Summary of The Unwritten Laws of Business

Profile Books,
First Edition: 2001 more...

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The Unwritten Laws of Business book summary
Timeless, universal advice about being a good manager, employee or person (with quaint axioms to e-mail to your friends).


8 Overall

9 Applicability

5 Innovation

7 Style


This book of short rules or "unwritten laws" harks back to 1944, when W.J. King, a mechanical engineer, penned a pamphlet of management advice for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). In an era when most training happened on the job – if at all – this must have been a welcome guide. The little book has a big history. In 2005, the cover of Business 2.0 magazine featured a self-published pamphlet called Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management. The author, Raytheon CEO William H. Swanson, basked in success after Jack Welch and Warren Buffett lauded his business homilies. But, public exposure revealed the influence King's little-known 1940s manual had on Swanson's work, which drew some rules from the older booklet. Although most of the 61 adages are familiar, even trite, they bear reviewing in their new official format, as revised by engineer James G. Skakoon at ASME's request. The ideas may be old, but they seem relevant. Only the mode of communication is frozen in time, since King and Skakoon don't mention e-mails, cell phones or PCs. Their advice ranges from hot-button topics, such as ethics and fair, firm management, to quaint references to personal hygiene. Even if you've heard these old reliable rules before, look again with an open mind. getAbstract promises there's a chestnut here for everyone.

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About the Authors

In 1944, W. J. King, an engineer and later a UCLA professor, wrote a pamphlet of "unwritten" rules for the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. At the behest of the Society, in 2001 and 2007, James G. Skakoon, manager of an engineering consulting firm and author of Detailed Mechanical Design: A Practical Guide, made revisions and additions to King's rules.

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