News item: Microsoft will not be building their “it was going to be amazing” Courier tablet. Read about it in this article, Microsoft Kills ‘Courier’ Tablet (with Update: New reports from Hewlett Packard suggest that HP has scrapped the HP Slate, a tablet unveiled by Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer earlier this year).
ReWork has a very simple piece of advice. Don’t try to out-Apple Apple. Here’s the quote:
Focus on competitors too much and you wind up diluting your own vision… You becomes reactionary instead of visionary. You wind up offering your competitor’s products with a different coat of paint.
If you’re planning to build “the iPod killer” or “the next Pokeman,” you’re already dead… You’re not going to out-Apple Apple. They’re defining the rules of the game. And you can’t beat someone who’s making the rules. You need to redefine the rules, not just build something better.
If you’re just going to be like everybody else, why are you even doing this? If you merely replicate competitors, there’s no point to your existence.
Maybe eventually you’ll need to go the bigger, more expensive route, but not right now.
There’s nothing wrong with being frugal.
I was on a conference call today. The person in charge of the computer screen was using Basecamp, one of the four products put out by 37Signals — the company founded by the authors of ReWork. They started small. They still have relatively few employees, and they are definitely still frugal. And yet, here is their product, changing the way people manage their information, and plan and implement projects.
You can succeed with less. Ask the 37Signals guys.
Why Not The Best?
“In your life was there ever a time in which you did less than the best?” If the answer was “yes,” the follow up question was: “Why not the best?” – asked by Admiral Hyman George Rickover (Admiral Rickover would ask this of all Naval Cadets, and the story was oft re-told by Jimmy Carter).
Good enough is good enough
“When good enough gets the job done, go for it. It’s way better than wasting resources (And, remember, you can usually turn good enough into great later”).
Fried and Hansson, ReWork
Think “good enough.” By “good enough” we mean absolutely, definitely, not our very best, not perfect. We are actively encouraging you to perform occasionally below standard… Men are better at saying, “OK, this is good enough in my eyes.”
Claire Shipman and Katty Kay, Womenomics
Six Sigma seeks to improve the quality of process outputs by identifying and removing the causes of defects (errors).
“Zero Defects” is Step 7 of “Philip Crosby’s 14 Step Quality Improvement Process”
Good enough is good enough – until it is not. Then good enough is a disaster.
I’ve thought about this a lot over the last few days. The thoughts were prompted by a couple of news items, with some numbers buried within the stories that have deeply bothered me, and a whole lot of other folks.
Consider these numbers:
Alan Greenspan, the former Federal Reserve chairman, said Wednesday of his two-decade career in government: “I was right 70 percent of the time, but I was wrong 30 percent of the time. And there were an awful lot of mistakes in 21 years.” (read about this here).
“86 percent of mines are safe.” (I heard this stated in an NPR interview by a spokesman defending mine safety – I don’t have a link).
The list is pretty long that describes business decisions, practices, “quality control” issues, where good enough is not good enough. The airplane safety was not good enough when the President of Poland and a plane load of others died in a crash that, at first reports, may have been caused by an unsafe airplane and pilot error.
Alan Greenspan was clearly not practicing the right levels of “good” when he was only right 70 percent of the time. In fact, when Greenspan said it, here was the response by the committee chair:
That prompted Phil Angelides, the commission’s chairman, to say Thursday that he would consider himself a success if he was right just 51 percent of the time. “I don’t aspire to reach what Mr. Greenspan thinks he has reached,” he said, in a sardonic tone.
And a mine safety figure of 86 percent mines deemed safe is clearly not good enough – just ask the families of the twenty-nine dead miners, as they labored for a company with an abysmal safety record and an attitude that clearly placed profits over human safety and even human life.
One of the true business and society and life challenges is this one: when is “good enough good enough” vs. when is “my best” critical?
