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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
The author is missing the point, the title is misleading. If you are looking to shift priorities and excel at work while still having happy, uninterrupted personal time on a daily basis, this book will not help you. This book is about giving people one 'night' (as in, you worked that day, but truly 'clock out' at 6pm) off per week, and it's something that must be done at the team or organizational level. One night per week is not enough for a real personal life, and, most workers who are sleeping with their smartphones don't have control of their team and/or organization. If you are an executive looking for a way to help your team to stop sleeping with their smart phones one day per week, this might be moderately useful for you. I found it to be highly disappointing and wish I could return a kindle book :(
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on May 24, 2012
Leslie A Perlow, of the Harvard Business Review, recently published Sleeping with Your Smartphone: How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work. The book details the experimental implementation of a predictable time-off policy within the Boston Consulting Group to have just one night off a week. Through the process, Perlow and her team learned that the time off resulted in more than just a night of rest, but also enabled the consultants from BCG to feel better about work and the clients to be happier with the work provided. How is it possible that working less time yielded better results?
If anything, BCG has one of the worst reputations for work-life balance. Consultants often travel four days a week and are glued to their smartphones. Emails are exchanged at all hours of the night and on weekends. So even when consultants aren't at work, they're still responsive to work issues. Perlow calls this the Cycle of Responsiveness. People feel pressured to be available for work, coworkers notice the availability and contact them, schedules adjust to allow for the responsiveness and the cycle continues until it creates a culture.
The experiment was simple. Each consultant on a team would take one night off each week. Just one night of not answering emails until midnight, not working on PowerPoint slides in the hotel room and not sitting in the client's conference room until 8pm. Perlow's thesis was that change needed to be implemented as a team to address the cultural roots of the Cycle of Responsiveness.
The experiment almost immediately ran into trouble. Consultants didn't want to appear lazy or entitled in front of their coworkers, so they'd skip the night off, but then resent anyone who didn't do the same. So, to keep the experiment running, Perlow resurrected an old BCG practice, the Pulse Check. In a weekly meeting, team members would discuss how they felt about the progress and process of their work.
When people started opening up with meaningful dialog about the process, the time off became a shared goal that they could all work toward. They started developing systems to work better, cover for each other and share project information. The tacit goal was to enable each person to take a few hours off one night a week, but the overall effects were far more profound.
Since each person knew more about the process, they were able to anticipate each other's needs better. Because there was overlap in responsibility, the client felt more well served. And because the meaningful dialog allowed everyone to voice issues, the BCG consultants felt better about their job and their future with the firm.
Perlow writes well and uses the story of BCG to tease out the principles in the book. It's filled with quotes, stories and statistics culled from three years of experimenting with BCG teams around the world. Reading the book feels like taking a tour of the firm, the characters are warm and engaging (though they're often anonymous for the sake of confidentiality).
The book begins to lose steam toward the end. The introduction promised broad-ranging application, but Perlow kept returning to the stories of BCG, which start to feel worn out by the last chapter. Other than a lack of specific application outside the hyper-intense culture of BCG, the book Sleeping with Your Smartphone provides excellent, proven principles for how to bring change into an existing corporate culture and how to empower employees to join in the fight to make the company better.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on June 2, 2012
"Sleeping with your Smartphone" is both academically rigorous and wonderfully readable. Perlow describes how her small field experiment at the Boston Consulting Group, done solely for research purposes, unleashed a global initiative that has involved over 1,000 teams and is mandated to be part of 80% of BCG teams globally by year end. The consultants she studied worked long hours and were expected to make work their top priority. When not at work, they incessantly checked their wireless devices to ensure that nothing new had come up. They put up with this pressure to always be available because they believed that to be successful in a professional service firm, they had to be accessible and willing to jump into action whenever called.

Unfortunately for them, this behavior created a "cycle of responsiveness" where genuine pressure to be on got amplified though the consultants' own actions. As they adjusted themselves to demands from clients and teammates by adapting the technology they used, altering their daily schedules, and modifying their interactions with their families and friends, their colleagues experienced this increased responsiveness, and their colleagues' own requests expanded rather than shrank. Interestingly, it was not the long hours or constant connectivity per se that bothered the consultants and led them to consider leaving the firm; it was the unpredictability of these hours. None of them could ever plan anything in the middle of the week.

