OK, is there anything I don’t like about First, Break All the Rules? Yes. The title.
As a publisher, I think the title is perfect. It’s catchy; it suggests that here in these pages you will find the silver bullet, the one thing that will change everything and make all well in Management Land. And it’s simple: just do the opposite of conventional wisdom, and all your problems will be solved. That’s very attractive. And it seems to have worked. The book has sold very well since it was published in 1999 with a lifetime average sales rank on Amazon (according to Title Z) of 284. (When I last checked it was #324.)
As a manager, however, I don’t like it for most of these same reasons. Nothing is that simple. Management is hard work. In fact, to the book’s credit, it never implies that managing is easy. To do everything mentioned in the book takes a lot of effort—and talent, that “driving force behind an individual’s job performance,” those “four-lane highways in your mind” that can’t be taught.
Is that the ultimate irony of the book? Can a book like First, Break All the Rules really help someone if management is also a talent that can’t be taught? The answer is yes, but it will help those most who already have some talent for management.