I agree with the “good enough” movement – except when I don’t. I don’t mind a “good enough” free pen in a conference center. I don’t mind receiving a text message with a spelling error. But I would like the very best airline safety, if you don’t mind. And when Alan Greenspan argues that his 70 percent right was good enough (that is a “C-” in most grading systems), I think it is time to dust off Admiral Rickover’s question.
These are not from their book, but from an article in Inc.: The Way I Work: Jason Fried of 37Signals: Jason Fried hates lame meetings, tech companies that don’t generate revenue, and companies that treat their employees like children. A peek inside his typical workday.
These are great quotes, and describe a new way of thinking, a new way of structuring work, life, a company…
Creative people need unstructured time to get in the zone. You can’t do that in 20 minutes.
I have no idea how many hours my employees work — I just know they get the work done.
I spend most of my day writing. I write everything on our website. Communicating clearly is my top priority. Web writing is terrible, and corporate sites are the worst. You don’t know what they do, who they are, or what they stand for. I spend a lot of time taking a sentence and reworking it until it’s perfect. I love the editing process.
I spend another good portion of my day thinking about how to make things less complicated. In the software world, the first, second, and third versions of any product are really pretty good, because everyone can use them. Then companies start adding more and more stuff to keep their existing customers happy. But you end up dying with your customer base, because the software is too complicated for a newcomer. We keep our products simple. I’d rather have people grow out of our products, as long as more people are growing into them.
If anyone ever writes us with a complaint, our stance is it’s our fault — for not being clear enough or not making something work the way it should. I’m constantly keeping an eye on the problems that keep arising, and then we address them. But I don’t keep a list of all the complaints, because that’s too time-consuming. We also get thousands of suggestions. The default answer is always no.
My blogging colleague Bob Morris has written a number of posts from one book: Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. I am presenting it at the May First Friday Book Synopsis, and have now read it for myself. Now I understand why Bob keeps blogging anew from the book. You find something to comment on and highlight on practically every page, starting with Mark Cubans’s endorsement of the book:
“If given a choice between investing in someone who has read Rework or has his MBA, I’m investing in Rework every time… a must-read.”
It will be difficult to boil down into a synopsis. It is multiple subjects, very fast-paced observations, and very comprehensive – yet very focused. Try this for a partial summary: “get to work, now; don’t hire too many people; you don’t have to work 100 hours a week, just focus and get something done – now!; design products and services that you want and need, and an “audience” will find you;” and the list goes on and on…
Here’s just one quote from the very, very many:
“You should get in the alone zone. Long stretches of alone time are when you’re most productive. When you don’t have to mind-shift between various tasks, you get a boatload done.”
This is going to be a fun synopsis.
How do you choose your books for the First Friday Book Synopsis?
I’m asked this question all the time. And there is no good/easy/simple answer. But I have a master list of all the books that we have presented, and at the end (it’s just a very, very long Word document) I have pages of “possible” titles. Whenever I hear of any book, read about any book, read a review of a good book, see a new book on a best-seller list, it gets added to the “possibles” portion of this master document. (By the way, of all the items in my computer, this one document may be the one I would most hate to lose. Yes, I do back up! I learned to do that the hard way.).
We try to choose books that are useful, published by known publishers, either on, or have the chance of being on, best-seller lists. (We haven’t done many finance books). And then, it’s simply our choice. I choose books that I think I will like, and Karl Krayer chooses books that he thinks he will like.
For May’s First Friday Book Synopsis, I am going to present Rework by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson. Bob Morris has posted about this book a number of times on our blog, including his review of it here, and this post: Long lists don’t get done. Karl is still deciding on his book for May.
And – PERSONAL PRODUCTIVITY TIP: go right now to this web site, provided by 37 Signals, the company started by the authors of Rework, and set up an account. It’s free. It’s fast. You can immediately begin using their on-line list making marvel, Ta-da Lists. I promise you, you will like it – immediately!
Anyway, yes, you can recommend a book to me – and no, I do not promise that I will choose to present it. But I might. And I appreciate all suggestions.