The 9 Causes of “Fake Work” (Book)

Rob Leathern
Mar 18, 2015 · 4 min read

I have been reading a great book, “Fake Work” by Brent Peterson and Gaylan Nielson, thanks to Alex Raymond and the team at Kapta who suggested it. I encourage you to buy it if you work or have people work for/with you (one of which at least, you probably do), and want to be more thoughtful about what can sometimes be a frustrating everyday mess of the wrong work.

The following is a summary of the causes of “fake work”, (the words are almost all theirs, so when it says ‘our’ below, it’s them. Think of this all as an excerpt. They fill out this section of their book with examples and details that are likely needed for a full understanding) and though I haven’t given you their definition of “fake work”, I’m sure you know it when you see or do it… so read this and then go out and READ THE WHOLE BOOK so you can figure out how to make a change!

Failing to Understand Your Job — Your Real Job.

Do you know what you should be doing because your company really needs you to do it? 81 percent of workers feel no strong commitment to their company’s top priorities, don’t care, don’t know, or both.

Failing to Recognize the Finish Line.

Whenever you are assigned a task, you should ask your supervisor:

  1. What is the result you are seeking?
  2. Why is my assignment important?
  3. When do you want it completed

Failing to Focus and Prioritize.

Watch out for the following problems:

  1. You don’t know the difference between nonessential and critical tasks
  2. You haven’t prioritized or asked your supervisor about the priority of your tasks
  3. You, along with your team, aren’t negotiating the number of tasks each person is doing or discussing the priority items, and which ones need to rise to the top and which ones need to drop from the list
  4. When you do ask about priorities, your supervisor gives you the wrong answers because (s)he doesn’t actually know which tasks are priorities.
  5. When you ask supervisors to help prioritize, they just add tasks to your lists, and you agree to them.

Failing to Understand the People Around You.

Identify your attitudes, needs and personality traits so you better understand your impact on others. Then you can try to understand others and your relationships with them.

Failing to Communicate About the Right Things.

Company leaders often tell us they have worked hard to communicate strategy and get people connected, yet we often find they have almost totally failed. People didn’t see it, didn’t read it, didn’t hear it, didn’t understand it, or just ignored it. Access to email at all hours create a glut of information that overwhelms communication rather than facilitating it… many other patterns of the modern work environment- working with headphones, working at home, working on weekends- creates isolation and weakens communication channels.

Failing to Understand the Importance of Your Team.

A lot of team members and supervisors don’t have a clue about the real value and intent of their teams. And they don’t know how or even why they need to get their teams working together.

Failing to Clarify and Drive Strategy from Top to Bottom.

73 percent of workers don’t think their company’s goals are translated into specific work they can execute. Fake work starts with:

  1. Poorly articulated and poorly focused strategies
  2. Plans that are poorly written, too long, and hard to read and understand.
  3. Plans that are shared with managers without assurance that they understand the reasoning and the expectations.
  4. Plans that are not shared with teams and individuals across the company.
  5. Plans that are ignored because of apathy, mistrust, doubt, or lack of guidance.

Strategies require focus and attention. When companies don’t focus on their strategies effectively, don’t communicate them effectively, and don’t alight their employees with them effectively, they are putting the entire enterprise at risk.

Failing to See the Execution Gap — Alignment, Then Execution.

80 percent of all change processes fail because they are not implemented properly. Alignment is a team and personal issue. People aren’t machines… they have to align themselves: it is a team process and the main crucial element is communication. Once people align themselves with strategy, the other elements of work come together much more readily.

Failing to Manage — No Matter Our Level.

Whatever your role in management, you are causing fake work if you are not:

  1. Keenly aware of the company’s most important strategies and the results you need to target.
  2. Doing your part to facilitate communication about those strategies, either as the one sharing information or the one receiving it.
  3. Clarifying the most critical work, either for yourself as you interact with your manager or for those you manage.
  4. Helping prioritize and focus work.
  5. Checking, again and again, to see how you can remove obstacles to success.

Failing to See That Culture Creates an Environment of Fake Work.

Fake work prospers in cultures that are not self-aware. Culture can, and often needs to, change. A business that is surviving on a market need may be dying because fake work is bleeding the company to death. Businesses like these excel with a product that hits a market niche, and they usually have smart people who help them take off, but they cannot sustain their growth without the systems, structures, and processes that build a stable company…. [without a strong culture] they will end up with pockets of excellence throughout the company that barely survive within an institution of fake work.

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