The Unwritten Laws of Business

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9780385521260: The Unwritten Laws of Business

The bestselling business classic that Raytheon CEO
William Swanson made famous.

Every once in awhile, there is a book with a message so timeless, so universal, that it transcends generations. The Unwritten Laws of Business is such a book. Originally published over 60 years ago as The Unwritten Laws of Engineering, it has sold over 100,000 copies, despite the fact that it has never been available before to general readers. Fully revised for business readers today, here are but a few of the gems you’ll find in this little-known business classic:

If you take care of your present job well, the future will take care of itself.
The individual who says nothing is usually credited with having nothing to say.
Whenever you are performing someone else’s function, you are probably neglecting your own.
Martyrdom only rarely makes heroes, and in the business world, such heroes and martyrs often find themselves unemployed.
Refreshingly free of the latest business fads and jargon, this is a book that is wise and insightful, capturing and distilling the timeless truths and principles that underlie management and business the world over.

The little book with the big history.

In the summer of 2005, Business 2.0 published a cover story on Raytheon CEO William Swanson’s self-published pamphlet, Swanson’s Unwritten Rules of Management. Lauded by such chief executives as Jack Welch and Warren Buffett, the booklet became
a quiet phenomenon.

As it turned out, much of Swanson’s book drew from a classic of business literature that has been in print for more than sixty years. Now, in a new edition revised and updated for business readers today, we are reissuing the 1944 classic that inspired a number of Swanson’s “rules”: The Unwritten Laws of Business. Filled with sage advice and written in a spare, engaging style, The Unwritten Laws of Business offers insights on working with others, reporting to a boss, organizing a project, running a meeting, advancing your career, and more. Here’s just a sprinkling of the old-fashioned, yet surprisingly relevant, wisdom you’ll find in these pages:

If you have no intention of listening to, considering, and perhaps using, someone’s opinion, don’t ask for it.
Count any meeting a failure that does not end up with a definite understanding as to what’s going to be done, who’s going to do it, and when.
The common belief that everyone can do anything if they just try hard enough is a formula for inefficiency at best and for complete failure at worst.
It is natural enough to “look out for Number One first,” but when you do, your associates will be noticeably disinclined to look out for you.

Whether you’re a corporate neophyte or seasoned manager, this charming book reveals everything you need to know about the “unwritten” laws of business.

"Sinopsis" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

About the Author:

The Unwritten Laws of Engineering was originally written by W. J. (William Julian) King as a series of three articles published by Mechanical Engineering magazine in 1944 and was subsequently released as a book by The American Society of Mechanical Engineers. King had been a General Electric engineer who retired as a UCLA engineering professor in 1969. He died in 1983. James Skakoon is General Manager of VERTEX Technology, an engineering consulting firm, and the author of Detailed Mechanical Design: A Practical Guide (2000). He lives in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

In Relation to Work


However menial and trivial your early assignments may appear, give them your best efforts.


Many young businesspeople feel that minor chores are beneath their dignity and unworthy of their college training. They expect to prove their true worth in some major, vital enterprise. Actually, the spirit and effectiveness with which you tackle your first humble tasks will very likely be carefully watched and may affect your entire career.

Occasionally you may worry unduly about where your job is going to get you—whether it is sufficiently strategic or significant. Of course these are pertinent considerations and you would do well to take some stock of them. But by and large, it is fundamentally true that if you take care of your present job well, the future will take care of itself. This is particularly so within large corporations, which constantly search for competent people to move into more responsible positions. Success depends so largely upon personality, native ability, and vigorous, intelligent prosecution of any job that it is no exaggeration to say that your ultimate chances are much better if you do a good job on some minor detail than if you do a mediocre job as a project leader. Furthermore, it is also true that if you do not first make a good showing on your present job you are not likely to be given the opportunity to try something else more to your liking.


Demonstrate the ability to get things done.


This is a quality that may be achieved by various means under different circumstances. Specific aspects will be elaborated in some of the succeeding paragraphs. It can probably be reduced, however, to a combination of three basic characteristics:

• initiative—the energy to start things and aggressiveness to keep them moving briskly,
• resourcefulness or ingenuity—the faculty for finding ways to accomplish the desired result, and
• persistence (tenacity)—the disposition to persevere in spite of difficulties, discouragement, or indifference.

This last quality is sometimes lacking in the make–up of otherwise brilliant people to such an extent that their effectiveness is greatly reduced. Such dilettantes are known as “good starters but poor finishers.” Or else it will be said: “You can’t take their type too seriously; they will be all steamed up over an idea today, but by tomorrow will have dropped it for some other wild notion.” Bear in mind, therefore, that it may be worthwhile finishing a job, if it has any merit, just for the sake of finishing it.


In carrying out a project, do not wait passively for anyonesuppliers, sales people, colleagues, supervisorsto make good on their delivery promises; go after them and keep relentlessly after them.


Many novices assume that it is sufficient to make a request or order, then sit back and wait until the goods or services are delivered. Most jobs progress in direct proportion to the amount of follow–up and expediting that is applied to them. Expediting means planning, investigating, promoting, and facilitating every step in the process. Cultivate the habit of looking immediately for some way around each obstacle encountered, some other recourse or expedient to keep the job rolling without losing momentum.

On the other hand, the matter is occasionally overdone by overzealous individuals who make themselves obnoxious and antagonize everyone with their incessant pestering. Be careful about demanding action from others. Too much insistence and agitation may result in more damage to one’s personal interest than could ever result from the miscarriage of the item involved.


Confirm your instructions and the other person’s commitments in writing.


Do not assume that the job will be done or the bargain kept just because someone agreed to do it. Many people have poor memories, others are too busy, and almost everyone will take the matter a great deal more seriously if it is in writing. Of course there are exceptions, but at times it pays to copy a third person as a witness.


When sent out on a business trip of any kind, prepare for it, execute the business to completion, and follow up after you return.

Any business trip, whether to review a design, resolve a complaint, analyze a problem, investigate a failure, call on a customer, visit a supplier, or attend a trade show, deserves your special attention to return the maximum benefit for the time and expense. Although each business trip will be unique, and the extent to which you must do the following will be different for each, as a minimum, be sure to:

Plan the travel. This is more than just reserving transportation and hotels. Consider all eventualities such as lost luggage, missed connections, late arrivals, unusual traffic. Those you are meeting have arragend their schedules for you, so don’t disappoint them—arrive on time and be ready to perform. Follow the motto: “If you can’t be on time, be early!”

Plan and prepare for the business to be done. Prepare and distribrute agendas before you arrive. Send ahead any material to be reviewed. Be sure everything (e.g., samples, prototypes, presentations) is complete. Practice any presentations, however minor they might seem, beforehand. In short, be fully prepared and allow those you visit to prepare fully.

Complete the business at hand. You will not always be able to carry out a business trip to your complete satisfaction; others may control the outcome to a different conclusion. Nevertheless, if you have been sent out to complete a specific task, perhaps to analyze a failure or observe a product in use, and the allotted time proves inadequate for whatever reason, stay until the job is complete. Neither your supervisor nor those you visit will like it if someone else has to be sent out later to finish what you did not.

Execute the appropriate follow–up. Often a seemingly successful trip will come to nothing without adequate follow–up. Use meeting minutes, trip reports, and further communications to your best advantage.

"Sobre este título" puede pertenecer a otra edición de este libro.

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