First, Break All The Rules


Author: Marcus Burckingham & Curt Coffman

This book is based on a huge sample of interviews conducted with over 80,000 in 25 years. The gist of the book lies in how these managers have debunked old myths about management .The authors further analyze the questions and answers which most strongly correlate to great organizational performance.

According to the writers, there are only twelve key questions. If an organization’s employees can answer these in the affirmative, odds are you have a very effective organization / team. The authors identify these twelve questions, discuss their meaning and significance, and, most important, the practices managers can undertake to create alignment with these twelve principles.

The book revolves around two major concepts. The first idea is simply that you don’t change people. Natural consequences might help an employee decide to change, but most behaviour change in adults occurs at the margin. So hire for what you need – don’t expect an introverted engineer to excel at sales and don’t expect a highly social marketer to sit quietly at a cube for days on end managing a database.

The authors illustrate this concept with a memorable folk-tale involving a fox and scorpion.

The second concept alludes to the title of the book. The “rules” that are meant to be broken are those social conventions which might be “common sense”, but aren’t effective. Top among these is the idea that managers should treat everyone equally.

The authors postulate that managers need to dispense with this “rule” because people are not the same and trying to treat them the same is rather ineffective.

Applications are easy to make. For instance, almost everyone likes affirmation. However, privately acknowledging the employee who craves public recognition or publicly recognizing the person who prefers a quiet pat on the back are equally ineffective. Trying to treat both people the same will quickly end in frustration.

First Break All the Rules is full of practical managerial wisdom. It’s strongly recommended for new managers or those looking forward to increase their effectiveness.