31 December 2010

Book Review

Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson

Read this book now!

That would seem to suffice as an accurate summary of this book and its importance, at least as far as I’m concerned.  The book is relatively short, clocking in at 271 pages, about a third of which are illustrations.  And the illustrations aren’t graphs and charts, either.  Thus, you needn’t worry about this being a difficult or time-consuming read.  It’s gripping, and can easily be knocked out in a couple of hours.  However, each chapter is best used as a launching pad for quiet reflection, so reading it all at once may not be a wise thing to do.

To that end, Rework is both fascinating and melancholic when read and reflected upon.  It is fascinating because it cuts away all the horse crap surrounding business startup.  It’s melancholic because, when you really think about it, the ideas presented in this book should be common sense.

The book isn’t traditionally structured, and doesn’t feature prolonged arguments about the nuances of business.  Instead, the book is organized thematically, and focuses on dispelling the myths that continually plague those thinking of running their own business.  This is a good thing, for most books on starting a business are boring and long-winded, and are not worth reading at all, unless they are technical in nature.

This book, then, is important for it dispels many myths and misconceptions.  The first myth attacked is that of make-work.  Fried and Hansson shift the focus of employee value from work to results.  This is important, for no one benefits from busy for the sake of being busy.  Indeed, if an employee can meet their work goals in twenty hours a week, it is foolish, not to mention cruel, to expect them to fill time withy meaningless tasks for the rest of the week.

In addition, the authors argue that planning is mostly a waste of time.  This does not mean that goals are foolish.  Instead, it means that businesses should focus on going somewhere or attaining some goal, and make decisions on the fly.  Of course, once explained, it actually makes sense to base decisions on principles instead of plans.

Another important principle touched on is that of focus.  Instead of being mediocre at ten things, a business is better off focusing on excelling at one or two things.  Also, a business would do well to focus on getting a certain type of customer, rather than just a customer.  From time to time, it may be necessary for a business to let a larger customer go, instead of changing their model for the customer’s whims.

The section on hiring is especially valuable.  This section, by itself, justifies the price of the book.

In all, the book is rather insightful, and the lessons are easily mastered, and should be easy to apply.  In fact, most of this should be common sense, but it isn’t.  One caveat, though:  This book is not intended for managers of large businesses.  It is intended for small business owners, though many lessons can be applied to throughout the world of business.  Unfortunately, these lessons will likely be ignored.

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