The Generals Waging War Against Fake Work – Interview with Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan W. Nielson

The Generals Waging War Against Fake Work – Interview with Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan W. Nielson

Written by Mark

Topics: Uncategorized

This is the 3rd installation in the Fake Work series.

Fake work is everywhere.  It has somehow worked itself into the very fabric of society.  The waste at work is sickening.  Jobs waste countless hours and manpower on useless tasks and meetings. Anyone who hears about fake work knows exactly what it is, yet very few are willing to even think about ways to combat this evil scourge.

Two allies not willing to stand down in the face of the fake work empire.

Meet Brent D. Peterson and Gaylan W. Nielson.  Authors of Fake Work [Yes that’s an affiliate link :)] , I recently read their book and had a chance to talk with them about it.  They are leading the fight in this battle in the hope that Real Work will prevail.  They founded the Work Itself Group where they help companies identify, and eliminate fake work.  They have worked with companies all over the world to establish strategies, align them, and to execute Real Work.  Besides the costs and loss of productivity from fake work, there is something often overlooked.  That is the destruction of employee morale which is a large cause of employee dissatisfaction in the workplace.  In their battle against the ever growing and never ending mountains of fake work, they took time to answer some questions.

What led you to the discovery of fake work and, eventually, write the book?

Experience!  We have done our share of Fake Work, and it is really disturbing and painful to find out that hard work proves to have no value.  As consultants, we have seen extraordinary amounts of Fake Work and its consequences.  It leads to exorbitant costs, unhappy workers, and ineffective organizations.  All you have to have is one major project canceled or to see major investments in wrong-headed initiatives to get a gut full of Fake Work.

Do you think fake work will always be a problem?

Yes.  We don’t think that Fake Work will be wiped out because it’s too much to expect.  A lot of time people are working hard and with the best intent; however, they may not know or understand that strategies have changed and their work is off track—and fake.

At what point does a corporation go from doing solely real work to when fake work starts taking root?

Every organization is guilty of behaviors that drive Real Work to Fake Work.  As soon as strategy is ignored or given very little attention, the chain of Fake Work begins.   That strategic shift is dramatic, and without a clear understanding, a lot of people can be working in a void.

There are hundreds of contributing factors that create pools of Fake Work popping up throughout an organization—of any kind.  In the book, we talk about 10 causes of Fake Work, but dozens of causes are embedded in those broad discussions.

What is the main cause of fake work?

Without strategy, the chain is broken or weakened from the get-go, and Fake Work will be the result.  Alignment is critical and often taken for granted.  That assumption provides us a lot of work.

What’s the best way to identify fake work?

Follow a process for clarifying strategies, discussing them and aligning to them, and setting up processes for holding each other accountable.  For us, this is a process called The Work Itself, which is what helped us write FAKE “WORK” because going through that process gave us a lot of insights into the things that are breaking down between people and their team.  Each person must KNOW what their job is and how it serves the organization best.

What can be done to stop fake work?

Define Fake Work, discuss it, evaluate and assess the organizations by determining how well tied in and tuned in employees are.  Once you have a baseline, attack the elements that are most concerning in the organization.  They will all be sub factors of strategy, alignment, or execution.

Excerpt from the book

The Road to Nowhere

“Suppose you are building a road on a mountainside leading to the site for your new cabin. You have worked for months clearing sagebrush and aspen trees. You’ve moved rocks and filled in roadbed through the exhausting heat, the raging downpours, even early snow. You’ve pushed forward, working from your best understanding of the surveyor’s plans. Your road winds over a dusty hill, cuts through the trees, moves along a rocky ridge, and then—you find yourself looking down from the edge of a cliff.

Fake work looks and feels like that. The building of the road was purposeful. Your effort was admirable. The blood, sweat, and tears you poured into the project were real and your commitment was profound. But none of that really matters! You are still left with a road to nowhere.

Fake work is evil.  Fake work is cancer.  Fake work kills.


There will be a day when fake work is not just an accepted norm, but something hunted down, and eliminated.  For now, I’m glad to know the Generals leading the way in rooting out this fake work evil.

Fake work is something that I am passionate about ending. I’ve experienced it firsthand, and have seen how strong its grip can be. It can be so deeply ingrained in a corporate culture, or managerial fiefdom, that everyone can be totally unaware that fake work even exists.  The realization sometimes never happens and if it does, often it’s too late.  The layoffs and restructurings have already occurred, and there’s nothing that can be done.

Sometimes, fake work is allowed to proliferate and goes unnoticed because the organization is strong enough to support the inefficiencies.  However, people aren’t stupid.  Usually they know when something is fake work, but are simply afraid to speak up.  Fake work is something people suppress and pretend is not there. They continue doing work they know is fake but they feel empty inside.  It’s a vicious soul sucking cycle of pain.

I really enjoyed reading the book Fake “Work”.  Bent and Gaylan don’t just simply describe the problem, but they explain the causes and offer solutions.  The real world examples and stories are incredible and easily identifiable and applicable to personal experiences.  I had many “AH HA” Moments when reading this book.  With fake work ubiquitous in the school system, in business, and in government, I think this book should be required reading for anyone in the work force.

Become part of the army and join the fight! Buy Fake “Work” Now.

Fake Work

You can check out their website at

Header Photo from Flickr

2nd Photo from Flickr

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2 Comments Comments For This Post I'd Love to Hear Yours!

  1. I remember you talking about fake work on twitter. I guess I’m a little late on the discovery. Great post, I stumbled it and everything. It seems that I’ll have to scour your posts to find a definitive explanation for this idea of fake work.

    But hey Mark, how’ve you been. You ready for the new “blogging” year?

    • Mark says:

      Thanks for the support Jonathan! Fake work is a topic I’m extremely passionate about and it’s great to run into individuals who are also intrigued by the topic.

      This year has been an incredible one. I can only hope next year will be as good. How’s about you?

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