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Customer Review

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An OK read but not life changing, 3 April 2011
This review is from: The Way We're Working Isn't Working: The Four Forgotten Needs That Energize Great Performance (Paperback)
I'll start with a confession: I'm not a fan of management or self-help books, nor of management "gurus". Too often what they say is trite and condescending, opinions are trotted out as facts and simple messages are padded out with waffle and arbitrary diagrams, invariably using quadrants.

The criteria I used to judge this book were: does it contain any new insights? (one or two); is it well written? (it's OK); will it change my behaviour? (no); will it change the behaviour in my team or my organisation? (no).

I scribbled notes in the book as I read it and the word that appeared most often in the margin was "trite". Apparently "we live in a world of infinite distractions and endless demands." OK great, thanks for that. I also found out that it helps to get a good night's sleep and that in some cases depriving people of sleep has been used as a form of torture. Wow, I never knew that.

The book focuses on themes such as diet, exercise, sleep, creativity, energy and spirituality, offering various tools and techniques for getting the most out of ourselves. It may well be useful for the stressed, overweight, coffee-guzzling career-obsessed employee lacking self-awareness (let's call him Jeff). However, Jeff is unlikely to persevere with the book unless he has to and he will probably benefit far more from personal counselling or an enforced training programme. The book is probably less useful for the self-aware individual who exercises, has a balanced diet, enjoys a number of creative and social outlets and has a happy family life (let's call him Dave). Dave and his team may also thrive on the buzz of multi-tasking, juggling priorities, managing demanding stakeholders, enjoying a chat about sport during a (shock horror) cigarette break, going for a beer after work and so on. Perhaps Dave intuitively already "gets" the need for balance, "renewal" time etc.

Crucially, I failed to see the value of the book in promoting effective organisational rather than personal change. The authors admit in chapter 3 that they have come to the organisational side of things late in the day. Apparently "broad culture change depends on buy-in from the top". I'll remember to mention that to our CEO next time we're chatting in the office gym over a vitamin juice. Apart from getting buy-in, it wasn't clear to me what I / we needed to do next to make sure that the way we are working is working. For example, a lot is made of "power napping" but how do you implement this logistically in a large and vibrant open plan office, never mind culturally?

For those of you whose pleasure in reading derives partly from the quality of the writing, I'm afraid you are likely to be disappointed. The grammar is poor in parts and there are a few made up words. "It's begins with self-awareness"; "it was clear that he was deeply invested in his work"; "midafternoon"; "it does induce asleep" etc. Humour is also not high on the agenda and this is a pretty dour read.

So what about the positives? There are some very good quotes and insights from a wide range of people, including scientists, philosophers, poets, CEOs and religious leaders (maybe pinning up the odd Zen saying on the notice board could have a positive impact on our working day?). There are interesting snippets of information about various studies that have been carried out. I'm sorry to say I loved the rather cruel experiments, e.g. where diners' soup bowls were continually refilled through a pipe under the table without their knowing it, or where some secretaries had see-through glass bowls of chocolates while others had them in opaque containers (you have to feel for those poor secretaries who kept seeing the ever so tempting chocolates out of the corner of their eye don't you?).

In conclusion, there is a certain irony in reading a work related book about work / life balance when you could be spending the time relaxing with your family, being creative, doing sport or whatever. So what would I do if I could rewind my life and invest the time I spent reading this book in doing something different? I'm afraid I would do something different, like having a good nap maybe.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 16 Apr 2011 00:30:39 BDT
scramwag says:
This review is, dare I say it, trite.
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