Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Book Review - Rework

Rework
by Jason Fried & David Heinemeier Hansson

Rework is a business book that every manager and entrepreneur should read.  It written merely as a collection of thoughts on a variety of topics such as productivity to branding and the result is a book that shows you how to build, run and grow a business.

The wealth of knowledge this book contains should cost a fortune to learn.  I have never read a single business book in all my years that had more take away value than this particular book.  It is that valuable and there is undoubtedly something for everyone.

Trying to summarize the book in a few paragraphs but give you some take away value at the same time is almost impossible so because of that I have assembled a quick summary (these are notes and highlights that I took while reading various chapters that struck me as valuable).

Key points highlighted and summarized:


Learning from mistakes is overrated - when something fails, yes you learn what not to do again but what do you really learn to do?  Instead, success shows you what actually does work, something repeatable that you can do again.


Be careful of longterm plans as they are merely guesses - it is okay to wing it and decide what you are going to do now as opposed to getting stuck making choices just because that is the plan you set for yourself.  Long term plans stifle improvisation.  They are important but when making choices, you usually have the best info at the time you are doing something, not when you are planning to do something.


Be mindful of workaholism - working for work's sake.  Working more hours doesn't mean you care more or get more done, it just means you work more. Workaholics cause problems because they like working hours as a badge of honor but they also tend to not get work done efficiently as a result. They claim to be perfectionists but this is a result of focusing on inconsequential details.  They make others feel bad for working less hours even if those other people just find ways to get their work done faster. 


Scratch your own itch - the easier way to make a great product or service is to create something you need. When you solve your own problems you know exactly what the right answer is as opposed to the uncertainty associated with fixating on someone else's problem and trying to fill a need that may not even exist.


If you have a big idea make it and act on it. Try to sell it and don't sit around on it.  The faster you move through ideas the closer you are to finding the one that really is great. 


Draw a line in the sand - stand for something. Have a point of view and know what you're willing to fight for. When you know exactly what you believe in, the choice is clear for customers. They will love or hate you but there will be no in-between.


You need less than you think - there is nothing wrong with being frugal and committing less people, money or resources to work.  If you stop to think about each decision like this you can probably get by with a lot less.


Embrace constraints - working with less forces you to be creative and get by with what you've got. Constraints force creativity and problem solving.


Start at the epicenter - the key thing that drives your business. To find the epicenter ask yourself, "If I took this away would the product still exist?" All the other stuff you do depends on the foundation.


Commit to making decisions. Decide and move forward.  Don't wait for the perfect solution.


Be a curator - decide what stays and what goes and eliminate until you are down to the bare essentials. Constantly look for things to remove, simplify and streamline.


Throw less at the problem - cutback and trim the fat. Improve upon what is left.


Focus on what won't change - the core of your business should be this and not the next new sexy thing. Permanent stays while fashion fades. Invest in that.


Meetings can be toxic - if you must meet have a clear agenda, set a timer and begin with a specific problem. Meet at site of problem instead of conference room and point to real things with real examples End with a solution and appoint a person responsible for implementation.


Long to do lists don't get done. Prioritize visually and break things down into small and motivationally manageable tasks.


Learn to say no first. Get your priorities straight and say yes and no accordingly.  There is more regret at saying yes than no.  Keep things right for you and your product.


Let your customers outgrow you. Just because some of your customers have to change doesn't mean you have to compromise your business. Changing your business just to satisfy one or two customers can make you too tailored to them and not a good fit for anyone else. Then when that big customer leaves you, your stuck.


Don't act on great new ideas on impulse. Let them cool and come back to them in a few days and evaluate their importance with a calm mind.


Make great products not ones that just seem great. Buyer remorse occurs when something seems better at the store than it actually is once you get it home.  That doesn't create longterm relationships. Great at home products get talked about.


Build an audience. Audiences give you a platform to share value driven information.  They listen when you need them too. Quit trying to reach everyone.


Out teach your competition. Tips, case studies and tools that educate them are key.


Be like chefs. All great chefs have cookbooks that show all their trade secrets, recipes and tips. Show people how you do things. No one is going to steal your recipes and beat you at your own game.


Go behind the scenes of your business. People love seeing how things work. They want to see how things are built. They will grow a deeper level of appreciation for what you do.


Be genuine.  Imperfections show the soul and art of your work.


Press releases are like spam. Instead of shooting out generic messages to everyone, make it personal to the person you want to reach.  Call, write a note, make it real.


Overnight success is a myth. It takes years of grinding through the work to get noticed. Slowly build an audience instead and get people interested in what you have to say.


Company culture is a byproduct of consistent behavior. You can't force it, you just create it overtime by encouraging particular types of behavior.


Great environments show respect for the people who work and how they work.  Give people the tools, trust and responsibility and they'll wow you.


When you treat people like children you get children's work. When people have to ask permission for everything you create a culture of non thinkers and a no trust environment. Policing costs time and money and kills trust.


Make people work smarter not for longer.  If you want something done, ask the busiest person. Send people home at five. Your goal shouldn't be more hours but better hours.


Don't scar the first cut. Policies born to correct rare mistakes just create complex and inefficient bureaucracies. Only create new procedures, rules and policies to attack common situations that often reoccur.


Write conversationally in business. Read it out loud and ask yourself if you were saying this verbally would it sound normal?


Inspiration is perishable. If you are inspired to do something today or ready tackle a new idea then do it because the drive, inspiration and motivation might not come again. 
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