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REWORK - Book Review

Dr. Moria Levy

The book "REWORK" challenges many classic methods established over the years for running startups or companies. It is a collection of posts authored by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson, who own a small software company called 37Signals (about 15 employees). The book presents their managerial approach, urging readers to reconsider and question what they know.

 

The book covers the following topics:

  • Breaking conventions

  • Business Development

  • Professional Development

  • Work

  • Market & Customers

  • Management and operations

  • Organizational culture

 

I found some ideas in the book relatable, while others were less so. It gave me the courage to deviate from methods that might not be suitable for my own company, as well as the realization that there isn't a single right way to achieve success. This idea may be well-known to all of us, but we often find ourselves following conventional methods and potentially missing out on other possibilities.

 

I highly recommend learning a few things from this book and applying them each in their context.

 

Introduction - Breaking Conventions

In our current reality, we may not have noticed how much we are dictated by the "right" way to behave. This is evident in our scope of activity, where there is pressure to work around the clock, often exceeding 60 hours per week, creating a culture of workaholism. Similarly, there is a strong emphasis on planning, constantly focusing on developing and following work plans as a central component. However, this book challenges these conventions and offers a different approach taken by 37Signals. The main ideas presented in this book go against the norm, and the first and foremost idea is that it is not only permissible but necessary to break conventions.

 

Business Development

  1. Entrepreneurship: Let go of the term. Anyone starting a company is a "beginner." You only need some of the trappings with an entrepreneurial degree: no MBA, fancy accessories, elaborate clothing, or an excessive risk appetite. You need an idea, some confidence, and the drive to get started. Just take that first step.

  2. Valuable idea: In business development, the question of a solution's uniqueness and innovation always arises. Stop. Not every solution needs to detect or prevent cancer. Plenty of small ideas can be turned into valuable products or services. Don't only seek the "WOW" factor; if it's not there, don't assume you should give up. The key is to have an idea that can improve people's lives. That's it—nothing less, but nothing more. Don't just copy others' ideas; it's okay to be inspired, but make sure you bring something of your own to the table. When you're inspired, seize the moment and take action. Inspiration doesn't wait for an invitation.

  3. Urgency: To succeed in business development, you must have a sense of urgency. Feel that the idea needs to be promoted today, not in the future. Embrace that feeling and start doing, not just talking.

  4. For you: The best product or service you can develop is one you want to use yourself. Build something you need, not just something for others. Create a solution you would genuinely love for yourself.

  5. Time: Never say there's no time for developing a new idea. Interestingly, the busiest people often find time for new initiatives.

  6. Vision: The product or service is essential but should be backed by a vision - a purpose you genuinely believe in. Such a vision will drive the idea and attract enthusiastic supporters who will spread the word and enable future expansion.

  7. Investors: Other people's money may seem attractive, but it has drawbacks too. Take as little as possible from investors. Their money may lead to a) investing in investors at the expense of other essential aspects like customers and the product/service, b) losing control over decisions, c) becoming complacent with the money and other investments, and d) causing harm to the business in the long run.

  8. Resources: You usually need less than you think. A smaller office, fewer employees (where one person can handle multiple roles), and less time to produce a working solution can be sufficient.

  9. Profits: Prioritize profits and think about them every day. Don't build a solution without considering how to make money from it. Be realistic and have a clear plan for generating revenue.

 

Professional Development

  1. Strategy: Plan a committed strategy, not one where you prepare something and make a quick exit, leaving the rest for the next person.

  2. Roadmap: It's preferable to have a near-term plan rather than a long-term one. If possible, avoid commitments that you can't keep.

  3. Focus: Concentrate on a more straightforward product or service that does less but excels. Begin with the core essentials before addressing additional features. To determine importance, ask yourself, "If this component were absent, would we still have a solution?" Keep a list of things you've decided to forego in the name of focus. These can be considered for future expansion and improvement.

  4. Detailed planning: Start with a broad direction and delve into the details only after beginning the implementation. This way, you will have a clearer understanding of the necessary details.

  5. Content: Prioritize the critical aspects rather than the impressive ones. Focus on what genuinely helps the customer, not just what looks suitable for selling.

  6. Gradual progress: Set up small tasks with achievable milestones. Small wins provide motivation and energy for the future. Break down large tasks into manageable components to increase the chances of timely completion. Seek advice from others when necessary; you don't have to know everything on your own.

  7. Documentation: Minimize excessive documentation and prioritize actual work. While documents aid understanding and agreement, they should not dominate the process.

  8. Problem-solving: Don't immediately look for additional components when faced with challenges. Instead, consider simplifying the response to maintain control and improve overall results. Focus on what is essential now and will remain important in the future.

  9. Knowing when to stop: Sometimes, it's best not to continue a project simply because you're already invested in it. Ensure there is a valid reason to proceed, that the solution adds value, is helpful, and induces behavioral change. Assess whether there are better alternatives and if the effort is worthwhile.

  10. Launch: Wait to launch for additional capabilities or features. Set firm deadlines to push yourself forward. Stick to these dates as closely as possible and avoid seeking perfection. Look for quick wins instead.

  11. Learning from experiences: Learn from successes and failures, but be cautious about applying lessons learned from others' successes, as the context may differ.

 

Work 

  1. Experience First: Before assigning someone a new role, try it out yourself. This approach saves resources, postpones recruitment, and provides a better understanding of the role, leading to a more successful placement.

