Recently I read “Great Work – How to Make a Difference People Love,” by David Sturt. I think a good short summary of this book would be:
Think of your work from the perspective of those it serves, and you can make a big difference in their lives.
I thought the book had a noble purpose, and did a nice job of explaining how to capture that purpose in both “spirit” (intangible ways) and “process” (tangible ways). For a short read, it was able to effectively be both an inspiring-type book as well as provide some practical how-to information. I find that often business and leadership books are a bit too skewed to one end of that spectrum or the other.
While I probably couldn’t easily memorize some of the chapter-specific lists of recommended action steps, the book is an easy reference guide with chapter-ending summaries and suggestions. And more importantly, the key philosophical ideals of the book are actually quite easy to remember:
- Anyone’s work can make a difference if we re-frame and re-think what the work really is.
- To do #1, think of your work from the perspective of those the work serves.
The key point is that we should view our work from “outside” of ourselves and our work. “Of course” we think of our work (let’s pretend we are a “lowly” accountant for a moment) as an endless repetition of month-end journal entries which are never quite good enough for our boss. But if we can get out of our situation mentally and re-think our work, perhaps we would realize that we are a crucial piece of the process that allows our company to raise capital and communicate with it’s stakeholders, and companies that do that well win in the marketplace. As my favorite story from the book goes, if a hospital janitor can think of himself as a caregiver, you can think differently about your job.
The bulk of the book is five chapters discussing tangible steps a difference-maker does, and that you can walk through, to achieve the objective of making a difference. I think the most relevant for the most people is in the area of process – we are almost all part of several processes in our work, and any process I’ve ever been a part of could use some improving. So if you want to be more valuable at work, I always think learning how to improve processes and doing it regularly is a good way to go.
But even in these five chapters/steps, I appreciate the author’s focus outward. We are just way too often stuck in our own bubble at work, and the key to making a difference is seeing and hearing from others how our work is impacting them and their ideas, and engaging in lots of dialog about how to identify areas for improvements and then make improvements.
Let’s frame a different evolution than the book gave us, but based on the principles. Let’s:
- Move from “I want to do good work”
- To “I want to do GREAT work.”
- To “I want to do great work FOR this [team/department/company/government/other entity].”
- And ultimately to “I want to do great work for this entity WITH you [your teammates, bosses, customers, partners, etc.] and FOR you.”
Start by grabbing “Great Work” for yourself, it’s a quick and easy read and I think you will get a nice return on your investment.