Book Review: Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It

Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It
is a great book.

I've always thought that traditional work would eventually transition to contract work where people get paid to produce certain results. The problem with that is not all work fits contract work. Cali and Jody have envisioned (and implemented!) a workplace with traditional employment instead of contract work where people are measured by results, not time. I think that's pretty amazing. They call it ROWE, Results-Only Work Environment and they've implemented it at Best Buy.

The problem with most work environments today is that they reward the amount of time we work, not the amount of work we get done. The authors suggest a couple of strategies:

  • Stop making negative comments about time, "Sludge". So don't joke about how late someone got in, don't apologize for getting stuck in traffic, don't note what time email was sent. "Stop using the words early and late and antiquated terms like by the end of business today. Stop talking about how many hours you work or how hard you're working."
  • Make sure you are results-orientated. Every employee should know what their goals are and be measured on their results, not hours worked or time in the office.

By doing this, you treat employees like adults, they'll be happier and they'll do more real work as opposed to more made up work to look like they are working. (Like arriving at 7:30am and reading the paper online for the first hour.)

While the authors had a lot of good advice and how to, I wish they'd spent less time talking about how great peoples' personal lives are in a ROWE environment (I buy it but I think their examples just made ROWE seem like a boondoggle.) and more time on how much more work gets done. Because in order to get companies to buy in to ROWE, they need to understand that much more work will get done. Or at least the same amount of work will get done and employees will save hours and hours of "being in the office" or attending unnecessary meetings.

I also think that open source embodies the results-only model. In open source people only see what is done. They don't care how many hours you spent sitting in front of your computer. They don't care how many meetings you attended or how many conferences you went to. You are measured by what you get done. (I also think they are pretty good at recognizing non-code type work, but that's for another blog post.)

FYI, I liked the book Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It: No Schedules, No Meetings, No Joke–the Simple Change That Can Make Your Job Terrific much better than I liked the authors' blog.