Book summay Work Rules! - Laszlo Bock, PDF

Work Rules! - Laszlo Bock

Discover the secrets of the organizational culture and people management of one of the most successful companies in the world, Google.

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Elected many times as the "Best Company to Work in the World", Google arouses curiosity for those unfamiliar with their work environment. After all, why are their employees so happy?

"Work Rules!" was written by the formerly Senior Vice President of People Operations at Google and it reveals in detail the employees routine, the recruitment process and, more important, the organizational culture of this highly innovative ecosystem.

In addition to a colorful and relaxed atmosphere, the collaborators enjoy a great creative autonomy, receiving 20% of spare time to engage and develop personal projects. Who wouldn't want to work in a place like that, right?

In this summary, you will delve into the mysteries of Google from the point of view of a former employee, so prepare your coffee and let's plunge together!

About the book "Work Rules!"

The book "Work Rules!" was written by Laszlo Bock and published by Twelve in 2015. It contains 416 pages and it's segmented into 14 chapters.

The author worked at Google and, at the time he was there, made a huge research about how the company's philosophy positively influenced the recruitment of the right talents and, besides, how this system repercuted on the performance of its employees.

This work was elected as one of the best business books by The Economist, Forbes and Business Insider.

About the author Laszlo Bock

Laszlo Bock is a Romanian-born and USA naturalized author. He's the co-founder and CEO of the startup Humu, a platform created with the aim of assisting the productivity of companies through human resources.

Bock has a wide background in Human Resources and both his graduation and MBA are in this field. In 2010 he was nominated as "Executive of Human Resources of The Year" by HR Executive Magazine.

To whom is this book indicated?

The content approached in "Work Rules!" covers especially management theories in a comfortable, dynamic and innovative environment like Google.

Therefore, this book is recommended to all professionals who work with Human Resources, apart from leaders, managers and entrepreneurs who wish to improve the performance of their employees by transforming the work environment.

Main ideas of the book "Work Rules!"

  • Learn with everyone, from the best to the worst employee.
  • Work can't be a burden, you need to extract happiness from it.
  • Any company, big or small, can apply the Google management model.
  • If you want to increase your company's profit and productivity, give your employees power and freedom.
  • When an employee doesn't perform as it should, the best way out may not be dismissal, but a reallocation.
  • A good manager is focused on inspiring and guiding his subordinates, rather than rewarding or punishing.
  • The best way to manage people is to discard all traditional management methods.

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[Book Summary] Work Rules! - Laszlo Bock

Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast

The culture of a group can be analyzed in 3 ways: looking at physical space and behaviors; studying the beliefs and values of group members or digging into the premises of those beliefs and values.

Through anonymous research held at Google, their own employees, or googlers, chose the main word to describe work culture as "fun". In the company's philosophy, it is "possible to be serious without wearing a suit" and this has given good results until today.

Thereby, Google's culture is based on 3 pillars:

  1. Mission: "organize the world's information and make it globally accessible and useful".
  2. Transparency: "assume that all information can be shared with the team, rather than conclude that no data should be revealed".
  3. Voice: "guarantee to the employees the right to speak out about the company's management".

Searching for the Best

It all started with the aspiration to admit only the most brilliant individuals inside Google. Over time, the selection process has been refined, because not just intelligence must be evaluated, but also teamwork and creativity.

Every year, Google recruits thousands of people. However, their candidates exceed millions. This means that only 0.25% of the people who apply for the company are actually hired.

So that just the best employees are hired, Google promotes a series of stages, always evaluating in committee, because just one evaluator can't get the best out of someone. In each committee, there's always a professional with direct experience in the position to be fulfilled by the individual.

Beyond this hiring model, the company has already promoted some completely "crazy" selection processes, such as an encrypted billboard exposed on a California highway, always with the purpose to admit the best people.

Thus, based on these challenges faced by the Google HR team, we can assume three great lessons from this chapter, they are:

  1. Don't speed up the process: a good selection is done with enough analysis, discussion and consideration.
  2. Don't let managers choose their team alone: promote committees with different specializations.
  3. Don't be afraid to experiment "crazy" methods: perhaps this is the key to captivate the best people.

Don't Trust Your Gut

In this chapter, Bock will argue about the famous "10-second theory" of a job interview. Generally, the interviewer, on the first 10 seconds of contact, creates a concept about his candidate and 99.4% of the rest of the interview's time is wasted to confirm these impressions.