As expected, the consultants could not break the cycle of responsiveness alone. What is exciting and unexpected in the book is that fundamental change did not require top management support or buy-in from clients. Instead, Perlow compellingly demonstrates that it was possible for her consultants to unplug before BCG top management got on board with the experiments and decided to press for widespread change in their organization's culture. What was required, instead, was collaboration among team members on the consultants' individual teams. By working with team members to establish a collective goal, encourage truly open dialogue, and make small, doable changes, the consultants were able to break the need to accommodate to the pressure to be always on. And, almost unbelievably if not for Perlow's careful documentation of the change process within project teams across BCG's global organization, devoting more time to their personal lives allowed the consultants to accomplish more rather than less at work.

By addressing the problem of unpredictable time demands, Perlow was able to both improve the consultants' lives and improve employee retention for the organization. Based on the success of her experiments, BCG decided to try to transform its culture into one that respects those who set boundaries. This is fundamental change in an industry where there are such strong beliefs about the need to always be connected. And, it is more than enough reason for anyone who struggles with being always "on" to read this book and try to create change in their own organizations.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on September 9, 2012
Based on the title, I thought this would be a great, timely topic. However, the whole experiment described in the book centers around the employees taking ONE night off per week, starting at 6pm. The title held such promise. The book, not so much.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
Leslie Perlow wrote an exceptional book about how to redesign work, improve team dynamics and enhance the individual's experience at work. She effectively challenges the notion that we need to be on 24/7 and remain permanently connected to the workplace. As a working parent, I applaud Leslie for addressing this issue with practical tips that any manager can implement after reading this book. If we all follow this advice, we can improve our satisfaction at work and have more more quality time with our families - a real win-win!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 16, 2012
With candor and excellent research, Leslie Perlow tells us what we already know, but are afraid to admit: Turning off our work lives at predictable intervals allows us to perform better in all aspects of our lives. The 24/7 work week (or infinite loop...) that technology has prompted and promoted isn't good for anyone. If our work life is a grind, with no relief on the horizon, it's not good for supervisors, not good for senior staff, not good for support staff, not good for family life. The well-documented case study at Boston Consulting Group is convincing evidence of the efficacy of Dr. Perlow's approach. BCG's Rachel Levine and her team are impressive in their trust and collaboration, in developing a program so completely counter to typical corporate culture.

Clearly Ms. Levine and Dr. Perlow spent a great deal of time introducing the PTO (Predictable Time Off) protocol and determining the best way to integrate it into an institution as committed to the 24/7 work day as BCG must have been. Kudos to everyone involved at BCG, and to Dr. Perlow, who will hopefully become recognized as an agent of change in businesses small and large across the US and internationally. By changing how companies function, Dr. Perlow's approach (and her book) have the capacity to improve the lives of millions of employees across the globe. I hope they all put down their smartphones and pick up this book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Ignore the title of this book. It serves only the publisher's marketing purposes. Focus instead on the subtitle: "How to Break the 24/7 Habit and Change the Way You Work." As is also true of most other business books, the subtitle is informative. It reveals why Leslie Perlow wrote the book. Clearly, she agrees with Charles Duhigg's observation in his book, The Power of Habit: ""We now know why habits emerge, how they change, and the science behind their mechanics. We know how to break them into parts and rebuild them to our specifications. We know how to make people eat less, exercise more, work more efficiently, and live healthier lives. Transforming a habit isn't necessarily easy or quick. It isn't always simple. But it is possible. And now we know why."

In Perlow's book, the smartphone is not the problem nor is [begin italics] how [end italics] the smartphone is used. Its use (actually abuse) is a symptom of the root problem: A mindset that ignores or under-appreciates the nature and extent of what can be controlled in terms of, for example, setting priorities, allocating resources, managing time, and renewing energy. Duhigg asserts - and I agree -- that we must create a better habit for changing habits just as Clay Christensen urges us to think more innovatively about innovation and Jon Katzenberg urges us to change how we think about change.