  2. Recruitment: Avoid rushing to hire employees. Only recruit when it becomes necessary. Similarly, when an employee leaves, consider if the position can be managed without an immediate replacement. Always have more work available than you can handle. Don't hire people to hire or invent roles to accommodate them. Ensure that genuine needs drive any recruitment. Hiring people with a real need may lead to satisfaction and eventual departure. Take your time with hiring, maintain comfortable company culture, and avoid having a collection of newcomers at all times.

 

During the recruitment process, don't overly rely on resumes as they may not accurately represent a candidate's capabilities. Instead, focus on dedication, personality, and intelligence. Years of experience are less crucial than the ability to work effectively. As many accomplished individuals have proven, formal education at prestigious universities may be optional for success.

 

Look for employees who are proactive and demonstrate the ability to work independently. Managers prefer individuals who can set their own goals and work without constant supervision.

 

In any role, prioritize candidates who possess good writing skills. This ability indicates strong analytical and communication skills, which are valuable in various positions.

 

Do not limit your recruitment to a specific geographical area. Remote work is feasible for many roles, and effective communication can be maintained with just a few hours of daily overlap.

 

Hire individuals for small projects on a trial basis to assess their suitability for future roles.

 

3. Changes: Understand that employees may resist change due to their attachment to habits. Listen to their complaints without becoming overly excited or defensive. Give them time to adjust to the changes, and if their feedback is valid, consider making appropriate adjustments.

 

Market & Customers

 

Competition

  1. Don't Fear Competition: Don't be afraid of competition; instead, offer something unique and focused. Providing a targeted response that stands out can create devoted fans.

  2. Acknowledge Competitors: Don't hesitate to openly express if you believe your competitors or the market, in general, are not up to par. Presenting a competitor as an "enemy" can be a compelling story for customers and may help sales.

  3. Protect Your Edge: Invest in your product or service and how it is sold. Create a distinct selling approach that is difficult for others to copy.

  4. Promote Related Products: Develop side products or complementary applications related to your primary offering and consider selling them as well.

 

Marketing

5. Embrace Marketing: View marketing as a mindset, not just a separate department. Encourage every employee in the company, including service personnel, developers, and administrative staff, to think about marketing.

 

6. Focus on Market Education: Instead of trying to outspend others in marketing, focus on educating the market about your offerings. This activity can attract people who believe in your brand and approach.

 

7. Share Knowledge: Share professional knowledge with the public. This doesn't diminish your marketability; on the contrary, it can enhance your reputation and build relationships. Share stories about the company and its activities, as people are eager to hear them.

 

8. Offer Free Samples: Consider giving away partial products or services for free. If they are of value, customers are likely to return for more.

 

Customers

9. Target Audience Building: Cultivate a target audience that may wait to buy from you but is interested in your brand and offerings. They might become customers in the future or refer others.

 

10. Prioritize Customer Requests: Take note of recurring customer requests. If something is requested frequently, it's worth considering and fulfilling. However, only agree to some customer requests if it leads to a financial loss.

 

11. Prompt Customer Service: Respond quickly to customer inquiries and don't keep them waiting. Allow employees to interact directly with customers occasionally, as it helps them understand and serve customers better.

 

12. Apologize When Necessary: Sometimes, it's essential to apologize. Apologize sincerely in the first person without making excuses or justifications.

 

13. Address Problems Proactively: When there are issues, inform your customers directly rather than letting them hear from third parties. Handle the situation with integrity and ensure it is addressed by a responsible manager, if possible.

 

Management and Operations

  1. Working Hours: Maintain a healthy work-life balance and minimize working at night. Ensure you have dedicated quiet time for focused work.

  2. Communication: Opt for passive collaborative tools that do not disrupt work progress.

  3. Appointments: Keep meetings to a minimum and carefully consider their duration. Reduce the number of participants and plan meetings with a clear focus on defining problems and finding solutions. Prefer meetings over open-ended discussions.

  4. Decisions: Make timely decisions and avoid unnecessary delays. Don't postpone decisions with phrases like "let's think about it." For more minor decisions, adjust them later if needed. However, refrain from making decisions solely based on enthusiasm. Prioritize what is genuinely essential.

  5. Long-Term Contracts: Minimize reliance on long-term contracts whenever possible.

  6. Embrace Constraints: Constraints can be advantageous as they force one to focus on essential areas. Sometimes, intentionally creating constraints can be a helpful approach.

  7. Balanced Managerial Thinking: Avoid extreme thinking using words like "should" or "can't." When communicating with employees, refrain from belittling their tasks' difficulty while maintaining realistic expectations regarding speed and efficiency.

 

Organizational Culture

  1. Evolution of Culture: Understand that organizational culture evolves gradually over time. Avoid imposing culture forcefully and, instead, foster it slowly and organically.

  2. Independence: Acknowledge that employees are capable adults who desire and can work independently. Cultivate a culture that supports and encourages independence.

  3. Work-Life Balance: Respect employees' time and send them home at five. Emphasize that productivity matters more than excessive working hours.

  4. Restrictive Procedures: Resist the urge to create restrictive policies hastily in response to every issue. Ensure that problems are systemic and necessitate permanent solutions before implementing new policies.

  5. Communication Style: Communicate authentically, using your natural voice. Tailor your messages to resonate with a typical employee, avoiding broad generalizations or misplaced statements.

 

That's it. I'm sure everyone connects with different statements. In my opinion, the trick is to think not about what we are already doing but about what else might be right – and how to make one change in direction—recommended (M.L.).

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