: New: Book Report: Work Rules

It's a book about business people operations by Google's Laszlo Bock. (Ex-Google, but at Google when he wrote the book…) There's important advice in there even if your company doesn't have geysers of advertising money erupting up through the floor. There's important advice in there even if you don't set any policy for any organization at all.

Whether or not you set policy, if you're pulling down enough money to live on, then Laszlo wants you to save for your retirement. Get into the habit of putting some money aside. You might appreciate the peace of mind later more than you enjoy that $22 plate of fancy restaurant pork trotters now.

If you do set policy and want a place with a Googley attitude but maybe don't have Googley money, you can: set policies that remove obstacles. Don't require so many approvals for things. Give people permission to do their jobs. Sometimes they'll fall down and do embarrassing things that make you want to put up lots of signature-requiring policies again. But on average, the agility you get makes the chaos worth it.


When he gets into how these things have played out at Google, there's some Trust But Verify going on. People are messy. Google has a lot of people.

E.g., riddle-me-this engineering interview questions are silly. If you ask someone to Fermi-estimate how many golf balls would fill the Grand Canyon, that's not a good way to gauge their ability to estimate where to shoehorn a caching layer into your whatsit server system. Instructions to Google interviewers specifically point out not to ask these unhelpful questions (and point out some kinds of questions that do correlate with nerdly competence). But some Google engineers "know better" than to trust the instructions, bless their naive arrogant hearts. They have their favorite Fermi-ish questions and ask those questions. But the interviewers aren't the folks who make the hiring decisions. Those decision makers get a summary of the interview. When they see that an interviewer asked unhelpful questions, they don't use that interview. (And they tell the interviewer to get his act together for next time.)

Mind you, those decision makers aren't just hiring managers. They are individual contributors in those meetings too. So… maybe the "trust" message is that management should trust the non-management. And if there's some process so important that one bad apple could ruin it, like interviewing, then instead of throwing in manager approval you might toss some peers at the problem.

Tags: business teams

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