Foreword to The Rules of Work, Expanded Edition: A Definitive Code for Personal Success
- Jul 27, 2010
Most of us (I'm guessing here) want to do our jobs well. Most of us (still guessing) want more important jobs, bigger salaries, greater security, higher status, and a bright future. So we try to do our jobs so well that we will be rewarded, respected, and promoted.
And that is where we go wrong. (I'm not guessing anymore.)
Of course, we have to do our jobs really well. There's no future for the screw-up, the bum, or the sociopath. But Richard Templar puts his finger on the flaw in the implied logic that concludes that the better we do our job, the faster we will rise up the organization. He points out that we are all doing two jobs, but most of us are only conscious of one of them—the job in hand: meeting our sales targets, reducing machine downtime, speeding up monthly management accounts, whatever. The other job is both larger and vaguer: making the organization work. If people think you have it in you to solve the problems of the organization itself, not just your small part of it, you've broken away from the pack. But how do you do that? There's an easy answer: read this book. Follow the Rules.
I realized when I read this book that I have always been half conscious of the Rules, though I never managed to formulate and analyze them with the clarity and detail that Richard Templar brings to the task. There was a time when I had to interview a lot of promotion candidates in the BBC, and with most of them I had this feeling that somehow they didn't look like top management material. Was it how they dressed, how they walked, how they talked? Bits of all of those, but most of all their attitude, their frame of mind, which somehow affected all the others.
Most of them stressed how well they did their present job, which was quite unnecessary. We knew that; that's why they were there. It was their entrance ticket to the interview, and there was no point in constantly waving it at us. Amazingly few of them had given any real thought to the problems of the job they were applying for, as opposed to the job they were doing, let alone the problems that faced the BBC as an organization. They were oblivious of the Rules.
The American management guru Peter Drucker makes a useful distinction between efficiency and effectiveness: efficiency is doing the job right, effectiveness is doing the right job. Your boss will tell you how to do the job right, but you have to work out for yourself what the right job is. It means looking at the world outside the organization: what it needs, and how its needs are changing, and what the organization must do (and stop doing) to survive and prosper.
I remember interviewing two chief executives of great corporations. Both had joined from college with hundreds of other bright ambitious graduates, and I asked them why it was they had gotten to the top of the heap and not any of the others. One said he didn't know, but what he could tell me was that every job he'd ever done was abolished after he left it. The other didn't know either, but said that no job he'd ever done existed until he started doing it. Both of them were striking examples of people who focused on doing the right job, of thinking like the chairman even when they were junior or middle managers. And I have no doubt they followed all the other rules as well, always somehow looking and sounding like someone who should be in a higher job. And as Richard Templar stresses—they were popular and respected throughout the organization. You can't be a successful chief executive if you're surrounded by embittered, resentful, and demoralized colleagues.
The Rules of Work is first and foremost a guide for the individual manager, an eye-opener for all those who would like to rise to the top but don't seem to be able to find the map. But it is also very much a book for the organization itself; the great danger is fossilization, becoming preoccupied with its internal tasks and systems and procedures, and losing touch with the world outside. And this will happen if everyone is concentrating on being efficient rather than being effective—in other words, if they don't follow the Rules.
Sir Antony Jay
Author, Yes Minister and creator of Sir Humphrey
Founder, Video Arts