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Book Review: Track Your Abilities

The book purports to use a very similar analytical technique to some of the most useful business books of the last two decades - ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ by Jim Collins.

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To work smart means to maximize the value of your work by selecting a few activities and applying intense targeted effort.’ Great at Work opens with this precise definition.

While in his earlier book ‘Collaboration’, author Morten Hansen delivers practical advice and tools to help organization collaborate - for real results. In this book he continues his long-running research, in-depth case studies, and company interviews to explore seven best practices that promote productivity - four impacting Individual work and three impacting Collaboration. Using comprehensive subjective surveys (which could have been explained in the body of the book) it’s based on a data-set of 5,000 people ranging from senior managers to individual contributors to factory floor workers. The practices detailed in the book can be applied by anyone looking to maximize their time and performance.

The book purports to use a very similar analytical technique to some of the most useful business books of the last two decades - ‘Good to Great’ and ‘Built to Last’ by Jim Collins. The author is a long-time friend and collaborator of Jim Collins and not only does he supposedly use the same analytical technique, he also uses the same stylistic devices (e.g. 7 key things you must know described as a modified common concept).

Having read quite a bit of books on productivity and management, this seemed quite helpful. While most of them focussed on mind-set, this one focussed a bit more on practices given that the key concepts are memorable and anecdotal. The most notable advice I took from it is, ‘do less then obsess’. You minimize the amount of things you work on and then obsess over the one task or topic. I’ve learned from my own work experiences, especially as an entrepreneur that it’s better to work on one item at a time vs. multiple and this book reinforced my faith. One of the four “work smarter” practices that Hansen relates directly to how well individuals get their own work done as well.

The book also asserts how leaders sustain the “work crazy hard” mentality, expecting more effort from their employees and failing to appreciating their teams for setting boundaries and performing smart work. The sad part, of course, is that this imperative ‘to work harder’ reduces the collective performance of a company’s employees, which in turn most likely lowers financial results. Disrupting and improving work along the lines described in his book could unlock immense value for these companies.

One of the seven ‘work smart’ practices readers identify upends the familiar advice, offered frequently to creative workers and leaders, to ‘Follow your passion.’ As the author explains in his book, purpose and passion are very different. Passion is “do what you love,” while purpose is “do what contributes.” People who “match” passion with purpose perform much better, on average, than those who lack either purpose or passion or both.

An interesting practice that the author also suggests is the need to be assertive and set boundaries when people constantly ask for help, request meetings, and when your boss keeps on giving you more to do. It’s quite true for many managers where being a yes-person most times becomes a great way to underperform.

While there is substantially very little or new which hasn’t been done or written better before, mini-quizzes, questionnaires, clear tips and friendly insights make it a good read. I would encourage leaders and managers to pick a single “work smarter” practice to start with and get your team to master that practice; you should be able to see tremendous transformation over time with most other practices falling in line in the long term.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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Magazine 8 December 2018 book review

Pavan Sriram

The author is CEO, Learngage, a learning engagement company

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