Hacking Work

Title: Hacking Work: Breaking Stupid Rules For Smart Results
Authors: Bill Jensen and Josh Klein

Verdict: Made me uncomfortable. Wouldn’t read again.
Rating: ♥ ♥ ♥
I prefer: The Project 50 (Reinventing Work): Fifty Ways to Transform Every “Task” into a Project That Matters!

Last week a close friend (who is no dummy) tried to create a purchase order using the company’s new system. They liaised constantly with an internal expert and after 2 1/2 hours managed to create a purchase order. Then the system crashed, and nothing was saved. The second time the purchase order took an hour to create. But it wasn’t over. My friend then needed to manually attach the purchase order to an email and send it to two managers for approval. Frustrating? Well my friend described it a bit more colourfully.

Hacking Work explores in detail the ways in which staff are hampered from doing great work because of their company’s internal tools and procedures. The book also suggests how we as individuals, managers, and leaders can hack (for good rather than evil) the system (or encourage those who do) by creating workarounds to help the company succeed in spite of itself.

I agree wholeheartedly with the premise of the book but found the perspective and some examples a bit uncomfortably close to the line between what I believe is right and wrong.

For example:
“Corporate IT makes it hard to get at data you need to do your job? No problem: An alpha geek will happily help you install a program that will dump a customer database into a spreadsheet.” (p.36)

Hacking Work discusses the morality of hacking extensively but it still didn’t alleviate my unease. Don’t get me wrong I hack workarounds all the time but I’d prefer to spend more energy addressing the source of the frustration rather than developing a workaround.

You know what, I just re-read that last sentence and have realised it’s not true, Perhaps it’s a small epiphany moment…I will speak the unspeakable – “I am a hacker because I want to do great things and the system doesn’t allow me.”

That’s the real reason for my unease and Hacking Work has opened my eyes to the possibilities.