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Things To Read (Book Reviews)

Sam Bridegroom  |  Posted Tuesday, September 13th, 2011 at 10:16:00 PM

It's been many years since I've read an entire book, and I've managed to actually finish two of them in the last few weeks. Don't get me wrong, I read a lot (as those who have received links from me at all hours of the night might attest), just not usually books. The iPad makes it much easier for me to actually sit down and read (and the Kindle app for iPad makes it quite affordable). So in the spirit of trying to "expand my horizons", I'm reading some new things.

Since I'm out of practice when it comes to book reading, it's a sure bet that my attempt at writing reviews will look equally rusty. But I'll give a shot anyway. Maybe not call them reviews, but really quick and dirty summaries of what I liked. They're both worth the effort to read.

Image:Things To Read (Book Reviews)Rework, by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson

The authors are the founders of the software company 37 Signals, and have a very fresh approach to business. It's a very progressive and fresh approach to working, and in most cases is very different to the management principles and framework with which I've been associated. That's probably why I enjoyed it so much.

This is very much from an entrepreneur's perspective, a mindset to which I can very easily relate. Things like:

 - Want to make a great product? Make something you want to use. Scratch your own itch first.
 - There's always enough time if you spend it right. Personally speaking, I'm making changes in my world to make time for the things I want to do. It's really a liberating feeling.
 - Foregoing sleep is a bad idea
 - You don't create a culture. It happens by itself through consistent behavior.
 - Decisions are temporary. They can change as needed. Don't borrow trouble, worrying about problems that may never materialize. This is a concept I've followed for years.

These are only a few of the thoughts that got my attention. I'm not going to recite the book - because I can't do it justice. What I can say is that after reading it, I have an energy to do new and interesting things (business-wise) that I've not had in quite a long time. You'll be seeing and hearing about those things in the coming weeks.

Jason Fried also does a TED talk titled "Why Work Doesn't Happen At Work" - it's also worth the 18:00 of your time.

Image:Things To Read (Book Reviews)Read This Before Our Next Meeting, by Al Pittampalli

This was suggested to me be a colleague. I don't have as much opportunity to run meetings as I used to, but I get invited to enough of them to know when they are run (in)effectively. Most are not. I can say that because, frankly, I do run meetings pretty well when they're mine to run.

This book was a great reminder of a lot of the meeting management concepts I developed over the years. My first career was in banking - and might I say some of the meeting-est bunch of people with whom I've ever worked. It was toward the end of that part of my professional life where I learned the value of effective meeting management. I've carried those lessons into my current roles - and it still amazes me how poorly most meetings are run.

The book focuses on Seven Principles of Modern Meetings - I'm not going to list them here (because you need to read the book), but there were three that were fresh approaches from what I'd practiced for so many years; not necessarily different concepts, just different (more concisely stated) angles:
  • The Modern Meeting supports a decision that has already been made.
  • The Modern Meeting rejects the unprepared.
  • The Modern Meeting refuses to be informational. Reading memos is mandatory.

There are a couple others not mentioned here that are key companions to these - it really takes all seven principles to make it work. And it will work. I've seen it work. What I need to do now is find a way to make my time spent in meetings more meaningful. If that means nudging a meeting owner to stay on task, or simply to decline attendance because I've got nothing to gain or offer, I'm going to start doing it.

Funny side story - when I finished the book, I tweeted it. The next morning, I got a reply from the author. It's these things that make Twitter so interesting.

One theme that was consistent in both of these books is the value of time - not just my time, but also that of others. Time, from a business perspective, is expensive. Ridiculously expensive when you really think about it, particularly when you start totaling up the collective time spent/wasted in meetings. Add a few management types, and the cost skyrockets.

In January, The Wall St Journal ran a piece on how meetings were run in the NYC Mayor's Office. They were short, sweet and to the point. The 37 Signals blog also referenced this article.

What was the secret? Count-up clocks.  Things like this:   TIM! - The Time Is Money Calculator.
Image:Things To Read (Book Reviews)
Plug in the hourly rate and the number of attendees, and it's really easy to see just how expensive the meeting is. In other words, a not-so-subtle reminder not sit around and meet - go get things done.

I'm inviting TIM! to my next meeting - which is tomorrow morning. I'm betting the total will be an eye opener. I'll report back.

In the mean time, go read these books - they're very good.

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1Abby Butts  9/14/2011 1:07:20 PM  Loved Rework

I really enjoyed Rework and it definitely makes you question why you do the things that you do. Doing something because that's the way its always been done won't work anymore.

Read This Before Your Next Meeting is next on my list and I will be borrowing TIM! for future meetings!

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