I’ve already written a bit about Jason Fried’s leadership and organizational ideas in a previous post titled, “Where Does Work Happen Best?” However, I hadn’t read the book it was based on. This month our team is reading “Rework” | Amazon Link. I wanted my team to read it so we could implement the best ideas from the book into our team. I loved the book. It is written for someone like me who appreciates getting to the big ideas quickly. The chapters are brief. The illustrations are cool. It’s meaty without feeling like I just read “War and Peace”. Because the chapters are more like thoughts, I can digest them easily and synthesize with my team the best ideas. Obviously we can’t implement everything in the book. But we can take the best ideas and try them out in our context and culture. Below is my top ten list of ideas from the book. And, like Fried suggests, I’ve trimmed it to a top eight.
Rework Promo Video
You Don’t Create a Culture
Fried says cultures aren’t created, they just happen. He says, “Culture is a byproduct of consistent behavior.” One thing I’m trying to do is change culture where I work. I can initiate and model. But according to Fried, I can’t manufacture it. It has to grow and evolve over time. Live it. Model it. Practice it. Eventually it will come.
Ignore the Real World
The real world is more than just an MTV show which, ironically, isn’t really real. The real world sometimes is the voice that says, “let’s be realistic here”, “I’m just trying to help”, and “It sounds pretty risky”. The real world sometimes responds with lots of criticism. In Christian circles it is couched in “love”. Fried says to ignore these voices. To innovate or lead, you’ve got to lead people towards something. The byproduct of this is that you’ve got to lead them away from something else. Ignore the rabble. That’s why they are the rabble. Fried says, “The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse. It’s justification for not trying. it has nothing to do with you.”
Planning is Guessing
This chapter intrigued me. I’ve learned as a leader you have to have plans. Detailed plans. 3-5 years out. If you don’t have vision, people parish, right? Fried says planning is guessing. He says, “Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.” The heart behind this polarizing statement is that plans need to be flexible. We can say, “We’re heading East and want to wind up in New York by Friday.” That’s a good plan. What kind of transportation, lodging, budget, and time you give to getting to the goal can be flexible. The point is we can’t see the future. We need to be flexible and pay attention to change around us. Fried says, “Decide what you’re going to do this week, not this year. Figure out the most important thing and do that. Make decisions right before you do something, not far in advance. It’s okay to wing it.” I’m not so sure I’m totally tracking with him on this, but he follows with, “Working without a plan may seem scary. But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier.”
Build half a product, not a half-assed product
This idea harkens back to things Dan and Chip Heath wrote in “Switch: How to Change When Change is Hard” | Amazon Link. One key principle in Switch is, “shrink the change”. When our ideas get too large, it gets overwhelming which can paralyze us and make it hard to communicate to those in the change. This chapter is similar. Fried says, “sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good. Cut your ambition in half. You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-assed whole”. He uses editing as an example. Many things get better as they get shorter – including our vision. He dove tails this idea in a subsequent chapter he titles, “Long lists don’t get done”. I think I see a pattern here.
Meetings are Toxic
I think my staff may resonate with this. How many of us hate meetings? Largely because they seem pointless and a waste of time. Fried talks about the idea that we don’t just lose an hour of productivity in meetings. For a staff of ten, you lose ten hours of productivity. That’s huge. His solution? Set a timer for the meeting. When the timer goes off, the meeting is over. Have a clear agenda ahead of time based on an issue or challenge. Work it through. Make decisions and then walk away. It’s simple.
Who cares what they’re doing?
I love this chapter. Fried gives us freedom to not copy. He actually has another chapter on copying. His point is that if we copy someone else, we get a dumbed down version of something. Look at the iPhone or iPad. The iPhone has been out since 2007 and still is waiting for an “iPhone killer.” The iPad has been out for two years and no tablet is yet to really challenge it. Apple didn’t look at everyone else. They innovated. Fried says, “focus on competitors too much and you wind up diluting your vision.” He finishes with, “Even if you wind up losing, it’s better to go down fighting for what you believe in instead of just imitating others.”
ASAP is poison
Fried makes things clear: “Stop saying ASAP. We get it. It’s implied. Everyone wants things done as soon as they can be done.” His suggestion: “Reserve your use of emergency language for true emergencies. For everything else, chill out.” Good words.
Interruption is the enemy of productivity
Earlier this winter one of my staff gave me a plush dog from Disney as a gift. Very thoughtful. The plush dog is Doug from the movie “Up”. A way to celebrate the way I’m easily distracted of off track. I love it. However, as a leader and worker, I need to understand this principle. It goes hand in hand with meetings being toxic. If we’re in meetings all of the time, we’ll never get anything done. Fried suggests we find our greatest windows of productivity and have “quiet time”. He calls it the “alone zone”. The staff agrees certain windows are off limits throughout the week and day. No calls, e-mail or chat. He also suggests using passive communication tools in collaboration. This eliminates “Tyranny of the Urgent” | Amazon Link. I’m sure he’d recommend a tool like Basecamp. Good thing we already use this.
What are some of the best leadership principles you’ve implemented into a team? Have you read Rework? What were some of your greatest takeaways? Comments and discussion are encouraged.