Rules of Management, Written and Otherwise

October 20th, 2005 by

Bill Swanson, CEO of Raytheon, has become famous for his leadership at the company. In an article published in US Black Engineer and available as a PDF at Raytheon’s website, Swanson receives high praise for his support of minority engineers. The article also presents his “25 Unwritten Rules of Management.” Not to quibble, but if I can read the rules in this article, what exactly makes them unwritten? You can even request a written copy of the unwritten rules from Raytheon, but be advised that they are currently out of stock.
As part of the Insider’s ongoing commitment to keep our readers informed of the latest trends in management philosophy, we are presenting an abbreviated version of Mr. Swanson’s 25 rules, with a little annotation, of course.
Excerpts from Bill Swanson’s Twenty Five Unwritten Rules of Management:
1. Learn to say, “I don’t know.” If used when appropriate, it will be often.
Ah yes, but if used too often, you will be out of a job.
2. It is easier to get into something than it is to get out of it.
And if you never get into anything, you are likely to be out of a job.
3. If you are not criticized, you may not be doing much.
And if you are criticized, you may be screwing up.
6. Work for a boss with whom you are comfortable telling it like it is. Remember that you can’t pick your relatives, but you can pick your boss.
Easily said by the CEO, but most of us get stuck from time to time with bosses who won’t listen. As for relatives, if they don’t behave, fire them. They can always reapply for the job.
12. Don’t be timid; speak up. Express yourself, and promote your ideas.
Unless, of course, you have a boss as in #6. In which case you’d best keep your mouth shut.
13. Practice shows that those who speak the most knowingly and confidently often end up with the assignment to get it done.
Is this akin to volunteering in the army (never do it!)? Is Swanson encouraging speaking up or shutting up?
14. Strive for brevity and clarity in oral and written reports.
How about: “Be brief, be clear?” And while you are at it, could you perhaps reduce your 25 rules to 10?
15. Be extremely careful of the accuracy of your statements.
If I am too careful, I might not say anything.
16. Don’t overlook the fact that you are working for a boss. Keep him or her informed. Avoid surprises! Whatever the boss wants takes top priority.
Easily said by the CEO! And what are we to do with the boss as in #6?
18. Never direct a complaint to the top. A serious offense is to “cc” a person’s boss.
By my calculation, this means that Swanson never hears any complaints, as he is the boss of the bosses. Works for him, I’m sure.
21. Don’t get excited in engineering emergencies. Keep your feet on the ground.
All depends on which wires you have in your hands!
22. Cultivate the habit of making quick, clean-cut decisions.
Unless, of course, they are the wrong decisions. Then see # 1 & 2 above.
23. When making decisions, the pros are much easier to deal with than the cons. Your boss wants to see the cons also.
Unless, of course, your boss is a con, in which case see #6.
24. Don’t ever lose your sense of humor.
With all due respect, there is absolutely nothing funny in these 25 rules.
25. Have fun at what you do. It will reflect in your work. No one likes a grump except another grump.
I’m not sure a grump likes another grump, but other than that, I agree.
Swanson’s subordinates are in the best position to determine whether these unwritten rules embody what it’s like to work for him. I sincerely hope he walks the talk. Surely, there are some genuine nuggets of wisdom in the complete list, but as with any wisdom, careful scrutiny is in order. You have to judge for yourself.