"There is no way to distinguish someone brilliant by nature and someone who just practiced a skill."

There are thousands of studies to define which one is the best method to be assertive when hiring someone. Many times, standard job interviews fail to measure someone's ability to do creative work.

Therefore, 4 attributes must be considered and can predict one's performance inside Google, they are:

  1. General cognitive ability: intelligent and adaptable people.
  2. Leadership: everyone must be a leader at some moment.
  3. "Googliness": enjoy having fun, being proactive, among other aspects. It is not a closed concept.
  4. Functional knowledge: know how to perform their responsibilities in the desired position.

These attributes, being relatable with the corporate world in general, can be easily replicated and adapted by any company.

Let the Inmates Run the Asylum

Inside Google's organizational culture, all employees, whether they are managers or interns, are highly skeptical about hierarchical leadership, the one we have traditionally known.

"Managers are not bad people, but we all succumb to the conveniences and enthusiasm of power."

That's why at Google, especially high ranking managers, seek to have a horizontal relationship. In order to do this, many status symbols have been eliminated, such as pretentious job names and also benefits, which generally are the same for all company employees.

In this chapter, Bock argues that decision-making power must always be based on data. In conventional companies, promotions usually come when your boss feels it's time to reward you, right?

Within Google, it doesn't exist: any decision must be done after a deep analysis of performance and results data.

The Two Tails

Opportunities can be found in the best and worst employees. Exemplified by the Gaussian curve, the author describes that companies often build an average employee performance and start to underestimate those who are outside the median curve.

Gauss Curve

From left to right we have illustrated the worst to the best performances. 70% is the equivalent of average performances.

Source: Website Choros

The lower "tail" of the graphic (13.6% at the left), in which the worst employees are located and is often shortened by dismissal, is actually where the best growth opportunities are. And the upper tail (13.6% on the right) is the one that teaches exactly how to take advantage of these opportunities.

Bock argues that an employee's poor performance is rarely due to incompetence. In general, it is the result of a capacity gap or lack of motivation. This second reason can occur either for personal reasons or, a little more seriously, that the team is facing problems that need to be solved.

At Google, HR managers regularly identify the 5% worst performers. Instead of discharge, they identify these people as those most in need of assistance to grow and carry out training interventions for these groups. If it does not work, the employees are relocated to a new function.

After much insistence, those who still show no improvement in performance, either resign themselves or are fired, but enough time is given for the individual to find a new job, before officially leaving the company.

Building a Learning Institution

The HR team from Google promotes an internal training program every year, called Googler2Googler or G2G, where thousands of googlers enlist to teach one another. In 2013, more than 2, 200 courses were taught overall, with more than 21, 000 student googlers and 3, 000 in teaching.

The courses last only a few hours and their goal is to "invigorate the minds of the company's employees, making them more productive when they return to work". Many googlers use their 20% spare time to participate or teach in one of those courses.

In "Work Rules!", Bock explains that managers must optimize the learning rate of their teams, unwinding abilities into smaller elements and providing continuous and immediate feedback. In addition, using the company's own employees to teach or guide something, it saves resources and promotes unity.

Pay Unfairly

Generally, companies choose the compensation of their employees based on the market and varying by 20% maximum in relation to the same. The best professionals receive up to 30% more than the average salary, with an increase of 5% to 10% per year.

What happens is that after a certain time, the good professional will stagnate and lose exceptionality. Hence, this was the challenge to be solved by Google: "how to ensure that employees remain with sufficient appetite and ambition in order to keep striving to have a great impact?"

Laszlo Bock argues the following in "Work Rules!": it is necessary to assume that the best people in the company are probably better than you think and are worth more than they receive. Thus, a manager must reward those who deserve it, regardless of the position.

Paying fair salaries, defends the author, means paying more to those who contribute the most to the company. This encourages individual effort and does not extinguish the employee's ambition. Therefore, it is possible for two people in the same position to receive different incomes, proportional to their results.

The Best Things in Life are Free

The great learning presented in this chapter is that the good manager or leader must always pursue to make life easier for his collaborators instead of complicating it.

"People can exist without companies. But companies cannot exist without people. In times of economic difficulties, we lose sight of that matter."

Within Google, as we all know, numerous benefits are offered in the form of services. We believe that they cost absurdities to the company. Actually, many of these benefits offered are free, or almost.

