Book Review: Fish!

I just finished reading a little book called Fish!. It's subtitle is "A Remarkable Way to Boost Morale and Improve Results". I'm always interested in management literature, and with a size of only 107 small pages, this booklet was simply too hard to ignore. There are quite a number of publications on the Top 100 list of Software Engineering Books that (more-or-less) deal with the same subject: how to improve job satisfaction (among software developers and other team members), and how to improve the quality of software delivered to customers.

Well, this is what Fish! has to say about it:

Choose Your Attitude
No matter what kind of work you do, your attitude towards it is your own choice. When you are working on some stupid project you have two choices: You can choose to be bored while doing mundane maintenance work on a 100-year old legacy application. Or… you can choose to become a World Famous Legacy Maintenance Superstar. Your attitude towards your project is your own choice.

According to the book some people on a fish market had fun by throwing around the fish, and customers loved to watch. But everyone can choose to have a little fun while doing their job. Share positive energy with your co-workers, in a professional way, to make the work more enjoyable for everyone involved. Make the team that introduced the most bugs wear pink shirts for a week; have a monthly contest for the most beautiful single line of code; or steal the CIO's business cards and use them for writing user stories.

Make Their Day
Engage your customers in your positive energy and goodwill. Make their day by letting them share in some of the fun. Don't make fun of customers, have some fun with the customers! Make good on a bad release by sending your customer a picture of the team in pink shirts; let your users vote for the coolest feature ever devised; or ask them to contribute to your collection by giving you their CIO's business cards.

Be Present
Make sure that you actually notice your customers and your co-workers. Be there for people by asking them what they need and how you might be able to help. Don't wait for someone else to approach you with a question. Be the one that actively seeks out what needs to be done, and really listen to what people have to say.

These four principles are the core of Fish! (or at least my interpretation of it). Though the book is often described as a management book, the actual target audience is the team, not the manager. The team members are the ones to throw around the fish, and make the customers laugh.

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  • Joris

    Has reading this book changed your behavior? Which of those 4 principles do you plan to apply to your professional life?

  • Jurgen Appelo

    Joris, good question!
    I’ve decided to concentrate on #2 for a while. I will try to have some fun, even while doing some mundane tasks.

  • Sonja

    I’ve added this book to my read list and ordered it (and 4 more as I browsing..).
    I feel that any book that attempts to give people more joy in their work is a great idea.

  • Sonja

    Read the book and loved it, not only Fish! but also Fish! sticks (about making change stick). I’ve actually already lend the books to a some co workers.
    Eventhough I feel I work for a great company ‘make their day’ is a topic that could get a litle more attention. To incorporate this in my daily work life I’ve added some fish to my toolbar, everytime before I pick up the phone I look at the fish and think about how what I’ll say will make their day better.
    (something completely different, the comment field is rather small, perhaps you could widen it a bit Jurgen…)

  • Jurgen Appelo

    Sonja, I’m glad you liked the book. So did I.
    (I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do about the comment field. That’s just the way the TypePad system works, on which my blog is hosted.)

  • courtney conley

    i love the book it only took a week to read in my ela 12 class

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