Book: It Doesn’t Have to Be Crazy at Work, David Heinemeier Hansson and Jason Fried

Review

A quick read, about 2 hours, with a lot of great non-conventional advice like in Maverick. We already follow a lot of the things mentioned but there are quite a few new good ideas.

Buy on Amazon.com.

tl;dr

Chaos should not be the natural state at work. Things can wait. Ideas should be written, shown, left for a while, and only then discussed. There is no “low hanging fruit”. Cut down on interruptions. Most people should miss on most things most of the time. Equal work, equal pay with yearly market rate review. Doing “nothing” should always be on the table. The cost of consensus is simply too much to pay over and over again. Disagree and commit.

Summary

Productivity

  • Taking someone’s time should be a pain in the ass. 
  • Office hours: All subject-matter experts at Basecamp publish office hours. 
  • Almost everything can wait. And almost everything should. 
  • Most people should miss out on most things most of the time.
  • When it comes to chat, we have two primary rules of thumb: “Real-time sometimes, asynchronous most of the time” and “If it’s important, slow down.”
  • “If everyone needs to see it, don’t chat about it.”
  • Instead of shipping big software updates on Fridays, we now wait until Monday the following week to do it.
  • “Library Rules” – Rather than thinking of it as an office, we think of it as a library.

Company

  • The best companies aren’t families. They’re supporters of families. 
  • A low trust battery is at the core of many personal disputes at work.
  • Posing real, pointed questions is the only way to convey that it’s safe to provide real answers.
  • We ask reasonable people to make reasonable choices, and the company will be reasonable right back.
  • If you don’t clearly communicate to everyone else why someone was let go, the people who remain at the company will come up with their own story to explain it.
  • Unwinding the new normal requires far more effort than preventing that new normal from being set in the first place.
  • Many best practices are purely folklore. Every best practice should come with a reminder to reconsider.

Interviewing

  • We look for candidates who are interesting and different from the people we already have. 
  • We hired many of our best people not because of who they were but because of who they could become.

Salaries

  • We no longer negotiate salaries or raises at Basecamp. Equal work, equal pay. Once every year we review market rates and issue raises automatically. 
  • The important part isn’t really whether you can afford to pay salaries based on the top city in your industry or at the top 10 percent of the market, but that you keep salaries equal for equal work and seniority.
  • We’ve also recently put a new profit growth-sharing scheme in place. If total profits grow year over year, we’ll distribute 25 percent of that growth to employees in that year.

Benefits

  • Fully paid vacations every year for everyone who’s been with the company for more than a year.
  • Three-day weekends all summer. May through September we only work 32-hour weeks.
  • 30-day-paid sabbaticals every three years.
  • $1,000 per year continuing-education stipend.
  • $2,000 per year charity match.
  • $100 monthly fitness allowance.
  • The whole purpose of a vacation is to get away.

Work

  • When we present work, it’s almost always written up first. A complete idea in the form of a carefully composed multipage document.
  • Knowing when to embrace Good Enough is what gives you the opportunity to be truly excellent when you need to be.
  • If you actually want to make progress, you have to narrow as you go.
  • Things should fit together rather than stick together.
  • That’s really the answer to new ideas that arrive too late: You’ll just have to wait!
  • Declaring that an unfamiliar task will yield low-hanging fruit is almost always an admission that you have little insight about what you’re setting out to do. The idea that you’ll instantly move needles because you’ve never tried to move them until now is delusional.

Decision-making

  • There’s no such thing as a casual suggestion when it comes from the owner of the business. 
  • If the boss is looking over there, then clearly we should all be looking over there!
  • And who makes the decision about what stays and what goes in a fixed period of time? The team that’s working on it. Not the CEO, not the CTO.
  • Customers get the value when it’s ready wherever, not when it’s ready everywhere.
  • The cost of consensus is simply too much to pay over and over again. Someone in charge has to make the final call, even if others would prefer a different decision. The final decision should be explained clearly to everyone involved.
  • Disagree and commit.
  • “Nothing” should always be on the table.