short, sweet, simple and pure than it is to go over-long. If you want more of their writing, you can find it on their company blog (Signal Vs. Noise), the co-authors' respective Medium accounts, their Twitter accounts and even some of the many talks they have given. ReWork stands as the core text of their business, and you can play with their instantiation of it by heading to Basecamp and trying that out. If you are interested in web design, I also highly recommend Rails. It, too, is opinionated, but that is what makes it so powerful.
The real power of this book is not that it provides powerful aphorisms for business. It is that you can apply these principles to any area of your life and instantly feel less stressed, more focused and clearer about what you stand for. The three principles I have found most helpful will give you a flavour of the book:
- Simplicity is a virtue. — Underdo your competition and focus on what you are best at. Don't add features you aren't passionate about. Remain pure.
- Just get started. — Instead of building up to a grand unveiling, simply get your product or creation out there with its main feature. Get some feedback, start tweaking, repeat.
- Iterate. — Following on from the above: iterate. Instead of grand new versions, focus on small, meaningful changes to your creation or product. See how your audience reacts and work from there. This is an embodiment of the Agile manifesto used by many programmers, and has been written about elsewhere (http://www.aaronsw.com/weblog/dalio), but it is a seriously powerful idea.
I strongly recommend that you buy this book; you won't regret it. Even if you disagree with some of the aphorisms stated here, like all good philosophy they will help you clarify your position. An invaluable book.
on 9 December 2013
"Rework" by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson (37signals company) is an interesting book which tells reader how to run your business to become more successful based on experience and choices authors' company made.
Although book is not brand new, things written inside are timeless and applicable not only in software industry, specifically online products which are 37signals company home ground. Their most famous application is Basecamp, popular project management tool with some features which differentiates their product from all others on the market.
This book is easy to read, although not too short it can be read in 2-4 hours depending on how quick reader you are and it's very easy to comprehend all the things written. As already mentioned, this book is not self-help, it gives reader more than advice - it will tell you how to do something - straight, plain and simple. This style can and probably will put off some people but it is matter of liking, either you do or you don't like it.
Most engaging book virtue is that a lot of written things are just common sense and obvious when you read them, but it's strange how you forget them when you run your own business. For most time I felt like reading a long list of bullet points than a chapters and for some things I even couldn't stop to quote them in everyday life.
Interesting view is that authors see this book as one of the by-products of building their business and encourage others to look for by-products when building their business, to develop them and sell for further enhancement business sustainability. Great chapter is also one about hiring. For them hiring new people should be the last resort, they explained a great concept of hiring managers of one - people who can manage their own productivity and make things done with the minimum or none input from their boss. Also authors will give reader some insight information how to find such people.
As always, there are some minor drawbacks, like contradictions between some chapters. Like in chapter `Don't confuse enthusiasm with priority' where is told that person shouldn't get carried away with new ideas right away but sit on it a little while before doing anything about it, just to make sure it is actually a good idea. But then in the last chapter `Inspiration is perishable' it is said the complete opposite - "If you want to do something you've got to do it now". So what should someone do, do something right now or wait?
Book is bringing many valid points from which any existing business can take from, even if most of them seem obvious. I recommend reading this book, it's worth couple of hours especially considering its accessibility and ease to get through. At least you will receive few good things to think about, something that will help change the way business is run and makes you more successful.
on 6 August 2012
Although there is no 'system' to Rethink, there is a method and a style. The method is to take no sacred cow or status quo for granted but to put all to a thoroughly pragmatic test. The style is to whittle each point down to a bare minimum and then rush on to the next. Rework is about bite rather than depth, practice rather than theory. But it would be wrong to place it in a motivational mould, neither is there one overriding motif beyond a challenging of orthodoxies in a fresh and positive way. Unless you count a love of leanness as a theme.
I liked it for two reasons. Firstly, it contains some insights that I thought but didn't have the confidence to say or try. After all, I don't have an MBA, so what could I know? For instance, under 'Hiring', the authors decry the worth of resumes and the usefulness of anything over six months of experience. Also, in 'Takedowns', I always suspected that learning from failure is overrated, planning is a synonym for guessing, and working yourself to death is dumb on so many levels.
Second, it filled my mind with a ton of fresh little experiments to try out in my own business. I especially found this to be the case under 'Competitors' ("decommoditize" or personalise your produce making copying impossible, and "pick a fight" with a big boy in order to contrast yourself with it and make a splash) and 'Promotion' (give away a little free stuff, build an audience not just a cliental, and, most brilliantly, "out-teach your competition" to establish your expertise and trustworthiness). For me, as a trainer, this last point sunk home.
There was an interesting and surprising emphasis on the power of writing through the book. For instance, they contrast optimal business writing with formal or academic writing (216). A criterion for hiring a quality employee, all else being equal, is the standard of their writing; it is a sign of clear thinking and empathy (222). When writing, sound like yourself, not some wannabe lawyer or corporate robot (263); this sort of everyday behaviour will create the right culture from the bottom up.
I would say that Rework is an ideal read for entrepreneurs (especially new starts), the self-employed and owners of SMEs. Those who work FOR someone rather than ON their own enterprise might find it a little shallow or all-too-easy sounding. Even then, the chapters on 'Productivity' and 'Damage Control' are applicable to any workplace. For those of us in the entrepreneurial (oops - 28) trenches it's a tonic; while not quite a tool box, it's certainly a box of tactics, tricks and twists on SOPs that make you want to experiment immediately. It may even shake up the thinking of some old campaigners out there.
Yes, it is thin on detail. Yes, some of the pics seem designed merely as space fillers. (A quirky but relevant diagram for each point would have served far better.) I found myself disappointed at the 'Resources' section, which was just a couple of lists about the authors' business and products. But as a call to action, experimentation and the overturn of many business clichés and customs, I found it highly valuable. I will be reading it and using it again. There's hardly a better recommendation than that.
on 30 December 2010
I liked this book. It's a very short and readable summary of about 80 "rules" that small, nimble companies do better than big, bureaucratic ones. Few, if any, were completely new to me, but they are all well reasoned and some are quite thought-provoking or even radical. Moreover, they're all relevant to big companies too, not only because they sell to small companies, but also because most are once again trying to think and act like the small companies they once were.
The rules cover many topics, from planning and hiring to damage control when things go wrong, but the one I've chosen to focus on myself is about personal productivity. If you've ever worked on a longer flight, then you'll know how much you get done when you're in the "alone zone", since you're offline and there are zero outside distractions. What I've always found, but never fully realised before this book, is that "getting into that zone [also] takes time and requires avoiding interruptions. It's like REM sleep: You don't just go directly into REM sleep. You go to sleep first and then make your way to REM. Any interruptions force you to start over. And just as REM is when the real sleep magic happens, the alone zone is where the real productivity magic happens." What this means for me, is that I simply need to reserve much bigger chunks of alone time than I thought before, like half a day at a time, and really simulate that "in-flight" situation of being completely offline while I'm doing my work.
If you decide to read this book, it would be great to hear which rule stood out the most for you!