Rework is a different sort of book. It takes the challenges of running a business and breaks them down into bite-sized chunks. The book is organised into several areas of running a business and is very easy to read. It can be used quickly as a reference book. Each subject is small, short and pithy.
In the first chapter the author’s talk about the realities of running a business. Whilst the book was written in 2010 most of the things they talk about are timeless, and valid in these days of change, more now than then. In business many things are counter-intuitive and the way that we operate our businesses and our ambitions and challenges, may not follow expected “rules”. The book highlights that counter-intuitiveness many times, around delivering change, or scaling the business or our ambitions.
In bigger companies, the overhead of “the way things are done” can, and often does, constrain change. As small businesses, we can change quickly, if we choose to. ReWork provides insights into how best to do that.
Mistakes and Planning
In the first section, the book talks about learning from mistakes, about planning, and working too hard. Planning, for example rarely matches the reality of what happens when we get down to do the actual work. It is a fiction, useful to measure progress against, perhaps, but they worry that a plan can lead you down the wrong road. Plans force directional decisions before you have the information to make them. Plans make change harder because of your investment in the plan, not reality.
I entirely agree. That’s why I advise the clients I mentor to set intentions and aims in the long term and take action in the short term based on what moves the business forward. If a new opportunity appears then we assess that not by what is in a plan, but by how it might change, or accelerate realisation of, our intentions.
Another key point that is discussed is failure. If something consistently fails change it; a single failure is rarely an indication of a systemic problem. We should understand the failure, but we should not rush to change. The authors talk about creating a dent in the universe by scratching the things that caused us to itch. It’s about recognising what we regularly feel. Something that we know, for sure, that we should change.
You need less than you think
One of the key messages throughout the book is that we often need a lot less than we think we need and that we should not seek perfection in everything. Being ready to move quickly means that we can get and win business we would not otherwise win. Especially if we can address issues in the market faster than those who are less agile. Seeking perfection kills agility.
Too often we get bogged down in details early on when we haven’t even got the clarity of the big picture. For me, these are great reminders. To really focus on what matters today. Whilst keeping an eye, perhaps only one eye, on the long-term goals.
The book moves on to talk about productivity. There is little in this section that any experienced business person would disagree with. Examples include an opinion that meetings are (generally) toxic and swallow time too quickly and that estimating the time things will take is rarely accurate.
On our competitors. The authors invite us to “pick a fight”, to find the things on which we are different and to stand for the difference. In my experience, in my business, a focus on what I do differently has led me to create a successful mentoring offering that draws on my knowledge, skills, and experience. Those are things which others do not have. I recognise where my strengths are and the unique value that I bring to my clients. So, for those who need those specific skills I am the mentor that can support them best.
Saying goodbye to customers
The book continues by reminding us that we should let our customers outgrow us. That you are never going to serve everybody forever. As our customers’ needs change they will diverge from what we can provide and we should let that happen with delight at their choices.
On marketing, the book recommend that we should build an audience rather than seek popularity. I entirely agree. Building an audience focuses on serving their needs and they recommend giving the audience the opportunity to experience what you do to attract others too it.
On reputation they invite us to fully own any bad news and know how to say sorry (and mean it). We build trust in our client base when we do that, we exterminate trust when we don’t.
It’s a cultural shift
Finally, the book delves deeply into culture. The way that we operate our businesses, things that we say that we will do, and our intended tone of voice has to be reflected in the way that we work. For example, if we have a value that work and personal lives are both important then we need to welcome when our teams head home at five o’clock. The discipline of breaking from work has a real benefit in efficiency, it is amazing how much can get done in a shorter time when we know that what’s being measured is output. Not attendance.
They conclude that inspiration is perishable. The things that inspire us, will not inspire us forever but the ideas will remain. If you really want to do something, you’ve got to do it now while you are inspired to take action.
Reference and enjoyment
This is a book I recommend you have on your shelf. That you read, it’s an easy, enjoyable, read in a few hours from cover to cover. Once read, I’m pretty sure you’ll return to the book from time to time. When you do it will nudge you back to a more effective way of working that will deliver the results you want.