I just finished reading Rework by Jason Fried and David Hansson and found it to be a very interesting treatise on what “right” can look like for a small business. The authors do a great job of deconstructing the assumptions around “corporate” behavior, and the alternative work environment they describe seems almost Utopian.
Whenever I read books about behavior and organizations, one of the mental filters I try to put the ideas through goes something like: “Would this work for a non-profit volunteer group?”, “Would this work for my local McDonalds?”, “Would this work for a government agency?”. I don’t do this in order to find flaws in a model, but rather to understand it better, to identify assumptions, and to see what truths in the model might be universal or transferrable. The main blocking point to pulling some of the ideas in the book into any organization would be that there needs to be a baseline of mutual trust and respect that might be lacking in some arenas. With that said, I think many of the lessons on decision making, planning, and communication can be helpful wherever they are applied.
To a certain extent, the advice in the book is prescriptive and not necessarily transformative. This is by design, and I see a lot of great ideas for avoiding pitfalls that many entrepreneurs, managers, and employees fall into. It’s hard to find any direct critique because the tone is very conversational and easy to read, and instead of telling the reader what they should do without any real backing, they simply describe what has worked for 37Signals. It’s folly to argue with a set of behaviors that have shown to be successful over the years.
If I ever find myself starting a small business, or working at one, this will be a definite periodic re-read. As it stands now, I’m trying to absorb how these ideas fit into my personal sphere of influence.