Sunday 2018-08-19

Remote by Jason Fried and David Heinemeier Hanson

Half this book is selling people on the idea of remote work -- i.e. certain workloads can be handled by distributed teams, which then allows for working with a global talent pool. The book provides zero history of distributed teams, the authors merely point to remote-work initiatives at other companies and their own experiences; the problem of distributed team management is as old as the notion of Empire: after you conquered it, you have to somehow manage it! In terms of "corporate" teams, the oldest is perhaps the Dutch East India Company, while in the world of software the Autodesk File documents that early US/Europe-distributed development team.

The other half of the book deals with the nuts and bolts of knowledge work distributed over different timezones -- from the perspectives of the organization and the individual. All of which boils down to migrating workloads from synchronous to async, creating a routine easily identifiable by others as work-like, managing for results, and leveraging tech.

I had hoped that the book would cover designing work-life, since leaving a workspace seems to naturally imply the question. On one hand, workers can go the route of the eremite -- happily cranking out work from a cave someplace because they have the mental wherewithal to ignore the discomforts. That said, contemporary corporate work culture isn't that different, it's just we no longer feel its discomforts due to our institutionalization and inurement.

Or on the other hand, workers can carve out a deliberate workspace. Since there does not seem to be any real roadmap for that, the best way forward seems to be an end-of-day review with the question, "did I get a whole day's work done?" and to have a budget for experimentation when the answer is "no".