Right at the start of the book, Scott Berkun makes the statement:
A great fallacy born from the failure to study culture is the assumption that you can take a practice from one culture and simply jam it into another and expect similar results.
Towards the end, he says:
I can’t tell you to simply copy what Automattic has done. It’d be foolish to tell you that since every company and person is different.
It’s easy to consider The Year Without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work as corporate self-help, but it is not. It is a documentary of an experience and the above two statements are, in my opinion, the most important takeaways of this book. Once you have resigned to the fact that this is not the book of answers, it makes for a good reading.
Personally, I have always admired Automattic as an organisation and having experienced their “culture” as a customer, this book made interesting reading for me. Yet, at times, I felt there was a bias on describing the one team that Berkun worked with (for good reason as he explains at the end of the book) and superficially glided over the larger essence of what makes WordPress, WordPress. As you read the book, you realise, one of the key factors that contributed to the company’s success is how they hire, but little is explored of that aspect. A lot is left to the reader’s inferences and, at times, imagination. Even when talking about the team that he worked with, the reading is granular, moving from details to generalisations. When the events he experienced are abstracted, the knowledge is perceptive and often amusing (mostly, because you may have experienced something similar)
He often makes comparisons to Microsoft, which I felt, were unfair. MS may not have adapted well, but their context and their timeline was different. Like almost every ‘business’ book a lot has been written for a little. A series of posts on WordPress could have sufficed, but then, it wouldn’t be a book.
Yet, if you are curious about the organisation that Automattic (WordPress.com) is, this is a good book. It’s not a lot about the “Future of Work,” but only about how one company is doing things differently and succeeding. If from the culture of this company, you are able to extract the philosophy, and then reapply it in your own context, it might prove to be useful.