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on January 13, 2011
In Workarounds that Work, Russell Bishop models - in his way of speaking, in the way he reveals himself, in the examples he brings, and in his recommendations - a way of being that revels in the challenge and joy of work, and does not flinch nor whine about the myriad roadblocks that inevitably confront anyone trying to do anything serious in life. He is a joyful warrior in the middle of the mess of modern working life. Russell shows clearly the power of humility, gratitude, an indomitable spirit, a commitment to find alternatives and not remain stuck in ruts, and the soft underbellies of the enemies we face in everyday working life.

I often say that the last of the five greatest generators of waste in our modern working world - the interpretation that we are doomed to a kind of indentured servitude called `work' - is the nastiest and most destructive of the sources of waste in our working lives. `Thank God it's Friday' - the announcement that we toil away five days of every week just waiting for a brief respite of freedom and meaning each weekend - is our declaration that we consider 5/7ths of our lives wasted. A tragedy.

Russell's book is an antidote to work as toil, and full of good things.
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on March 23, 2013
The author defines workaround as follows: "For our purposes, we will define it (workaround) as a method for accomplishing a task or goal when the normal process or method isn't producing the desired results...Once a problem is fixed. the workaround is usually abandoned when subsequent releases come out addressing the bug that created the problem in the first place." The purpose of the book is best summarized by Russell: "In Workarounds That Work, you will learn tools, systems, practices, and processes that make important initiatives easier to accomplish. Sometimes these workarounds will require additional effort, but not because the task or desired result takes superhuman skill. The additional effort comes because in order to effect the workaround, you may have to do some extra work, or even someone else's work, so as to get yours moving."

The book then goes on to present seventeen workarounds ranging from vision, to communication, accountability and culture to name a few. Each workaround has three basics. The first being the intention, the second is around assuming control of what you can, and last but not least influencing the remaining elements. The questions included at the end of each workaround/chapter, guide the reader to the application of the material presented. This makes this work very pragmatic and applicable. A quick and educative read in the productivity space.

Below are key excerpts from the book, that I found particularly insightful:

1- "This is where three workaround basics become operative. The first and most important issue: what is your intention? The second critical aspect is your willingness to assume control of whatever you can that will move you forward. Once you are clear on your intention and have taken control of what you can, you then face the third element: how to influence others to go along."

2- "If you need to get someone on your side, working with you rather than against you, start by considering what the other party is charged with doing in his or her job, and then begin imagining how that person can win with helping you."

3- "Workarounds can vary from the rudimentary and tactical to the complex and strategic. Even at the most basic levels, it's important to keep in mind what your intention is in coming up with the workaround. Determining what the issue is and why it matters needs to come before charting what you can do and how you make it happen."

4- "Start any "communication" with a discussion about your individual perceptions of the intended purpose, outcome, and goal. Make certain that both of you can explain the desired outcome in terms that the other can both repeat and visualize."

5- "Once you have asked yourself the basic starting question - "What can I do that will make a difference?" - and asked the other party if there's anything else you can do, you can then turn the question toward what the other party could conceive of doing to make the situation even better."

6- "Rather than treating the other person, team, or group as your enemy combatant, you will gain better purchase by following Larry Senn's advice and assuming innocence. In all likelihood, these parties are making choices based on differences in understanding owning to causes such as different goals or differences in how they are being measured."

7- "Rather than assume that some other group will behave the way your group behaves, you should assume that there may be differences and plan accordingly."

8- "The real goal of decision making, what we are calling "choice" here, is not about being right; it's about being effective. If you can choose toward a desired outcome rather than kill off all other possibilities, you may then have the freedom to learn, to course correct, and to keep making progress as new data and experience are acquired."

9- "Remember: it's easier to ask for forgiveness than to get permission. If you keep asking for permission and seeking buy-in, you may merely be giving people reasons to object."

10- "Keep in mind that your primary response-ability comes down to your willingness to control what you can, seek to influence from there, and then simply respond as best as you can to everything else. People routinely lose sight of where they are headed, of what their true intentions are."
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on April 15, 2011
This is a somewhat difficult review to write, as there is some truly useful guidance in the book, particularly in the first 80 pages. In fact, I will be keeping some of the lists of questions, particularly in how to examine motivations of those we perceive as roadblocks.

Why only 3 stars? The last half of the book seems to be filler. Much of it is re-hashing of other ideas, and sometimes barely relevant to the topic of workarounds. A perfect example is the section on e-mail and e-mail etiquette. It is mainly a re-hashing of Tony Schwartz' ideas. The author credits Schwartz, but putting in a couple pages recapping a book on e-mail seemed pointless. Also, if you have read "Getting Things Done" and similar books, you will find the same ideas in here.

