33voices interviews Russell Bishop
Russell Bishop: Progress not perfection
Russell this is a real treat for me. As I briefly mentioned to you, I have been a big fan of yours for a long time. It’s very rewarding to finally see the book that you’ve put out - Workarounds - that now I think will expose the world to the kind of work that you do. I thought it would be a good starting point to kind of get your perspective on what really inspired you to write this book?
Thanks, Moe, I appreciate the opportunity to chat with you. In terms of what sits behind this book, I spent 35 years in organizations working with individuals and teams but mostly with teams on how do you make your plans real. It’s one thing to have a good plan. It’s another thing to execute it.
In the process of doing that especially in medium and large sized organizations, there is all these roadblocks. Things you have to overcome inside your organization. If you have a small business, you may have to workaround the roadblocks of the big business you’re trying to sell to. Workarounds has just been a natural theme of what I’ve been doing. When the economy cratered, some of my clients started really hurting in the notion that we lost a lot of jobs but the work didn’t go away.
Those of you who are working in jobs have probably noticed you got the work of two or three people to do; hurdles and barriers and complex systems and inappropriate processes and maybe just plain old resistance from fatigue of other people is in the way. So I think that it was a timely book. My publisher wanted it done in a fast track so we cranked it up and here it is.
Good for all of us. Russell, I was explaining to somebody yesterday, that tech enthusiasts use the term hack to define a quick way to build something. I gave a really good friend of mine the book the other day, and he was wrapping his arm around it when he asked, what is a workaround? So I try to use the word hack to say it’s similar to that but it’s a more effective way to get things done. Would you say that Workarounds is a similar philosophy?
Yeah. They come in flavors. The original bug in the computer world was actually a bug. It was moth that had flown into a relay on an old IBM mainframe. When they found it, they literally taped it in the logbook and called it a bug. That’s where the term computer bug came from.
As bugs proliferated, workarounds were temporary patches and they would either get over the bug in your system. They were characterized as temporarily effective, but fragile. There were these temporary fixes that you really needed to do some larger work on. That’s kind of one way to think about it.
In today’s world, however, it may not be so much as a temporary fix; kind of like a jerry rig sale, you know, if your mast breaks, you got to get something up. You wouldn’t want to try to sail across the ocean on a jerry rig but it does get you moving.
The notion that a workaround gets you moving is kind of a common denominator. But in today’s world, you may workaround a complex process to find an even simpler one that is both stable and effective. I think that’s where we’re really trying to move is how do you get simple stable and effective in place as much as you can.