The Unwritten Laws of Business by W J King and James G Skakoon
|The Unwritten Laws of Business by W J King and James G Skakoon
|Reviewer: Sue Magee
|Summary: A gem of a book of the good common sense which so often gets overlooked in the workplace and without a word of jargon in it. Highly recommended.
|Date: April 2007
|Publisher: Profile Books Ltd
It's several years now since I was employed, but when I look back on those days I tend to remember the office politics, the back-stabbing and the sheer difficulty of working with some people more than the professional achievements and the colleagues I liked and valued. It could and should have been different. If this little book gets the circulation it deserves then that could change.
In 2005 a business magazine published a story about a management pamphlet. People such as Warren Buffett lauded the book and more than 300,000 people wrote asking for copies. Much of the pamphlet was taken from The Unwritten Laws of Engineering written in 1944 and it's this book which has been updated and reissued as The Unwritten Laws of Business.
I don't like self-help books - the only person they seem to help is the author - but this book is rather different. It's a book of simple common sense which if applied to your working life will make it successful and more enjoyable. The 'laws' are not specific to engineering - they'll work equally well in any business or even in the home.
The advice covers everyone who works, from the beginner to the boss. Beginners are advised to give early assignments their best efforts even if they feel that the chore is beneath their dignity or training. The reasoning is simple - if you do that job well then you'll be looked on favourably for advancement, but if you don't then promotion is not going to come your way. Other advice covers demonstrating that you can get things done, preparing for a business trip and developing a 'Let's go see!" attitude - if there are problems, go and see how they can be sorted. Perhaps the most important for the new starter is the advice not to be timid -speak up and promote your ideas. The quiet timorous individual who says nothing is usually credited with having nothing to say.
The basics of the book might have been written over sixty years ago, but the ideas are still sound today. There's no jargon: 'blue sky thinking', 'out of the box' and all the other management speak has no place in this book. The important words which stay with you are ones like 'honesty' and 'dependability'. Take this advice as to how you should act when asked a question:
If you do not know [the answer], say so, but also say "I'll find out right away." If you are not certain, indicate the exact degree of certainty or approximation upon which your answer is based. A reputation for dependability and reliability can be one of your most valuable assets.
Weeks, if not months of my working life could have been saved if everyone had stuck to that simple rule. The advice given about meetings, had it been read by all those people who stole my will to live for hours on end could probably have saved an equal amount. There is nothing in this book which is more than simple common sense, but there's usually little of that in the working environment.
Even if professional success has already come your way there's a lot in this book which even the CEO would do well to remember. Never underestimate the extent of your professional responsibility and personal liability is something that even directors of major companies would do well to remember, but frequently forget. Let ethical behaviour govern your actions and those of your company seems only to apply if it will make good advertising copy.
I read the book in a single sitting and just about every page found me nodding in agreement. I'd only a couple of minor quibbles and they were with the book rather than the content. The font is small and whilst it might not pose a problem to the new starter, the CEO will definitely need his reading spectacles. There's no index either and when I wanted to quote some advice I found myself having to flick through until I found what I wanted.
I still think there should be a copy in every workplace though.
My thanks to the publishers for sending this book.
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