Rework – the diet Pepsi of business books

Image representing David Heinemeier Hansson as...

Another David with a crazy last name. Image by dhh via CrunchBase

The book itself is not as revolutionary as the title suggests. In fact Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson – who founded a successful software company by the name of 37signals – is full of platitudes, and a bit short on new content or new ideas.

Having been a bit critical, as with just about everything I read, there is some value there. What it lacks in content, it makes up for in inspiration. I left the book not having learned much, but with a bit more energy than when I started it, along with a bit more hope for mankind. Not much more, but secure in the knowledge that there are people out there that to a greater or lesser extent, get it.

Re-reading that last paragraph, I realized that I sound a bit like Dennis Hopper’s character (does it even matter which movie I go on to name?) in Apocalypse Now extolling the virtues of Colonel Kurtz. I guess there are worse things in life…

One of the other parts that struck me was the solution to the common complaint that plans often don’t happen and end up as a document that is never read or a paper exiled an obscure portion of your desk. Their solution was to forget about spending lots of time doing long term plans, and start planning what we’ll be doing this week, next week, and the week after. Long term objectives are fine, but stressing over the details is missing the point since they will inevitably change.

I’m pretty sure that 5 years ago, HP did not consider a scenario where their CEO would be involved in a scandal, they would hire Leo ‘don’t call me a lion’ Apotheker who would then decide that they should spin-off their PC business. If we were doing a risk analysis, what would the likelihood have been?

Also of note was the recognition of the role that inspiration plays. Work when you are inspired, whenever that is, because inspiration is temporary (and how temporary also depends on your company’s culture). Looking at the positive side of that coin, inspiration allows us to accomplish much more than we otherwise could. By multiples.

Evidence? Well, ok. Think about when Peter Gibbons decides that he is no longer going to be shocked by the door handle every day on his way into work. The efficiency depicted in follow-on montage is something to behold. That was a man inspired.

Stress, on the other hand, affects your health, mood, and outlook on life. Managing stress is a bit of a misnomer (it does damage whether or not the damage is presently visible or not)…my stress management plan is to not have any. Its about the journey rather than the destination here, though.

The other part that brought a smile to my face was about busywork. Does the piece of work you are doing actually get you closer to your objective? If the TPS report had gone out the door without a cover sheet, who would have died?

The problem that I have found is that most people, even when challenged will simply say it is critical, and if they can, force you to do it anyway. I’m not really sure what the solution is to that one myself other than if you happen to be one of those talented few who can separate necessary stuff from window dressing, try to get in a position where you have some autonomy. Often, you’ll just have to come up with those 19 pieces of flair. If you do wear the flair, at least make one of them subtly irreverent. Also, do it well by adding in something creative. Your soul will thank me.

Next up, Graham Green’s Our Man in Havana. Well, at least you can’t accuse me of being one-dimensional.


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