The Fortune 500 4-Hour Workweek: Multiplying Output in Groups (Plus: Downloadable Checklists)

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For English subtitles, choose “Danish” from the “Choose Language…” drop-down.

There is a misconception that lifestyle design is just for entrepreneurs or CEOs.

In reality, the principles — borrowed from economics and behavioral psychology — can be applied within organizations and groups with even more dramatic effects.

Just watch the 25-minute segment above from the Danish equivalent of the BBC (DR1), where lifestyle design is tested by both an employee at insurance giant Codan and by the CEO of a fast-growing microbrewery. For English subtitles, choose “Danish” from the “Choose Language…” drop-down.

Who made more progress? The boss or the person with a boss? The results might surprise you…

Group Dynamics: Leverage for Good or Evil

Whether you’re a three-person start-up or Google (I’ve spoken there twice), whether you’re a receptionist or the President, Bill Gates’ following observation applies to implementing behavioral change in groups. The brackets are mine and what I feel can be removed:

The first rule of any [technology used in a] business is that automation applied to an efficient operation will magnify the efficiency. The second is that automation applied to an inefficient operation will magnify the inefficiency.

Even if you are a low-level employee, it’s important to your personal life and future to understand what this means.

From Chapter 8 of 4HWW:

Principle number one: refine rules and processes before adding people. Using people to leverage a refined process multiplies production; using people as a solution to a poor process multiplies problems.

This applies as much to excessive CC’ing people on personal e-mail as it does to large-scale operations.

If the processes are wasteful (inefficient), performance will decrease when you attempt to scale. The more people involved, the more severe the decrease. If the processes–including prioritization and workflow optimization–are lean (efficient), performance will increase. Combined with other people following the same lean processes, performance can increase in an exponential vs. linear fashion (For any exponentially growing quantity, the larger the quantity gets, the faster it grows).

Most important, just as with Best Buy, where 24-year old Cali Ressler started the ROWE (Results-Only Work Environment) experiment, huge changes can be initiated from the bottom up.

It just takes some lateral thinking and a willingness to test small.


Inside one brand-name public company in Silicon Valley: the new rules in one engineering group.

Case Studies

The Gazette in Colorado Springs published a great overview of several local companies that have implemented 4HWW training for all employees. I encourage those interested to read the entire 2-page article, but here are a few excerpts from one of the case studies:

The changes at Sandoval’s office are evident. A few months ago, Sandoval [the CEO of an advertising and design firm] said he would not have had time to sit down and talk about a book.

Now, three months after restructuring his daily routine and asking his nine employees to buy into the same process, piles of files and papers have disappeared from Sandoval’s desk because the work is done. His four computers, along with his BlackBerry, no longer demand immediate attention. He trusts employees to do their jobs without constant monitoring.

Moreover, Sandoval and other local business owners who are following some of the book’s advice claim it’s helped them improve relationships with clients, increase business and streamline operations.

“We added up what it cost us to have weekly meetings, roughly $50,000 a year in salaries, so we combined them into twice a month. We also have an agenda, and we get more done,” Neubacher [owner of a 12-person SMB tech support firm] said. “We’re working smarter versus harder.”

DublinBlue’s Shinn has had similar success. “We’ve removed many of the normally accepted distractions that detract from productivity,” he said. “It’s not so easy to just pop your head into someone’s office for a ‘quick’ question. You start to see the true cost of those little interruptions, and you modify your approach. Our efficiency has increased, so we have been able to take on more work without adding employees.”

The Checklist and a Call to Experimentation

CEO Bernard Sandoval developed a 5-page 4HWW guide as required reading for his employees called “Being More Productive” that you can download here.

I encourage you to share it with friends and those you work with. It’s a great starter kit for a few of the concepts in the book and it’s all presented in an easy-to-digest checklist that anyone can review each morning.

One CEO added the following in an e-mail to me:

As a result, I can now pull in 35% more work and not have to add staff. Think of what that could do nationally.

Lifestyle design is a portfolio of lateral approaches for producing precise results and measuring outputs instead of hours. Experiment with implementing the principles — as temporary experiments to improve workflow — within groups and larger organizations, as that is where the most dramatic results can be seen.

###

Odds and Ends: Seeking mothers, and thanks to reader Christian Bang Marxen!

