Hard Hacks are what people most often think of when they hear the word
“hacking.” These are workarounds in technology, tools, processes and
structures. But what many don’t realize is that there are lots of
benevolent hacks ― hacking doesn’t have to be malicious. It can be
taking a system apart and reassembling it in a new, more beneficial
A good example is when Josh was working at a large company and tasked
with motivating a team that was under the supervision of another
director. Because he had no direct authority over them, he was
constantly struggling to get the attention and engagement of this very
busy staff. There had to be a better way than doing this through the
normal, officially-sanctioned, approaches.
As a techie, he relied on those skills: he wrote a small program that
monitored network traffic in the office ― just enough to notice where
this team was spending a lot of time and when. He discovered that they
often went to lunch together, and tended to gather around one
particular teammate’s desk to decide where to go every day.
So Josh just made sure to turn up at about the right time at that
person’s desk with some inquiry about the projects he needed done.
That way he was able to engage everyone together in a discussion about
The team then went off to lunch talking about his project, and came
back focused on the solutions they’d come up with. What’s more, it
didn’t require any hard-assed memos or edicts or meetings specifically
designed to get them engaged, but instead relied on his team’s natural
enthusiasm. Pretty soon Josh was getting invited to lunch to talk
about their ideas, and results started popping up quickly.
Note that Josh never got personal or intrusive data on his team this
way ― that would have betrayed their trust from the start. Instead he
used technology to figure how best to connect with his teammates far
more quickly than the usual corporate practices of changing his
schedule to meet theirs or by creating special engagement sessions.
His team wasn’t avoiding him or disengaged ― they were just extremely
busy. By knowing when he was best able to get their attention in a way
that worked for them, he created a super-fast win-win situation.
That’s an elegant hack.
Bill Jensen and Josh Klein are releasing Hacking Work through
Portfolio Penguin on Sept. 23 ― a book on how and why to break the
rules to create more success for you, your customers and your company.