These services that Google provides have the purpose of making life easier for employees. As follows, inside the building you will find ATMs, laundry, bicycle repair, organic products delivery, beauty parlor, car cleaning and oil change, among others.

All of these services cost absolutely nothing to Google, because they are small entrepreneurs who merely ask for permission to use the place, with nothing in return. In general, they reinforce the feeling of community and innovation within the company.

Nudge a Lot

All newly hired employees in a company destroy value. There is a long learning curve at work until the new employee starts to actually bring revenue for the company.

Through Project Oxygen, the program from Google developed by the HR team to instruct good managers based on a horizontal hierarchy, the leaders of the new employees, or newglers, receive a checklist by email which contains 5 necessary behaviors to manage a team. They are:

  1. Talk about functions and attributions.
  2. Associate a newgler with a fellow friend.
  3. Help your newgler to build a network.
  4. Check monthly the adaptation of newglers for the first six months.
  5. Encourage open dialogue.

As a result, newglers whose managers followed all these behaviors to the letter, became fully effective 25% faster than the other newglers whose managers did not follow the email checklist.

It's Not All Rainbows and Unicorns

Before becoming the company it is today, with an innovative and exemplary management model, Google has gone through numerous mistakes to identify the "limits of freedom" and what would be the ideal way to manage people in their environment.

Laszlo Bock emphasizes the importance of concentrating the right resources on the right focuses. Google is a company boiling with new ideas, as we already know, and the googlers engage in more than 20 thousand projects every year. Hence, it was necessary to create a top-down committee to evaluate these projects.

Although many googlers have protested this top-down measure, managers have always sought to explain the reasons for each decision making. This is an extra job to whoever is leading, however, it is crucial if you want your employees to continue to see the meaning of what they do.

"The key to balance individual freedoms with general guidelines is transparency."

Indeed, this chapter teaches us that a leader needs to keep in mind that he will not always please everyone. As much as he strives to provide the best work environment, there will always be some dissatisfied employee and in no way this means that the manager is doing some mediocre work.

What You Can Do Starting Tomorrow

In the final chapter of the book "Work Rules!", Bock presents a bit of his own personal philosophy, that guides him as a manager for a better relationship with his team. Basically:

  • You either believe that people are good at heart, or you don't.
  • If people are good, then they must be free.

Businessmen, in its majority, don't trust their collaborators, because they don't believe that employees are good and wish the best for the company. This causes them to create an enormous and bureaucratic network of rules that would often prove useless, if mutual trust was exercised.

Therefore, the first step to change the nature of work and organizational culture of your company is to create a system qualified for delegating functions. Believe that your employees are as capable as you are!

What do other authors say about it?

In "Firms of Endearment", Raj Sisodia, Jag Sheth and David B. Wolfe uphold the vision of the importance of having a corporate ecosystem that has human and social values. It may not seem like it, but when your employees see purpose in what they do, long-term revenue increases exponentially.

Thus, the authors argue that, abandoning the traditional dogmas of the corporate world and seeking to follow a more humanized management model, companies will be contributing to make society a better place.

The authors Sandro Magaldi and José Salibi write in "O Novo Código da Cultura" tips on how to transform your work environment into something completely innovative, coupled with a strong organizational culture within your company.

Lastly, in "How Google Works", Eric Schmidt and Jonathan Rosenberg explain in more detail how strategy and culture works at Google, with a friendlier focus on the platform.

Okay, but how can I apply this to my life?

After knowing all the success secrets related to Google's performance and people management, a leader can willingly seek to replicate this system, adapting when necessary, within his own company.

Many tips have been presented throughout the book, so let's review some of them for you to begin to put into practice immediately with your team and thus improve productivity:

  • Facilitate the lives of your employees, seeking to bring simple benefits that increase productivity.
  • Try to provide a light and prone environment for creativity.
  • Delegate functions and have a horizontal relationship with your subordinates.
  • Do not dismiss your worst employees! Investigate the root of the problem and, if necessary, reallocate functions.
  • Data are your best friends: before making any decision, consult them.
  • Promote mutual learning and a sense of community among your collaborators.
  • Build a strong organizational culture, your employees need to "wear the shirt" of the company.
  • Be transparent! Your employees must understand the reason for any decision to continue beholding a meaning in their work.

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