Seeking mothers for major TV and media: Are you a mother who’s used the principles in the 4HWW somehow in your life? If you’re interested in being featured on major TV programs and other media, please put a 1-3 minute video on YouTube that describes some of the changes in your life. Be sure to put “4hww mother” in the “tags” field so producers can find it! Deadline: Sept 3, but earlier is better.

Thanks to Christian Marxen: Special huge thanks to Danish reader Christian Bang Marxen for translating the above DR1 video into English subtitles. Christian, you rock! Please keep an eye on your e-mail, as I have a special gift for you.

Posted on: August 22, 2008.

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111 comments on “The Fortune 500 4-Hour Workweek: Multiplying Output in Groups (Plus: Downloadable Checklists)

  1. I think it is great that CEOs are taking on board your excellent tips. As an employee (for the moment) I try and indirectly influence others in to ROWE and 4HWW.

    Whilst I recommend 4HWW book to all my friends, colleagues are different. Having successfully negotiated more home working (prior to the book) I’m not sure I want to lend my boss a copy of 4HWW as he will figure out my plans ;)

    I love the diversity of your blog Tim, one post swimming, next post productivity – magic.

    Cheers,

    Chris

    Like

  2. Excellent clip Tim, very practical.

    Along with my very tight knit circle of entrepreneur friends, I’ve managed to apply 4HWW principles paired with another system, DAIS (Design, Activate, Improve, Sustain) in order to create an incredible business incubation process. In the past few months I’ve managed to launch two of my own start-ups and become involved with two other start-ups. Using principles from the 4HWW my fiance and I have managed to do all of this on JUST the weekends. My fiance works for an architecture firm full time and I’m an active duty Marine so if we can do it I think anyone can.

    As far as these start-ups go, the very essence of their being was derived from principles we learned in the 4HWW. Any entrepreneur knows how insane it can be to start ONE company and I personally would never have been involved with more than one, MAYBE two start-ups at one time until after reading and applying these principles. We’re actually building businesses around the 4HWW concept and implementing the principles from the beginning. So bravo to Mr. Sandoval for creating that guide and I encourage more to do the same!

    Cheers!

    Farrell Hudgins
    Imagineer

    Like

  3. So does this mean these corps will let those employees now work 35% shorter weeks? Ha ha just kidding I think I know the answer.

    Hopefully some of the workers bees will read the book to and quit!

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  4. People should be looking at the 4HWW from different angles.

    Being a nutritionist in the City of London I am constantly trying to get people to think of other facts of their life in terms of a ROWE and using principles to improve not only their working life but other facets as well, specifically health.

    Like

  5. This sounds like putting 4HWW principles to work for evil. For an employee, greater efficiency means more work for the same pay, not fewer hours for the same pay. But you’re talking as if a company’s adding 35% more work without adding any staff is a good thing. Am I missing something? (I haven’t followed any of the links yet and I’m only halfway through the book, so maybe I am.)

    Like

  6. Tim, thank for this nice video.
    Do you think it may be worth putting case studies of all people implementing 4HWW routing in one place on the website?
    Another question is would it be worth putting errata on the website? I found one misquotation in the book shall I post it as a comment on the blog?

    Like

  7. It’s not surprise that the employee was able to delegate more and the entrepreneur felt the need to control everything despite Tim’s advice. People tend to become entrepreneurs precisely because they are control freaks!

    Still, it seems like the experiment got him thinking about how he can do some things differently, so maybe it will help him over time.

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  8. At one point I think I was a bit disappointed that the book got so popular because I felt that it would make this type of lifestyle (which I had been living for some time after selling off my start-up) more competitive. It is now clear though that when something becomes a “bestseller,” people begin giving credit to ideas that would have been completely dismissed before. In certain sectors, especially amongst the young and male and tech-y as you have targeted so well, there is instant alignment to my modus whereas before there was often a bit of resistance. I’m very glad some of this is becoming formalized, but often it is formalizing a process that destroys it. Catch-22; the people who most need this will usually not benefit from it.

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  9. Great newscoverage from our national broadcasting system. Danes love the work life balance, so let me suggest it being an epidemic now…and a good one, this means we can free up time for non urgent but important stuff, and hopefully spend more time on things that truly matter…like drinking the fantastic beer from Gourmet Bryggeriet :)

    Like

  10. You know.. I’d love to apply the 15 point short version from Sandia to my daily work.. But I keep getting notification from my 4HWW RSS feed which like crack, I have to read.

