Improve Your Effectiveness With Workarounds That Work

You know those books that you want to buy for everyone you know, because you know everyone will get something from it?

Workarounds That Work (WTW) is one of those books.

Written by Russell Bishop, a colleague of David Allen (of Getting Things Done fame), WTW leads the reader through a series of both theoretical and practical examples of workplace roadblocks, and offers simple questions you can ask you help navigate around those roadblocks.

It’s all about you

WTW starts with a simple premise popularized by Stephen Covey – that you can divide everything into three categories:

  1. Things you can control
  2. Things you can influence through other people
  3. Things you can respond to (and respond to more effectively if you have done the first two things)

Bishop comes back to this principle throughout the book, and repeatedly re-centres problems around the first two points – things you can control and things you can influence. While it’s obvious when you think about it, the fact that Bishop repeatedly calls this out is a useful reminder not to fall into the “it’s all their fault” school of pitiful thought.

Everyone faces roadblocks

WTW is the kind of book that, while it’s a great read from cover-to-cover, is also a useful resource when facing specific issues. So, for me, while I enjoyed the whole book, my ears perked up when I hit a few specific sections, which are now dog-eared and marked for future reference.

The book covers a broad series of challenges:

  1. Getting the right things done
  2. Misaligned leadership and unclear direction
  3. Framing the problem properly
  4. Moving from passive communication to action
  5. Accountability and response-ability
  6. Organizational silos
  7. Culture clashes
  8. Analysis paralysis
  9. Moving beyond concensus
  10. Avoiding becoming a corporate firefighter
  11. When others are wrong
  12. Making the most of meetings
  13. Dealing with the email avalanche (I gaveĀ 5 tips on managing the email deluge recently – not a coincidence)
  14. When processes get in the way
  15. Overcoming criticism, complaints, and resistance
  16. Multitasking (or not)

As I moved through the book, I found myself getting more or less engaged in certain chapters. Workarounds That Work is never a slog to read – the real-life examples and wry insights ensure that – but I could tell when points were hitting home, as at some points I just didn’t want to put the book down. When I hit my own pain points it became a real page-turner. I suspect that most people would experience the same thing, as most of us face at least some of the challenges above in our working lives.

Yay or nay?

Should you buy this book? In case you couldn’t tell, my answer is an unequivocal “yes.” If Bishop’s advice means you’re able to move the needle on at least one of your roadblocks at work, it’ll be worth it. If you work in an office or a big company, I suspect you’ll be able to improve on two or three.

That makes reading Workarounds That Work a very good use of your time.

Dave Fleet
Managing Director and Head of Global Digital Crisis at Edelman. Husband and dad of two. Cycling nut; bookworm; videogamer; Britnadian. Opinions are mine, not my employer's.