What Perlow offers in this book is a non-nonsense, practical, results-driven process by which to turn off electronically, while improving the work that is done. She calls the process PTO "because - at the core, when people work together to create `predictable time off' [PTO], people, teams, and ultimately the organization all stand to benefit" as do, I presume to add, an organization's past, current, and prospective customers. Also, establishing and then sustaining a PTO culture will make the organization significantly more attractive to the people it hopes to obtain in what is indeed a "war for talent."

The specifics of the PTO process are best revealed in context, within the narrative, with a real-world frame-of-reference that Perlow so carefully establishes for them. However, I do want to cite a few of the dozens of passages that caught my eye:

o "The [Initial] Transformation" (Pages 31-33)
o "Two Teams: A Study in Contrasts (54-58)
o "The Cycle of Transparency" (67-68)
o "The Benefits of Openness" (75-77)
o "Eliminating Bad Intensity" (95-96)
o "The Perils of Resistant Leaders" (117120)
o "Getting Started: Guidelines for Team Members" (156-158)
o "Diffusing Throughout our Organization (177-178)
o "Going Forward with Facilitation" and "Practices of effective Facilitation" (194-196)
o "Toward a More Humane Workplace" (204-205)

No brief commentary such as this could possibly do full justice to the scope and depth of the information, insights, and wisdom that Leslie Perlow shares in this volume. That said, I hasten to suggest that it would be a fool's errand for a reader to attempt to apply everything learned from the material provided. My suggestion is to re-read the book slowly and carefully (especially Chapters 10-12, Part IV), underlining the key passages you may have missed the first time, then draw up a list of 2-5 strategic objectives (no fewer than three, no more than five) that the PTO process can help your organization to achieve. Next, review the material in the book that is most relevant to what specifically must be done to achieve the objectives. Game on!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 3, 2012
As a team leader, working parent, and executive coach, I highly recommend this book. Sleeping With Your Smartphone represents a breakthrough for both individuals and organizations: It shows exactly how you, as a front-line manager, can reclaim your calendar, workflow and sanity while delivering top performance. Unlike other "work life" or leadership books that preach, or provide pie-in-the-sky recommendations, this book is business-driven, practical, feasible - as well as a dynamic read. If you've a fan of "The Tipping Point", "Good to Great", or "The Goal", then this book is a must - practical how-tos that will change your every working day, wrapped inside a good story.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on May 7, 2012
If you have long suspected that the inability to turn off is affecting our ability to turn on then this book will help you guide your team on a more productive path. Perlow draws out the actual small, practical steps you can take to enable your team to work better, not just more. And if you have ever woken up and actually found your phone in your hand--you had better find the time to read this right away.
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on June 12, 2012
Several years ago, Leslie Perlow began what most people would think was an impossible experiment: getting individual team members at Boston Consulting Group - a consulting firm known for its grueling expectations and incredibly long hours - to take one pre-determined night off every week, a night with smart phones off, no work calls, no emails, no preparing for the next day, etc. Over a four year period, she found that the teams that took part in the experiment reported a significant increase in employee satisfaction, overall team efficiency, and client satisfaction (the study found that clients reported either better service or at least no diminution in service).

Unlike self-help books that try to help individuals change their work/life balance on their own, Dr. Perlow found that real, sustainable change can only be achieved by acting collectively, with the buy-in of the entire company from the top down. The experiment was so successful that by the end of four years, 900 teams at BCG had participated, and the program continues to this day.

The first part of the book is a fascinating case study of the experiences of the people involved in the project, the challenges that each individual faced, the modifications the teams implemented, and the successes, large and small, that they derived from engaging in the program. In her experiment, the teams faced such roadblocks as recalcitrant team leaders, fears of being perceived as underperforming, unwillingness to open up about problems, how to deal with deadlines while still taking one's night off, and many others.

In the second half of the book, Dr. Perlow outlines how the successes achieved by BCG can be transferred to other companies. She identifies the elements that her study demonstrated were indispensible, including the importance of a leadership that buys into the program, identifying realistic goals, acting collectively, modifying teams as necessary, creating facilitators, and more.

This book is for individuals and companies that want to change their corporate culture (and Dr. Perlow's book shows that it *is* possible) as well as for people who just want to read an interesting account of real people succeeding at what would have been considered impossible. Appealing to those outside the corporate culture as well as corporate insiders. Highly recommended.
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