    Same with lifehacker

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  11. Cool coverage. . .just being able to see receptiveness to the book in other cultures is great. It’s great to see we’re not the only ones overworking ourselves out here. Thanks for the 4HWW booklet link as well, you just saved me the time of having to create one of my own for my own colleagues!

    Hey, Tim, do you have any plans to hit Chicago this year? I’m sure there are a lot of folks out here who would like the chance to catch up with you in person. I’m also involved with an event that you might have some interest in attending if you’re available, should I shoot Amy an email with the details?

    Good luck with the dome, Bucky Fuller taught at Southern Illinois University where I went to school. . .his original dome home is there! Sweet.

    http://www.buckysdome.org/events/index.html

    Like

  12. Tim,

    I can definitely relate to the application of 4HWW within a 9-5 within an organization. While I am working on my own entrepreneurial project with the hopes of freeing myself from the 9-5 (or 8-6, or 7-7 as it used to be), I do find plenty of applications of the 4HWW in my life today.

    Unfortunately, the higher ups do not see it this way. Due to the culture of our company, there is NO WAY our CEO will allow us to work from home, even given the fact that I consider the office place a huge distration. As such, I usually only have about 2 hours of work (I am an analyst at an investment banking company) to do max, and the rest of my day consists of personal blog reading, writing, and commenting. Although I enjoy blogging, I hate the sloth of sitting at my desk all day even though I make very good money to “work” very little. I feel like I am acheiving far less than my full potential. So I am working hard on entrepreneurship so I can escape the insanity of this prison (cubicle) to which I am confined.

    From your book, I feel that you reached a point in your life similar to this before your muse took off. My questions (1) how did you get through this mentally and (2) do you have any ideas about productively wasting time in an office environment besides blogging and working on my soon-to-be-company?

    Like

  13. Cool video, what struck me as interesting: Information Worker jobs seem to lend themselves more to 4HWW principles. The poor brewery guy!

    also, what the heck are you building a geodesic dome for?? :)

    Like

  14. Great video, Tim. I’m hoping to see similar coverage on one (or more) of America’s TV news magazines. It’ll take a lot of ammunition like that to get the set-in-their-ways dinosaurs running most organizations to truly evolve. But thanks to your tireless efforts, there’s hope!

    BTW, have you read “Brain Rules” by John Medina? Fascinating info about how we function, much of which backs up your 4HWW lifestyle!

    Like

  15. Thanks for the comments and conversation, all!

    @Jen and Joe,

    LOL… smart question. Knowing a bit more about the situation, what is meant is “we are able to produce 35% more output in the same time, and therefore we can take on 35% more clients without adding to headcount.” No salt mine required :)

    @TuiBlue,

    I’d start a company in all the spare time. That’s exactly what I did with all that slack and boredom. Just view it as a more interesting path for spending that extra time.

    @Alexander,

    I agree that a central location for video would be excellent. I’m working on it. In the meantime, tagging a video with “4hww success” on YouTube will enable media to search for you when they’re looking for case studies.

    For the errata, more to come on this, but most have been covered in a recent wiki experiment. Thanks!

    Back to cutting and drilling PVC for Burning Man :) I’ll explain why I actually like some manual labor another time…

    Pura vida,

    Tim

    Like

  16. Very useful post with actionable downloads.

    One concept I find interesting is that as companies use this approach, they are discovering that they can do more work and not hire more staff.

    At the same time, staff who are using this approach without the business being on board are trying to spend less time but get more done.

    It seems quite possible that businesses taking on this approach will want to take on more work to fill out the 40 hours efficiently. Workers are not going to save time, unless they were putting in overtime.

    Satisfaction will increase. But overtime compensation, which some workers rely on, will decrease.

    Just exactly where you are in the “chain” and what your motivations are affect just who will really benefit from these processes. Workers may well not get a freer life, and they may lose overtime. I’ll bet this could be a resistance point, so the compensation will need to refigured.

    These things have surely have been discussed, so I will go read the materials to see how they are addressed.

    Sarah

    Like

  17. Tim, thank you for quick reply for the comment. If you will need a hand to help with any IT or internet project (like wiki) I would be happy to do so. Following advice in your book I started my own company – Media Den Ltd. Contrary to you book advice I started services business – because it’s what I do best. It would be interesting to design something scalable, like website capable of holding 3000 hits per minute :)

    Like