On Workarounds that Work

I recently read Workarounds That Work – How to Conquer Anything That Stands in Your Way at Work – by Russell Bishop.

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.”


Omar Halabieh

Workarounds That Work


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s