Book Review : Work Rules by Laszlo Bock

I have read numerous of books, especially lately, but the problem with reading a lot of books is that I tend to forget what was the book really about. To solve that problem, I decided to kick-start this habit of writing a review for every book that I read. And by publishing it in this blog, I hope the information can be useful for those who share the same affection to books.


Lately, I have developed an interest in people, human capital, and how they behave in an organization. I found myself spending hours and hours reading up the topic on the internet, and I was craving for more. A good friend of mine was kind enough to buy me a present, a book by Laszlo Bock, SVP of People Operations at Google. I have always held Google highly, as a company. I admired their vision, their commitment and the way they get things done. And I think it is just wonderful now that I can get the insights from the Google People Operations SVP himself.


“Culture Eats Strategy for Breakfast”

We may or may not understand how a company culture affect the employees within that organization. Especially in Google. If we only see merely with our bare eyes, Google’s culture from the surface looks a lot of FUN, I’m talking about the bean bags, slides, free meal, and all those perks you are entitled as a Googler. But, those FUN does not really portray Google’s culture as a whole.


Laszlo Bock, and Google, believe in a mission that matters. Remember all those company’s vision and mission which real intention is only to please its shareholders? Company’s ambition to become the leader in certain industry, or a more cliché mission to serve the customers, to add value. Bock pointed out the problem with this kind of mission is that it does not necessarily give a meaning to the work an employee does. What’s so great about maximizing the profit of an IT company anyway? Google’s mission, in contrast to other corporate mission statements, holds a higher value and a noble-cause (at least that’s what most people believe).


Google’s mission is to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.

There are few cornerstones that shapes Google cultures, the first and foremost, is their mission. And it is amazing to see how far this mission can affect the quality of work and determination of employee–because they believe what they are doing does matter.


“Default to Open”

In line with their mission, Google believe in disseminating information throughout the organization. Google believes in transparency. I personally think this is one important aspect to have in any organization, it helps to minimize the risk of someone feeling left out and clueless of what is really going on inside the organization they are contributing to.

Silo-mentality is one of the most common dysfunction companies are facing nowadays, especially in a large organization where division of labor is so heavily-implemented even into the smallest tasks possible. It is challenging to keep everyone updated of what is going on within an organization across different teams. But, as challenging as it is, there is more benefits than harm in sharing information across different units. After all, a synergy of forces is more impactful than a single force.


Can We Imitate Google?

That is the question that I have in mind too. Google might be blessed with some of the best talents available in the world, making their community innovative, and more receptive to ideas. Some companies, however, does not have the privilege of resources to apply what Google has developed so far in their People Operations.


Google’s success in managing its people is not by accident. The way Google manage its people, is by conducting experiment after experiment, to see what works and what does not. When you have an organization filled with engineers, you need to have a more structured approach in convincing people. That is why experiments and data-driven decisions are the backbone of Google’s innovation in its people management. And also, not to mention that by conducting research and experiments within your organization, you will get a better understanding of how things are and what decision to take to bring betterment to your organization. It seems like a simple approach, and I believe a lot of other companies have the same data-driven approach too (hopefully, they do), but given the size of Google as a company, it is amazing how they can pull it off successfully. People tend to see innovation slows down as the size of the company grows bigger, but this does not seem to apply to Google.


Overall, “Work Rules” has successfully amazed me with the optimistic tone it has set since the very beginning of the book. Reading the book made me believe that people really is the most important asset to an organization, and if that asset is managed well, good things will come. Don’t take my words for it, go read the book, and see if you share the same perspective as I do.