Book Review: Rework

The book itself is well-bound and rather unassuming. Every few pages a black & white scribble marks the beginning of a new chapter. Some fifty-odd pages in I realized there where no chapter numbers. Each chapter is simply titled by a word that explains the content.

The content, however, is rather subjective. The authors wrote the book with an audience of people looking to start a small business in mind. A lot of the topics covered are common sense mixed with a few novel ways of discussing them. Some of the topics did inspire the marking of page numbers. I’ve noted them below.

Planning:  “Writing a plan makes you feel in control of things you can’t actually control.” (P19) The authors advocate short term decisions that can be reversed or allow for a change of course. The thought is a bit novel for my everyday life. Perhaps, I thought while reading, this would be the perfect way for me to get past my personal goals. Instead of creating a plan for the next 4 months, I’ll create this week’s plan. However, this statement is a little to broad for your average start up business. Many will take this advice with a grain of salt, but there are some with families and financial responsibleness who cannot fail to have a generalized plan. I think the authors should have commented that some semblance of a plan is necessary in this business environment, but to leave it open to change and not too detailed.  (P20)

Working Smart: My boyfriend Scott often expounds on the thought ‘work smart not hard’. In his industry, there are many programmer who focus on completing as much code as quickly as possible. While pushing to complete the project, they don’t take time to think about and plot out their code first. The result is a messy program that may work but will be challenging to update or debug. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson elaborate, “They try to fix problems by throwing sheer hours at them. They try to make up for intellectual laziness with brute force.” (P25) I think both Scott and the authors have excellent points. We are a society that puts great value on the amount of time employees spend working. When confronted with this idea, no employer will show preference for time worked over work completed. However, we need to shift the perspective of entire industries. Perhaps making people aware of this idea will encourage them to refocus.

Everyone as Customer Service: Much later in Rework, the authors suggest putting ‘everyone on the front line’. As I often hear within my office, we are all customer service people. The first two months of my employment were split between my actual position in the Marketing Dept and Customer Service training. Those hours spent working within the Customer Service Dept and listening in on calls exposed me to more issues, concerns, and the effect of our marketing campaigns than nearly anything I have experienced in my dept. It really is important to make sure those in the back offices spend time working with customers. There are just some things that reports, surveys, and forms cannot express. We learn best when we learn from each other.

Work Environment: This was one of my favorite chapters of Rework. Referring to incredible employees as rock stars, the authors say employers should not waste time searching for these super stars. Rather, they should spend more time trying to create the kind of workplaces that bring out the creativity and “rock stars” in their current employees. I have often droned on about this very issue. There is so much untapped creativity and productivity in every employee. We just need two factors, in my opinion. First, they must feel comfortable sharing new ideas, and, second, they need have the flexibility to play with ideas and be inspired.

In general, Rework disappointed. The amount of praise the book has received made me believe in finding some incredible unheard truths. It simply fell short. Fried and Heinemeier Hansson provide vague basic ideas for people looking to start a business. There were many items that seemed too industry, company, or personality specific to work for just anyone. They did have hidden gems about work environments and the hiring process. However, the book often reads quite nearly like instructions for business creation. Unfortunately, most people looking to use this book may find discrepancies between the book suggestions and their struggles simply because no one lives in a bubble. We are all affected by outside forces like families and responsibilities.




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