Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules for Smart Results Paperback – 28 Oct 2010
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Not for the meek, Hacking Work is for those who truly want to change the way they do business (Marshall Goldsmith, author of the New York Times Bestsellers MOJO and What Got You Here Won't Get You There)
Book of the Month (City AM)
About the Author
Bill Jensen is President/CEO of the Jensen Group, a change consulting firm he founded in 1985. He is also an internationally acclaimed speaker and the author of Simplicity: The New Competitive Advantage in a World of More, Better, Faster.
Josh Klein is the quintessential hacker - of social systems, computer networks, consumer hardware, animal behavior, and, most recently, the conference industry including TED and the World Economic Forum's annual meeting at DAVOS. He also speaks, writes, and consults on new and emerging technologies that improve people's lives.
Top Customer Reviews
We know that things change very quickly these days yet that organisations change slowly. The definition of a 'hack' is to manage to do something positive, benevolent and good for the organisation while not (potentially) following ALL of the rules. I used to work for an organisation where we were encouraged to 'ask forgiveness, not permission'. This is what they are advocating and it is a joy to see this encouraged. The only way we will get our organisations to change is if WE change them. And often the only way we can feel positive about our working environment is when we find 'work arounds' that work.
Like Bill's earlier work (The Simplicity Handbook), this book is clear, and well written, simple enough, but not too simple. However, actually doing it (hacking work) is by no means easy - they encourage you to be quite clear about what your values are and how you work to them and uphold them while still achieving the needful for your day to day work.
It is a book that is written for the American market so there aren't many European examples in the many case studies they present. But it will still work here. They have based the book on many interviews with people who are already 'hacking' work and these ought to be sufficient to give you ideas of what you can do in your situation.
Best of all, they connect with their readers via their Hacking Work website. What I like best about the book is that they help us to see how to get our power back, where it belongs, and take responsibility for using it wisely.
In his book Iconoclast, Gregory Berns explains, "The overarching theme of this book is that iconoclasts are able to do things that others say can't be done, because iconoclasts perceive things differently than other people." Berns goes on to explain that the difference in perception "plays out in the initial stages of an idea. It plays out in how their manage their fears, and it manifests in how they pitch their ideas to the masses of noniconoclasts. It is an exceedingly rare individual who possesses all three of these traits." In her article "How to Walk on the Leading Edge without Falling off the Cliff," Judith A.Read more ›
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The basic advice on hacking your work processes or relationships to improve your (and your company's) performance is valid and potentially useful but the entire book is written with the assumption that the reader works in a grey-walled, soul-sucking institution. The problem is that most of the people who might pick up a book like this no longer work in those grey-walled, soul-sucking institutions. We've moved on and we've been hacking our work all along.
Now I don't mind if a book reinforces ideas and practices I already follow as long as there is some new insight or a novel discussion of the subject. But I found the advice and anecdotes in this book wavering between very weak and obvious to ethically questionable and not much in between. On top of that the structure of the book was highly repetitive. Do I really need to read a one-page summary of the key points discussed in each and every 10-15 page chapter? Many sections of the book felt like padding to try and get the book to that magical 200 pages that business books seem to need to reach nowadays. They did mention building a hacker's toolkit of technology and techniques to help you in your quest; The one thing that may have held some useful nuggets for me. But the authors ultimately dodge the problem of discussing actual tools and techniques stating that everyone's toolkit is unique. Sure they discuss a couple things like Gmail, Google Docs, and Basecamp but if these are revelations to the reader then I'd like to pass along a message, "AOL called, they want their _1000 hours of Internet Access_ disc back. You still have it, right?"
To be fair I found myself cringing at only one or two examples that I found ethically questionable. For example, one anecdote is about an employee who hacked his company's expenses process by submitting a Mint transaction report along with fake purchase receipts. You read that right, *fake* receipts generated by a website that will happily sell you whatever fake receipts you might need. The logic is that this gets this employee out of collecting and managing his actual receipts or filling out his tedious expense request form. I suppose this employee only generates fake receipts for actual business purchases but when you have the ability to generate a receipt for practically anything you live pretty close to fraud-ville. Whether or not the fake receipts represent real purchases a financial auditor and Uncle Sam make not look too highly on the practice. But we're supposed to be questioning authority here, right? Silly laws, who needs em?
Another example was in a section that asked the question "Benevolent of Over the Edge?" One person placed a filter into their email system that would send her copies of emails mentioning her name that were not addressed to her. Tampering with email communications like that is, at minimum, ethically questionable and quite likely criminal in many countries. What? Wire-tapping is a felony, really? There is no guidance on this anecdote, the reader is left to consider the implications. I suppose if your moral compass defines "illegal" as "when you get caught" then this example might be useful but I hope the authors included that anecdote as an example of over-reaching during a hack.
All in all this book was wasted time for me. This could all have been written in one or two LifeHacker articles. If I can save one person two hours of their life then this review has been worth it.
Here are the 5 rules from chapter 5 to help you understand what this book is about.
1. Hack your new hire process.
2 Hack one small thing that saps your energy.
3 Hack the start of every new project.
4 Hack one big thing that destroys your efficiency.
5 Hack to make a world a better place.
Each one of these is followed by a vague and generic example statement, to give you an idea of what the authors are talking about.
If your intent is to learn how to navigate office politics, management, team mates, find a book on negotiation and go from there. This book is for a very specific audience, make sure you are the intended audience before picking up this book. I am not the target audience, did not find this book to be useful, or even entertaining. For this i'm rating this book at 3 stars.
And with that statement to begin my literary journey...I was hooked. No, seriously...I read the book in one sitting. It isn't often that a book is so well written, speaks directly to my passion and makes such profound common sense that I simply cannot put it down until I have consumed the whole thing. This is one of those very special exceptions!
Enough with the gushing...let's get to the heart of book's concept. Here's the premise as it was shared with me in an email by co-author Bill Jensen: Business is broken. Nobody's gonna fix it except you. (Each of us.) And to fix it, we're gonna have to break some very stupid rules.
Breaking these stupid rules is akin to "hacking" in the IT vernacular. In other words, fixing a broken system without any real permission because it is apparent no one else is willing or able to do so. Thus the name, Hacking Work.
Look, there are examples ad nauseum in the business world of bureaucratic rules, systems, policies and procedures that no longer serve any legitimate business purpose, if they ever really did at all. But they linger on...festering...killing efficiency...protected by corporate anti-bodies looking to maintain the status quo...getting in your way of getting the work done.
But the fix is simple. Change the process. Work around the procedure. Ignore the rule. In essence...hack work.
This book is filled with example after example of broken work systems "fixed" by brave employees who were willing to stand up to the status quo and change what needed to be changed. Yes, this concept of hacking requires bravery and a little bit of insanity. You could get fired. But what happens more often, these brave hackers are recognized for their initiative to patch a hole, right a wrong or simply just make everyone's workday a bit easier and simpler.
Hacking Work is a book written after my own passion. When faced with a process that doesn't work...fix it or ignore it. Don't be a lemming!