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.

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

  1. Strange question but were you at sports bar in Houston Friday night? I recently read your book and it mentioned randomly laying on the ground in public and you or this random guy that looks exactly like you was laying on the ground when I came back from the bathroom. You just don’t see that every day! Plus you wrote about making eye contact and a lot of that happened too, way more than usual. So anyway, if it is you I didn’t dance with you when you asked because I was having awkward situation with some else I had just met and didn’t want be rude. If it’s not you, sorry to have bothered you and wanted to let you know I really liked your book and I got few of my friend with other startups to read it.

    Like

  2. Hi Tim,

    I’ve recently read your book. I’m a Project Manager in Spain and I’m the final responsible of the productivity of a lot of persons (avg 30). I’m putting in practice a lot of ideas you gave me. Since then the productivity of my group has increased about 20%.

    I’m also working in my muse [URL through name], an online fly-fishing shop in Spain. I will keep you informed.

    Thank you for all of your refreshing ideas.

    Like

  3. Hello Timothy, I am Italian I have read your book 4 hours a week I will create a company and apply the rules of your book in Italy.

    In your opinion what is possible ‘in Italy?

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  4. 5 minutes into the video and it’s already obvious the first woman could use some help. For starters, she is a hunt and peck typer when a large amount of her time is spent typing emails. With five minutes a day for a month she could drastically increase her productivity, but besides increasing productivity she could prob schedule her meetings better. Why would she have so many meetings? Is it that necessary to be face to face with customers for long hours everyday? I think not. Back to watching the show…

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  5. Tim,

    Some of these ppl have a point – what if higher productivity would lead to more work in the same amount of tim, Mr. Sandoval is great in this respect, however there are managers and bosses that may not see things the same way. Let’s not forget about the scandal involving a BIG pharmaceutics producer some years ago that was cool with selling HIV-infected vaccines, if profits are THAT important surely they can find some way of “balancing” the increase in productivity in order to gain more from it.

    There’s also this thing that’s bothering me: what if your boss is aware of 4-HWW and what if he doesn’t to let you trick him into letting you work from home “just this time”?

    Continuing reading. Regards

    Pete

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  6. Howay the danes :)

    Old post – but the points are getting more and more relevant.
    The level of information just keeps rising – and ones filters needs to be better and better everyday.
    Thanks for helping me to increase my quality of life.

    Like