Rework

{original squeezed contributor: PeteModi}

Rework is an invaluable book, I'd love to buy 1,000 copies and distribute them across the Pentagon.  Here are some of my favorite quotes from the book (there are many):

The real world isn’t a place, it’s an excuse.  It’s a justification for not trying.  It has nothing to do with you.

If you write a big plan, you’ll most likely never look at it anyway.  Plans more than a few pages long just wind up as fossils in your file cabinet.

Working without a plan may seem scary.  But blindly following a plan that has no relationship with reality is even scarier. 

The easiest, most straightforward way to create a great product or service is to make something you would want to use.  That lets you design what you know – and you’ll figure out immediately whether or not what you’re making is any good.

What you do is what matters, not what you think or say or plan.

Ideas are cheap and plentiful.  The original pitch idea is such a small part of a business that it’s almost negligible.  The real question is how well you execute. 

Embrace the idea of having less mass.  Right now you’re the smallest, the leanest, and the fastest you’ll ever be.  From here on out, you’ll start accumulating mass. And the more massive an object, the more energy required to changes its direction.  It’s as true in the business world as it is in the physical world.  Mass is increased by:

  • Long term contracts
  • Excess staff
  • Permanent decisions
  • Meetings
  • Thick process
  • Inventory (physical or mental)
  • Hardware, software, and technology lock-ins
  • Long-term roadmaps
  • Office politics

Avoid these things whenever you can.  That way, you’ll be able to change direction easily. The more expensive it is to make a change, the less likely you are to make it. Huge organizations can take years to pivot.  They talk instead of act.  They meet instead of do.  But if you keep your mass low, you can quickly change anything: your entire business model, product feature set, and/or marketing message.  You can make mistakes and fix them quickly. You can change your priorities, product mix, or focus.  And most important, you can change your mind.

“I don’t have enough time/money/people/experience.”  Stop whining.  Less is a good thing.  Constraints are advantages in disguise. Limited resources force you to make do with what you’ve got.  There’s no room for waste.  And that forces you to be creative.  

So sacrifice some of your darlings for the greater good.  Cut your ambition in half.  You’re better off with a kick-ass half than a half-ass whole. 

When we start designing something, we sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker instead of a ballpoint pen.  Why?  Pen points are too fine.  They’re too high-resolution.  They encourage you to worry about things that you shouldn’t worry about yet, like perfecting the shading or whether to use a dotted or dashed line.  You end up focusing on things that should still be out of focus.  A Sharpie makes it impossible to drill down that deep.  You can only draw shapes, lines, and boxes.  That’s good.  The big picture is all you should be worrying about in the beginning. 

When things aren’t working, the natural inclination is to throw more at the problem.  More people, time, and money.  All that ends up doing is making the problem bigger.  The right way to go is the opposite direction: Cut back.  So do less.  Your project won’t suffer nearly as much as you fear.  In fact, there’s a good chance it’ll end up even bigger.  You’ll be forced to make tough calls and sort out what truly matters.  If you start pushing back deadlines and increasing your budget, you’ll never stop. 

The core of your business should be built around things that won’t change.  Things that people are going to want today and ten years from now.  Those are the things you should invest in. 

Whenever you can, divide problems into smaller and smaller pieces until you’re able to deal with them completely and quickly. Simply rearranging your tasks this way can have an amazing impact on your productivity and motivation.  For example, break that list of a hundred items into ten lists of ten items.  That means when you finished an item on a list, you’ve completed 10% of that list, instead of 1%. 

Never hire anyone to do a job until you’ve tried to do it yourself first.  That way, you’ll understand the nature of the work.  You’ll know what a job well done looks like.  You’ll know how to write a realistic job description and which questions to ask in an interview. You’ll know whether to hire someone full-time or part-time, outsource it, or keep doing it yourself (the last is preferable, if possible). 

You want a specific candidate who cares specifically about your company, your products, your customers, and your job.  So how do you find these candidates?  First step: Check the cover letter.  In a cover letter, you get actual communication instead of a list of skills, verbs, and years of irrelevance.  There’s no way an applicant can churn out hundreds of personalized letters.  That’s why the cover letter is a much better test than a resume.  You hear someone’s actual voice and are able to recognize if it’s in tune with you and your company. 

Too much time in academia can actually do you harm.  Taking writing for example.  When you get out of school, you have to unlearn so much of the way they teach you to write there.  Some of the misguided lessons you learn in academia:

  • The longer a document is, the more it matters
  • Stiff formal tone is better than being conversational
  • Using big words is impressive
  • You need to write a certain number of words or pages to make a point
  • The format matters as much (or more) than the content of what you write

It’s no wonder so much business writing winds up dry, wordy, and dripping with nonsense. People are just continuing the bad habits they picked up in school.  It’s not just academic writing either.  There are a lot of skills that are useful in academia that aren’t worth much outside of it. 

Bottom line: The pool of great candidates is far bigger than just the people who completed college with a stellar GPA. 

Own your bad news.  When something goes wrong, someone is going to tell the story.  You’ll be better off if it’s you.  Otherwise, you create an opportunity for rumors, hearsay, and false information to spread. When something bad happens, tell your customers (even if they never noticed in the first place).  Don’t think you can just sweep it under the rug.  You can’t hide anymore.  These days, someone else will call you on it if you don’t do it yourself.  They’ll post about it online and everyone will know.  There are no more secrets.  People will respect you more if you are open, honest, public, and responsive during a crisis.  Don’t hide behind spin or try to keep your bad news on the down low.  You want your customers to be 


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