Book Review: Rework

When my coworker Omar lent me the book, he prefaced it by saying that I might not like everything it says because it goes against some of the ways we operate.

Personally, I think books that make you see things in a different way are the most inspiring.

Rework was written by 37Signals founders Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. 37Signals is a small software development company of 16 people located around the globe.  They keep their business model simple:  Determine a need and come up with the simplest solution to meet just that.   If it serves its purpose, people will use it, the company will stand behind it, and the product will be successful.  From this mentality, they have created a variety of web-based apps that serve millions of people including Basecamp, Highrise, Backpack and Campfire.

The book is organized into segments that include an artistically illustrated power statement that is then explained over the next page or so.  The copy is succinct, the illustrations are compelling and overall it is a quick and interesting read.

The main theme is around developing a new business, but I found a lot of useful tidbits and inspiration to use during project management and our daily workflow.

Some of the key insights that caught my eye:



illustration from the book

  • Make a dent in the universe. To do great work, you need to feel that you’re making a difference.  That you’re putting a meaningful dent in the universe.  That you’re part of something important.  You should feel an urgency about this too.  You don’t have forever.  This is your life’s work.



illustration from the book

  • Start at the epicenter.
    When you start anything new there are forces pulling you in a variety of directions.  There’s the stuff you could do, the stuff you want to do, and the stuff you have to do.  The stuff you have to do is where you should begin.  Start at the epicenter.
  • Decisions are progress – Making the call is making progress.
    Whenever you can, swap “Let’s think about it” for “Let’s decide on it.”  Commit to making decisions. Don’t wait for the perfect decision.  Decide and move forward. Long projects zap morale.  Make the call, make progress, and get something out now – while you’ve got the motivation and momentum to do so.
  • Throw less at a problem
    When things aren’t working, the natural inclination is to throw more at the problem.  More people, time, and money.   The right way to go is the opposite direction:  Cut back.  If you start pushing back deadlines and increasing budget, you’ll never stop.
  • Gear doesn’t matter – Tone is in your fingers
    You can buy the same guitar, effects pedals and amplifier that Eddie Van Halen uses.  But when you play that rig, it’s still going to sound like you. In business, too many people obsess over tools, software tricks, scaling issues, fancy office space, lavish furniture, and other frivolities instead of what really matters.   And what really matters is how to actually get customers and make money.  You also see it in people who want to blog, podcast or shoot videos for their business but get hung up on which tools to use.  The content is what matters.  You can spend tons on fancy equipment, but if you’ve got nothing to say…well, you’ve got nothing to say.



illustration from the book

  • Interruption is the enemy of productivity
    Think about it:  When do you get most of your work done.  It’s not coincidence that these are the times when nobody else is around.  A successful alone-time period means letting go of communication addiction.  During alone time, give up instant messages, phone calls, e-mail, and meetings.  Just shut up and get to work.  You’ll be surprised how much more you get done.

I could continue to put snippets from the book and add more anecdotes for success,  but these were a few that resonated with me.  I recommend this book to learn how to strip back the nitty gritty and the details and focus on what is important to meet your goals and be successful.