Maybe it would have been better if I had the book on hard copy where I find it easier to flip through the filler sections, but I found the last half of the book to be very frustrating. By time I plowed through it begrudgingly over a couple weeks, I had to go back to my earlier highlights to remember what I had originally liked about it.

So, if your expectations are to get some good advice on workarounds in an organization, go for it, and use it more as a study guide or reference. As a book, however, the last half is a chore to get through.
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VINE VOICEon February 9, 2011
Anyone who has ever worked in a large company has felt his or her share of frustration. Whether it's a byzantine chain of required approvals, a cultural clash between one department and another, an endless series of meetings that never seem to accomplish anything, or something less predictable, many people often feel as if it's impossible to get anything done.

In this well-written new book, business consultant and Huffington Post columnist Russell Bishop gives good, practical advice for workers who are wondering what they can do to get around, over, or through a roadblock.

One of his most important pieces of advice, interestingly, is to hold yourself accountable for solving the problem. He doesn't want you to blame yourself but to take responsibility. If you own the goal, he says, you can own the process for reaching the goal and solving the problem.

"When part of the strategy is influencing someone else to think or act differently," Bishop writes, "if we simply wait for someone else to figure it out and do the right thing, we may make little progress." Instead, "if you're the one who notices, then you're the one who is going to have to take the first steps to get something going."

Thoughtful and highly recommended.
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on February 14, 2016
A refreshing, in-depth look at how to succeed no matter what gets in your way! This book doesn't just delve in the admin who lacks communication skills, it goes much deeper to offer help with communications between organizations. Actually, I guess this book represents a sort of a communications bible. It's a guide for getting things done. It was worth every cent.
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on March 5, 2011
When was the last time you ran into a bad boss, a difficult colleague, an empty budget, a broken process, a chasm in communication or simply a seeming stone wall? Russell Bishop acknowledges these barriers to productivity exist, and then delightfully shows you a myriad of ways to successfully navigate around them.

With provocative chapters like "How You Frame the Problem is the Problem", "Death by Decision" and "When the Best and Brightest are Wrong", this book will take you from insight to idea to action, raising problems and then providing real solutions every step of the way.

If you are tired of feeling stuck, overwhelmed, ineffective or just plain frustrated, "Workarounds the Work" is the book to read that will get you over, around, under or right through that seeming stone wall.
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on April 4, 2011
As is useful in all thought-based leadership works Mr. Bishop has come up with some very clever questions to ask when you are faced with bottlenecks such as "what can I do right now that will involve no one's approval but my own?" The author challenges the reader to see the perspective of others in how others perceive themselves as creating value while you may see them as a bottleneck.

However, the more I delved into the read I became increasingly frustrated with its naive stance in certain areas. While it is always best to first assume that people operate with the best intentions, it is clear that there are individuals at nearly all workplaces that serve as a bottleneck for political gain at the expense of the organization. While these types of individuals are mentioned in the work, more focus on working around their motivations would have been useful, especially in light of their prevalence in the workplace. Techniques on diffusing these types of power-seeking individuals and a bit less naivete on the motivations of others would have made this a more complete and realistic work.
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on January 28, 2011
I often dream of a world where people are truly encouraged and supported in reaching their highest levels of creativity and productivity. In Workarounds That Work, Russell Bishop has created the no-nonsense roadmap for individuals and organizations. Buy this book, everyone!!!!!
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on March 26, 2011
I'm an avid reader of productivity books, a convert to GTD, and in favor of rightsizing my job, getting to yes, making things work.
I bought this book based on David Allen's endorsement.
I read it last night.
Here's the core message: be upbeat, be positive, act like a manager even if you are not, and though the only employee you manage is you. Make lots of lists of questions. Sit down and talk to everybody.
Fine. I agree.
But what is missing from this long list of workarounds is:
how to workaround fellow employees that undermine you? Bosses that fear success by subordinates? Working in a place where everyone knows what needs to be done but has agreed the best course is not to do it (municipal bureaucracies, for instance)? Where under-performing workers have job protection and can't be fired? Where even if you work better and more gets done you won't be rewarded and someone just above you will?

In short, the organizationally obvious, easy to do, "low-hanging fruit" is all here to be plucked, while the hard questions (above) that everyone I know desperately needs workarounds for, are nowhere addressed.

However, if you are a manager or a unit leader with some power to hire, fire, transfer, and reassign, but have forgotten that it helps to talk to people,, if you have problems making decisions, don't understand what a meeting is for or how to prepare for it, can't prioritize an e-mail inbox (how did this person get in charge, by the way?),and a variety of similar concerns then this book has a lot to teach you.

And author's candid admission: nothing in this book will work for long and a lot of it won't work at all. Nuff' said.
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on September 2, 2014
Nice and thoughtful.
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