Sunday, April 19, 2015

Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

A few years ago, I wrote a blog post comparing technology companies to countries. For Google, I choose Japan because both the company and country have distinctive cultures and have continuously demonstrated expert technical competency and precision. The post and the comparisons were simplistic and meant mostly to provoke thoughtful conversation, but after reading Laszlo Bock's Work Rules, it is evident that I was right about at least one thing: Google does have a truly distinctive culture.

In Work Rules, Bock summarizes the pillars of Google's culture and details how the company's People Operations function works and has evolved with the rapid growth of the company. It is fascinating as an insider's view of Google and also as a primer for other organizations. There's abundant material here that company leaders and HR specialists can use, tweak, test, and implement.

As a high level summary, Bock distills key "work rules" into ten steps that can transform a team or workplace:

1. Give your work meaning.
2. Trust your people.
3. Hire only people who are better than you.
4. Don't confuse development with managing performance.
5. Focus on the two tails.
6. Be frugal and generous.
7. Pay unfairly.
8. Nudge.
9. Manage the rising expectations.
10. Enjoy! And then go back to No. 1 and start again.

Google has become a very strong brand and I thought it was interesting as I mentioned Work Rules to others how many seemed predisposed to favor or dismiss the ideas based on preconceived notions of Google. Some thought any idea from Google must be worth trying, while others conveyed that Google has the luxury of resources to try things other companies simply can't. Whether you already have preexisting ideas about Google or not, I highly recommend Work Rules -- for the narrative of Google, Bock's wealth of experience as a business professional (including time spent at McKinsey before he joined Google), and also the many anecdotes, studies, and work rules you can draw from.

For an outsider's view of Google, I would also recommend Steven Levy's In the Plex: How Google Thinks, Works, and Shapes Our Lives.

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