Book review: Rework, by 37signals

rework-front-coverAs I wrote a few days ago in my post about  recommended software for your small business, I use software from 37Signals. The guys behind 37Signals, Jason Fried and David Heinemeier-Hansson, have written a book called Rework.

In the book they outline the strategies which have made them such a successful company. And these strategies do not involve growing like mad, getting as much outside money as possible, spending wildly or work a crazy number of hours each day.

Rework is about doing things differently. Cut the crap, really. Do you really need long meetings? Do you need to control what every employee does every single minute? Do you really need outside money? Do everything have to be perfect before you launch it? The list of topics go on and on.

Still a small company

The authors have built a hugely successful business around their online software products. But they’re still a small company. The people av 37Signals are now around 10 people spread across 6 cities in the United States.

I think some of the explanation for their success is that they refuse to accept norms. They create their own way of doing things. They scratch their own itch and solve their own problems. And as it turns out - a lot of other people have the same itch.

Avoid interruptions

Interruptions is the enemy of productivity. 37Signals acknowledge that most businesses are built to facilitate interruptions. And this is not good for personal productivity. This is something I feel strongly about and have been increasingly focused on since reading The 4-hour Work Week by Tim Ferriss. Rework expands on this and suggest ways of avoiding interruptions in the work environment.

rework-back-coverPractical advice

If you want to find out how they did it – read Rework. Be prepared to reconsider how you view business. I found a lot of knowledge in this book. And more importantly – a lot of hands-on practical advice I can use right away. This is not dry theory, it's enthusiastic, direct, conversational and useful advice you can actually use.

What I liked about "Rework"

I really like the direct tone in the book. Some swear-words in the book have actually given it a warning label in the iPhone AppStore. I don't think that is a problem, though. It's more of a statement. The authors come across as sick and tired of how much bulls**t there is in how a lot of companies are run and how decisions are made. 

I also like that the book is divided into shorter essays and not long-wined chapters going on and on about a subjects. They actually chopped the content down from 54.000 words to 27.000 words in the last edit. Not a bad choice in my opinion.

Seth Godin likes "Rework" as well

Seth Godin wrote this in his review of Rework:

This book will make you uncomfortable.

Depending on what you do all day, it might make you extremely uncomfortable.

That’s a very good thing, because you deserve it. We all do.

Jason and David have broken all the rules and won. Again and again they’ve demonstrated that the regular way isn’t necessarily the right way. They just don’t say it, they do it. And they do it better than just about anyone has any right to expect.

This book is short, fast, sharp and ready to make a difference. It takes no prisoners, spares no quarter, and gives you no place to hide, all at the same time.

There, my review is almost as long as the first chapter of the book. I can’t imagine what possible excuse you can dream up for not buying this book for every single person you work with, right now.

Stop reading the review. Buy the book.—Seth Godin

I couldn’t agree more.

Buy the book here

Video interview

Here’s a video interview with Jason Fried, one of the authors of Rework:

Full list of essays in the book



  • The new reality


  • Ignore the real world
  • Learning from mistakes is overrated
  • Planning is guessing
  • Why grow?
  • Workaholism
  • Enough with “entrepreneurs”


  • Make a dent in the universe
  • Scratch your own itch
  • Start making something
  • No time is no excuse
  • Draw a line in the sand
  • Mission statement impossible
  • Outside money is Plan Z
  • You need less than you think
  • Start a business, not a start-up
  • Building to flip is building to flop
  • Less mass



  • Embrace constraints
  • Build half, not half-ass
  • Start at the epicenter
  • Ignore the details early on
  • Making the call is making progress
  • Be a curator
  • Throw less at the problem
  • Focus on what won’t change
  • Tone is in your fingers
  • Sell your by-products
  • Launch now


  • Illusions of agreement
  • Reasons to quit
  • Interruption is the enemy of productivity
  • Meetings are toxic
  • Good enough is fine
  • Quick wins
  • Don’t be a hero
  • Go to sleep
  • Your estimates suck
  • Long lists don’t get done
  • Make tiny decisions


  • Don’t copy
  • Decommoditize your product
  • Pick a fight
  • Underdo your competition
  • Who cares what they’re doing?


  • Say no by default
  • Let your customers outgrow you
  • Don’t confuse enthusiasm with priority
  • Be at-home good
  • Don’t write it down


  • Welcome obscurity
  • Build an audience
  • Out-teach your competition
  • Emulate chefs
  • Go behind the scenes
  • Nobody likes plastic flowers
  • Press releases are spam
  • Forget about the Wall Street Journal
  • Drug dealers get it right
  • Marketing is not a department
  • The myth of the overnight sensation


  • Do it yourself first
  • Hire when it hurts
  • Pass on great people
  • Strangers at a cocktail party
  • Resumes are ridiculous
  • Years of irrelevance
  • Forget about formal education
  • Everybody works
  • Hire managers of one
  • Hire great writers
  • The best are everywhere
  • Test-drive employees

rework-art-policyscarDamage control

  • Own your bad news
  • Speed changes everything
  • How to say you’re sorry
  • Put everyone on the front lines
  • Take a deep breath


  • You don’t create a culture
  • Decisions are temporary
  • Skip the rock stars
  • They’re not thirteen
  • Send people home at 5:00
  • Don’t scar on the first cut
  • Sound like you
  • Four-letter words
  • ASAP is poison


  • Inspiration is perishable


  • About 37signals
  • 37signals products



  • Authors: Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hansson
  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Crown Business (March 9, 2010)
  • Language: English
Read 24454 times Originally published on Thursday, 08 April 2010 10:00
Last modified on Sunday, 25 April 2010 23:16
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