It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work | David Heinemeier Hansson

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2018: Book #45

“So imagine the response when we tell people that we don’t do goals. At all. No customer-count goals, no sales goals, no retention goals, no specific profitability goals (other than to be profitable). Seriously.”

Uhm…what the heck?

This is a quote from the new book, “It Doesn’t Have to be Crazy at Work” by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson.

Fried and Hansson are the founders and leaders of the company, Basecamp.  It’s a cloud-based project management system.

This book—and their philosophy—is nothing short of nuts. Their goal is a calm work environment. Almost every chapter mentions that as the goal. They want calm.

They don’t do staff meetings.
They don’t do in person presentations.
They don’t try and cultivate family culture at work.

As a whole, the book isn’t bad. They have some good ideas. It’s their overarching philosophy that is flawed.

People spend a third of their day at work.  Let’s make it fulfilling, rewarding and fun. Let’s not remove the people factor so all they do is work. That would be boring and quite lonely, in my opinion.

Here are a few quotes:

“You can’t expect people to do great if they don’t have a full day’s attention to devote to it. Partial attention is barely attention at all.”

“At Basecamp, we’ve tried to create a culture of eventual response rather than immediate response. One where everyone doesn’t lose their [explitive] if the answer to a non-urgent question arrives three hours later. One where we not only accept but strongly encourage people not to check email, or chat, or instant message for long stretches of uninterrupted time.”

“It takes great restraint as the leader of an organization not to keep lobbing ideas at everyone else.”

“That’s what we did with our Chicago office at Basecamp. Rather than thinking of it as an office, we think of it as a library. In fact, we call our guiding principle: Library rules. Walk into a library anywhere in the world and you’ll notice the same thing: it’s quiet and calm. Everyone knows how to behave in a library. In fact, few things transcend cultures like library behavior. It’s a place where people go to read, think, study, focus and work. And the hushed, respectful environment reflects that.”

Bull…that’s my reaction. A library culture? Oh heavens no! I want people interacting with each other.  Why? If we can interact with each other well, then there’s a higher likelihood we’ll interact with the listener, donor, or customer in the same way. In my mind, a library culture would see the customer and their questions as an interruption. That’s a problem.

The eventual response versus the immediate response—this is really about the heart of the person. I’m impatient and I realize that about myself. However, I can’t interpret someone’s lack of immediacy as a lack of passion or care. They could be working or focused on something else.

Now, back to the beginning about them having no goals.  Bull, again! I cry foul.

I guarantee they know how much it costs to operate. The operational cost becomes a goal for income. Income is directly tied to customer acquisition. Customers are the revenue stream for Basecamp. You’ll be out of business very soon if you don’t know your numbers, set goals, and try to lead a team to hit them.

With all that said, I’ll say this…

I want the company I lead to continue to be a great place to work. We’re working on ideas to help teams rest during long fundraising days. We have plans that will help team members be able to stay at home instead of losing weekends to parades or concerts. Ideally, at the end of the day, we want our work to have meaning and provide for our families.

Do I recommend the book? Nah.

It’s odd and strange.

I give it 2 out of 5 stars.

That’s book #45 for 2018.

7 more  to go before I reach 52 for the year.

Remember, all leaders are readers.
If you want to be a better leader…be a reader.
#52in2018

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