Book Notes: Great At Work

Great at Work: How Top Performers Do Less, Work Better, and Achieve More by Morten T. Hansen
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The book presents a small number of techniques which they have found to be correlated to high performance at work.

  1. Do less, then obsess – Top performers carefully choose which projects and tasks to join and which to flee, limiting the focus is only half of the challenge the second is to channel effort and resource to excel in the few chosen.
  2. Redesign your work – focus on the value which others receive from our work and look at how we can get more value out of it from the same amount of time. Our goals should be driven by the value. Being busy is not an accomplishment. Value of a person’s work = Benefit to others X quality X efficiency. We can improve value with:
    1. Less Fluff – eliminate or reduce existing activities of little value
    2. More Right Stuff – spend more time on existing activities of high value
    3. More “Gee Whiz” – create new activities of high value
    4. Five Star Rating – improve the quality of your chosen activities
    5. Faster, Cheaper – find ways to do your chosen activities more efficiently
  3. Don’t just learn, loop – this is about quality learning through deliberate practice not just quantity of time learning. Using work activities such as meetings or presentations as learning opportunities.
    1. Carve out the 15 – Pick one skill to develop and take 15 minutes per day to focus on improving it.
    2. Chunk it – break problems down into much smaller chunks to tackle
    3. Measure the “soft” – look for ways to measure the results of “soft” skills
    4. Get nimble feedback fast – quality feedback needs to identify what was good and what needs improving soon after the event.
    5. Dig the dip – taking on challenges initially cause performance to drop but these have significant longer term benefits that outweigh the initial dip.
    6. Confront the stall point – as soon as things become easy we are no longer learning, you must push the boundaries even when you are on top.
  4. P-Squared (passion and purpose) – people with passion and purpose achieve more than someone with only passion.
  5. Forceful champions – inspiring people by evoking emotions and circumventing resistance with “smart grit”, perseverance in the face of difficulty and overcoming opposition by understanding others perspectives. Showing people, not just telling people to maximise emotion.
  6. Fight and unite – the success of the team is how well people debate in team meetings and how fully they commit to implement decisions. When teams have good fights in their meetings team members debate the issues, consider alternatives, challenge one another, listen to minority views, scrutinise assumptions and enable every participant to speak up without fear of retribution. After the fight team members commit to a decision made and all work towards it without second-guessing, backroom politics or undermining it – improving its likelihood of success.
  7. The two sins of collaboration – the sins are the extremes – under collaborating where people work in silos and over collaboration where there is an information, time and effort overload to collaborate. Disciplined collaboration aims to provide a middle ground. Establish a compelling “why” collaboration is beneficial, if it’s not don’t do it but if there is value then collaborate.

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