Book Review: RE-WORK

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I’ve been reading Jason Fried’s writings for over a year now. He is the Co-founder and CEO of Basecamp. Not only has he written best selling books, he is also a prolific writer and speaker (Signals vs. Noise, Medium, Inc., TED talks, etc.). I’ve listened to David Heinemeier Hansson interviewed by Tim Ferriss. He is the Co-founder and CTO of Basecamp, creator of Ruby-on-Rails.

After reading reviews about their book “Re-work” I finally decided that I needed to dig into this book myself.

Re-work

Let’s get one question out of the way: what does a couple of tech guys have to say to those of us in the building industry? The answer is a lot. While the tools and techniques used in tech may be different, what is not different are the people we work with and the business practices employed to do our work. What they have to say about business applies just as well to the foodservice industry, manufacturing, and yes, to the building industry.

RE-WORK: Breakdown

Re-work is broken down into twelve sections with short parts that are no more than two pages each.

The beauty of this is that I could read as little or as much in a day as I wanted and be able to “finish” with a part. If I wanted to chew on a particular part I just re-read it throughout the day.

The overall tone of the book is like one of the Old Testament prophets who would stand up and challenge the norms, common practices, and status quo of their culture. Jason and David challenge many norms in business. Here are a few:

  • Why 50-60-70 hour work weeks?
  • Say “No”.
  • Meetings are toxic.
  • Don’t avoid decisions. Make small decisions. Adjust. Small decisions keep the momentum going.
  • Interruptions kill productivity (which is part of why we “need” 50-60-70 hour work weeks).
  • Focus your efforts on what won’t change, don’t chase fads.
  • Don’t be all things to all people. Let customers outgrow you.
  • Don’t be a hero.
  • Sleep.
  • Do it yourself first.
  • Hire when it Hurts.
  • Hire managers of One.
  • Own your bad news (no apologies like, “I’m sorry you were offended”).
  • You don’t create culture.
  • ASAP is poison.

I did not walk away after reading this book wondering what the authors meant. It is right there and it challenges how I view business. Go get the book, I promise you won’t regret it!

RE-WORK: Application

What’s the point? The authors challenge the prevailing notions about business and offer alternatives. They incite us to ask “Why” about our practices and ideas. The value of the book is what we do with it after reading it. Keep asking why. Keep challenging the norms of your business.

Some examples:

Our customers want us to offer service “X”. Do we do it? Will this detract or enhance our bread and butter services? Will it stretch our manpower beyond capacity?

A customer asks for a project that we know we don’t have the capacity for. Do we say yes? If we say “Yes”, what will the effect be? Since we don’t have the capacity it will require overtime, all-nighters, etc. What is produced will not be of the highest quality, and because we don’t really have time for it, it will probably be submitted after the date the customer requested. When seen this way, saying “No” becomes not only more appealing but essential for survival. The customer, though they don’t like to hear “No” will at least respect the fact that you only want to deliver a quality product, on-time, rather than try to be a hero and produce a mediocre product late.

Consistently working over-time, a common temptation for me, skews the “numbers”. I may feel like I get a lot done, but if I’m not looking at the quality of those hours, I may not be as productive as I think. How many of the hours “worked” are really filled with distractions, interruptions, poor prioritization, etc.?

Working over-time feeds the ego. It is my way of telling myself I’m indispensable and the hero. What it might mean, however, is that I’m lazy. I’m too lazy to figure out which tasks are important and which are not. I’m afraid to say no and not be the “hero”. Placing limitations on my time forces me to prioritize what I do next and maybe as important, what I don’t do at all.

Do we value those we work with? Or are they just a means to an end? This is an important question as the effects will be far-reaching, touching decisions about hiring, remuneration, time off, capacity, expectations (explicit and implied)… everything!

Conclusion

We got a lot out of this book and will be applying its lessons for many years to come. We hope you learned enough about it to make a choice as to whether to get your own copy. We should note that we are not receiving a kickback for writing this post. We truly hope you find this useful!

Tim Hoke
Design Manager / Sales – Gould Design, Inc.

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