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The Friction Project: How Smart Leaders Make the Right Things Easier and the Wrong Things Harder (Hardcover)
The definitive guide to eliminating the forces that make it harder, more complicated, or downright impossible to get things done in organizations. Find out why Adam Grant says "If every leader took the ideas in this book seriously, the world would be a less miserable, more productive place."
Every organization is plagued by destructive friction. Yet some forms of friction are incredibly useful, and leaders who attempt to improve workplace efficiency often make things even worse. Drawing from seven years of hands-on research, The Friction Project by bestselling authors Robert I. Sutton and Huggy Rao teaches readers how to become “friction fixers.”
Sutton and Rao kick off the book by unpacking how skilled friction fixers think and act like trustees of others’ time. They provide friction forensics to help readers identify where to avert and repair bad organizational friction and where to maintain and inject good friction. Then their help pyramid shows how friction fixers do their work, from reframing friction troubles they can’t fix right now, so they feel less threatening, to designing and repairing organizations. The heart of the book digs into the causes and solutions for five of the most common and damaging friction troubles: oblivious leaders, addition sickness, broken connections, jargon monoxide, and fast and frenzied people and teams.
Sound familiar? Sutton and Rao are here to help. They wrap things up with lessons for leading your own friction project, including linking little things to big things; the power of civility, caring, and love for propelling designs and repairs; and embracing the mess that is an inevitable part of the process (while still trying to clean it up).
About the Author
Robert I. Sutton is an organizational psychologist and professor of Management Science and Engineering in the Stanford Engineering School. He has given keynote speeches to more than 200 groups in 20 countries, and served on numerous scholarly editorial boards. Sutton’s work has been featured in the New York Times, BusinessWeek, The Atlantic, Financial Times, Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, and Washington Post. He is a frequent guest on various television and radio programs, and has written seven books and two edited volumes, including the bestsellers The No Asshole Rule; Good Boss, Bad Boss; and Scaling Up Excellence.
Huggy Rao is the Atholl McBean professor of Organizational Behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and a fellow of the Center for Advanced Study in Behavioral Science, the Sociological Research Association, and the Academy of Management. He has written for Harvard Business Review, Business Week, and the Wall Street Journal. He is the author of Market Rebels and coauthor of the bestselling Scaling Up Excellence.
“This is the ultimate guide to diagnosing and fixing the problems in your organization. No one knows more about making work better than this pair of experts, and they’ve produced a remarkably insightful, engrossing, evidence-based, and actionable read. If every leader took the ideas in this book seriously, the world would be a less miserable, more productive place.”
—Adam Grant, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Think Again and host of the TED podcast WorkLife
"Friction—good and bad—is among the most important but least understood elements of an organization. Get it right, and your team will wake up happy to go to work, get it wrong, and you'll make everyone miserable and undermine their ability to scale your vision. Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao have spent the last decade studying the causes and remedies for friction troubles at a wide range of companies. They’ve distilled their lessons to help you and your team make the right things easier and the wrong things harder in your company. Every executive, investor, board member, and leader should buy The Friction Project.”
—Reid Hoffman, Co-Founder of LinkedIn and Partner at Greylock Partners
"A spectacular achievement. Sutton and Rao show that friction is the secret source of organizational failure—and success. Full of practical advice, this book will make the world a better place."
—Cass R. Sunstein, Robert Walmsley University Professor, Harvard University, author of Sludge
"Sutton and Rao have given us a thousand gems, each an invaluable insight on its own, reinventing management as the art of ensuring that things get done as they should without unnecessary struggle. Marshalling the crucial insights from classic works, as well as from the very latest studies, they make a convincing case for friction as a vital focus and offer countless practical suggestions that you can apply in your work. I guarantee that their profoundly humane arguments will win your hearts, change your behavior, and transform your companies."
—Amy C. Edmondson, Professor, Harvard Business School, author of Right Kind of Wrong: The Science of Failing Well
“An energetic guide … Readers tired of sitting through unnecessary meetings will want to check this out.”
"If you dream of freeing your people and organization to focus their time on what really matters, The Friction Project is the book for you. More than ever today we need more nimble, innovative, customer centric, and human organizations. Eliminating needless friction is at the heart of that quest, as Bob Sutton and Huggy Rao show in their wonderful new book."
—Herminia Ibarra, The Charles Handy Professor of Organizational Behavior, London Business School, and author of Act Like a Leader, Think Like a Leader, and Working Identity
"Subtract friction and an organization will move faster, become more innovative and drive productivity gains. The Friction Project is a 'how-to' guide in a period of workforce transformation across sectors."
—Donna Morris, Executive Vice President, Chief People Officer, Walmart Inc.
"The idea of leaders as friction fixers is dynamite. Their job is to remove obstacles to help teams drive decisions and impact, whether that’s through eliminating friction that’s impeding progress or introducing friction to foster debate and better outcomes. Sutton’s and Rao’s insights in The Friction Project offer leaders at all levels important tools and real-world examples to recognize the role that both kinds of friction can play in their organization’s success."
—Shantanu Narayan, Chair and Chief Executive Officer of Adobe
"It’s a great and provocative read. As a business leader I never thought of leaders as 'friction fixers.' The Friction Project identifies when friction is and is not desirable. It’s packed with real-world examples from varied organizations, their frictions, and above all, how the people who make repairs practice their craft."
—Carlos Brito, CEO of Belron and former CEO of Anheuser-Busch InBev
"As I read this groundbreaking book, I imagined a future where every leader eliminates bad friction and harnesses good friction to build better organizations. Every manager MUST read The Friction Project to learn how, by leading through a friction lens, and using the practical solutions Sutton and Rao provide, they can create productive, innovative, and caring workplaces."
—Tsedal Neeley, Harvard Business School, author of Remote Work Revolution and coauthor of The Digital Mindset
"Are you making the right things effortless and the right things hard? Sutton and Rao take us on a delightful tour of bad emails, infuriating subscriptions and labyrinthine hiring processes—and they show us how to fix it all. Hard to put down and easy to like, this is a business book to savor."
—Tim Harford, author of The Data Detective and host of Cautionary Tales
"I have found every place I’ve been to be filled with people who REALLY CARE about doing the right thing for the company. Sutton and Rao show how leaders who pay attention to friction—which kinds are helpful and which are not—can equip these people with the right tools, build their trust, and make incredible progress as a result."
—Ed Catmull, cofounder of Pixar, former president of Pixar and Disney Animation Studios, and author of Creativity Inc.
"A leader's role in removing and managing friction is a powerful lens for building companies that go fast and slow at the right times. Sutton and Rao break down this challenge with insightful stories and actionable lessons you won't want to miss."
—Clara Shih, CEO of Salesforce AI, founder and board chair of Hearsay Systems, and author of the New York Times bestseller The Facebook Era