Got 2 1/2 hours? Watch Project Runway and On The Road with Austin & Santino … or …

Read Rework. It’s written so snappily, it’s just as entertaining as wacky reality TV personalities. When I needed a book to last a flight from Chicago to San Diego, this fast happy read lasted from O’Hare to Oklahoma. But that’s OK. That’s exactly what the book is about — more results, not more work and more hours. The authors wrote a book the way they believe business should be done. Now that’s acting on your beliefs!

If you want a jolt of evidence that work can be done differently, get this book. It’s a business book that’s relevant for public health too. It challenges you to think the opposite of conventional wisdom. A few gems …

Many of us in public health would like more resources, more people, more to have more. The authors wonder why organizations always want to grow. Instead, they use the advantages of a small organization:

Embrace the idea of having less mass. Right now, you’re the smallest, the leanest and the fastest you’ll ever be. From here on out, you’ll start accumulating mass. And the more massive an object, the more energy required to change its direction. It’s as true in the business world as it is in the physical world.

They argue you don’t need to be bigger to make big change, and in fact, constraints can make you better. Think about tiny organizations that can say what they mean. They can advocate. They can push buttons. They can act where larger organizations have barriers preventing this.

This next tip is a twist on “don’t sweat the small stuff” advice. A theme throughout this book is, don’t plan too much too soon. For public health professionals trained to have plans for everything, this is a mindbender. But I’m gonna break out the Sharpies and try this …

When we start designing something, we sketch out ideas with a big, thick Sharpie marker, instead of a ballpoint pen. … They encourage you to worry about things that you shouldn’t worry about yet, like perfecting the shading or whether to use a dotted or dashed line. You end up focusing on things that should still be out of focus. A Sharpie makes it impossible to drill down that deep. … The big picture is all you should be worrying about in the beginning.

So true. While we are making perfect straight lines we aren’t using creativity to solve problems. While we are planning perfect plans, we aren’t acting.

In public health we often seek to change culture:

Artificial culture is paint. Real culture is patina. You don’t create a culture. It happens. … Culture is the byproduct of consistent behavior.

This is a great visual analogy to remind us that we can’t force culture to grow. It must come from within.

It’s a fun read. My copy already looks used n’ abused, many page edges turned under, passages underlined, favorite parts starred. If I shared them all here, there’d be major copyright violation. Let’s just say the book challenges prevailing thought about many things we do daily:

  • learning from mistakes is overrated
  • throw less at the problem
  • meetings are toxic (I know they can be unproductive, but, toxic?)
  • good enough is fine
  • make tiny decisions
  • underdo your competition
  • don’t write it down

Huh? Believe it? Or not? Well I can say this — from Oklahoma to California, I started reading Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard. Its stories reaffirm points in Rework. More on that later when I finish Switch on the flight home …


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