There is never enough time to do everything—work must be divided to be conquered. Here are two books that encourage different methods to help you be more effective and make better decisions in a complex environment.
THINK AGAIN: THE POWER OF KNOWING WHAT YOU DON’T KNOW
Adam Grant, Viking, New York, 2021, 257 pp., hardcover ($28).
This book has me torn. After teaching a course in critical thinking in construction engineering where I settled on one book that provided critical thinking theory and another book that provided case studies to challenge students, I came across Think Again. After reading it, I am rethinking texts for the next time I teach the course.
Thinking is one of the most important things we do in facilities. There are so many complexities to deal with that a rote solution seldom solves the problems we face. However, we are frequently misled by our preconceived notions and select a solution based on bias or reptilian thinking—“thinking fast.” Think Again essentially advocates for “slow thinking” as described by psychologist and author Daniel Kahneman. However, the book is also about being open to ideas from colleagues and opponents. That is because more persuasive arguments can be made when listening to opposing arguments, and because it’s more likely we’ll change our mind or find a better solution if we listen to others.
There are many ways to solve a facilities problem. Consider equipment maintenance. We had thought that the best way to maintain facilities was to perform the recommended preventive maintenance on equipment. However, few have the resources to perform all necessary preventive maintenance, and many organizations focus more on customer service either by edict or as a defense mechanism. And is that “pay me now or pay me later” philosophy applicable to everything? Clearly not. There are many educational facilities that don’t have significant preventive maintenance programs but nevertheless have good customer satisfaction and limited breakdowns of equipment.
Other methods have been developed, including predictive maintenance, reliability maintenance, and or simply planning a breakdown maintenance. What works for one organization may not work for another. Think Again argues that listening to other opinions or approaches may result in a better solution.
There is no single solution. Creative solutions developed by taking our time and “thinking again” may result in a far-better outcome than we’ll get by going with the first one identified. Grant’s book provides some valuable insights on problem-solving—insights that are needed by all facility managers.
GREAT AT WORK: HOW TOP PERFORMERS DO LESS, WORK BETTER, AND ACHIEVE MORE
Morten T. Hansen, Simon & Schuster, New York, 2018, 247 pp., paperback ($22).
The title tells all: Great results can be achieved by doing less. It doesn’t mean that you can be a slouch and expect great things to happen; it means that by thinking smarter and leveraging ideas (and how you work with others), greatness can indeed be achieved.
Great at Work describes seven techniques to help you be more effective at work by controlling how much time you spend at work. Some of the techniques align with Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, which is a convenient way to remember them, but also presents a challenge because they are different.
Great at Work focuses on trimming away wasted effort. One way to consider Hansen’s seven techniques is to see them as a method for continuous improvement and to recognize that they are mostly focused on increasing the value of every hour spent working on goals. The techniques also look at leveraging the work of others to advance one’s own goals. This shouldn’t be considered as plagiarizing others’ ideas, but as adapting them.
Each chapter identifies one of the seven techniques and provides examples of how that technique can make us “great.” However, not all applications of the techniques work for everyone, so there are seven opportunities to improve rather than one, and not all seven are required. The chapters are organized into three parts:
- Mastering Your Own Work,
- Mastering Working With Others, and
- Mastering Your Work-Life
These align well with the first three levels of APPA’s Leadership Academy, which deal with individual, interpersonal, and managerial effectiveness.
Great at Work is a good book for those who want a refresher on the Leadership Academy or are looking to prepare for it. It is not a substitute, but certainly a good primer. In addition, it pairs well with Grant’s Think Again.
Ted Weidner was recently promoted to full professor of engineering practice at Purdue University and consults on facilities management issues primarily for educational organizations. He can be reached at email@example.com. If you would like to write a book review, please contact Ted directly.