Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Wednesday Book Review: It’s Called Work for a Reason

Through the years, I have come across a number of books that I have used and valued. These may be new books, or they may be older ones. Each Wednesday, I will review a book that I personally feel would be worthwhile to testers.


I’m going to take a different tack with today’s book review. This book has little specifically to do with testing, but it has a lot to do with setting a demeanor and an approach where people will take you seriously in the workplace, regardless of your chosen career. Let’s face it, it’s a rare person who gets to do what they love to do all the time every day in their work lives. Much of the time, we have to deal with issues, situations, people, and projects that will try our patience, give us frustrations, and make us wish we were doing anything but that. Many people will find themselves fighting with these aspects while they seek out the “dream gig”. Larry Winget has some strong words for those of us who are seeking. The problem isn’t the job. The problem is us.


For those not familiar with Larry Winget, he’s made a living touting himself as the worlds greatest “Irritational” speaker. He’s loud, crass, occasionally rude, often very funny, but one thing always rings out with Larry; he tells it like it is and he speaks from his core and his gut. He’s not going to say things to make people happy. He says what he feels people need to hear.


This is a book you will enjoy in parts and want to throw at the wall in others. When you find yourself wanting to throw it, pay close attention … chances are, something has just hit close to home, and you may want to start giving serious consideration to what you have just read (that’s my recommendation, in any event, based on cold, hard experience here :) ).


The core premise -- work is WORK. It is not a social club. Companies are loaded with people who add little value beyond their just being there. Truth be told, on any given day, we may be those exact people. Larry shouts it in a way that is absolutely impossible to deny. At the same time, many companies disrespect and undervalue the employees they do have (“just shut up, do your work, and be glad you are getting a paycheck”), which tends to exacerbate the situation.


Both sides get the “Larry Winget” treatment, which is a blunt and direct upbraiding and shout-down as to what not to do and how to recognize when you are doing it. There’s not a lot of fresh or amazing insights in this book. Well then, what’s the point in reading it? The point is that many of us need a good kick to the backside every now and then. Much of this book is common sense and proper etiquette and professionalism. Much of this stuff is going to seem very basic and obvious. You will sit back and chuckle and say “well, I’m already doing that. What’s the value in here for me?” My guess is that the value will be when you reach the sections where you’re going to want to throw the book across the room. Is it likely you will find yourself in all of the sections? Probably not. Is it likely you will find yourself in some of the things Larry mentions? Definitely.


This book dovetails well with a book I reviewed a few weeks back, Linchpin by Seth Godin. Godin makes the case that people should strive to make themselves indispensible to their workplace. Larry says the same thing, albeit with a different focus. Linchpin tells us we need to be indispensible and why its important, WORK tells us to quit whining, get on the ball, make up our minds, and do something to make ourselves indispensable.


My personal favorite section of the book is what Larry refers to as the “Dirty Dozen Employee Handbook”. This distills the essence of the book for what an individual contributor can do very well.


1. Focus on accomplishment. Be known as the person who gets things done.
2. Develop a reputation you are proud of.
3. Be trustworthy. Be the person who can keep a secret, isn’t a gossip, and can be counted on in all situations.
4. When you give your word, keep it. Without exception.
5. Be on time. Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there.
6. Don’t brag. It’s obnoxious and it alienates others.
7. Don’t complain. No one cares, and they have problems of their own to deal with.
8. Friendship among coworkers is a bonus. It is not required or to be expected.
9. Don’t tolerate abuse, disrespect, or a lack of ethics or integrity from your employer. Life is short; there are other jobs.
10. Find out what the single most important thing is about your job, and then make sure it gets done. If nothing else gets done, make sure that one thing gets done.
11. Serve the customer well whether you call the customer a client, patient, coworker, or boss (or programmer or stakeholder for us who test). Your rewards in life are in direct proportion to the service you provide.
12. Remember that you work for someone. That person has the right to say what you do, when you do it and how you do it.


Bottom Line:

Larry is blunt, edgy, abrasive, and loud. If you really want to get the full flavor of this title, I’d suggest getting the audio version, as you can hear Larry’s intonation and comments in all of their rustic glory. I’ll be frank, Larry’s an acquired taste, and if you don’t like gruff and brash straight talk about a variety of things, this book may turn you off. If however you can deal with a splash of cold water, and like a delivery rich with accountability and self responsibility, yes, I highly recommend this book. For anyone who wants to get some straight, non sugared, non watered down talk about how to get in, take command of whatever level you work at, and do all that you can to make the most of it, I’m willing to bet you’ll enjoy this book… even if you feel like throwing it across the room a time or two :).
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