FISH! : Book Review; V3 Issue 2

Title: FISH!

Authors: Stephen C. Lundin Ph.D., Harry Paul, John Christensen

Publication details: Hodder & Stoughton, 2006

Number of pages: 112 pages

One of your team members regrets not having become an actor. Another team member is bored with the tedious work and given a choice would love to become a cricket coach. As their manager is it possible for you to help them find passion, fun, and sense of pride, everyday in their work and feel “Thank God it’s Monday rather than Friday?” Yes! as per Fish!, a modern parable engineered to make you and your team enjoy your way to better productivity at the work place! The book teaches you that living your true potential is a choice that one can make every day.  Its unique formula addressing today's work issues including employee engagement and burnout will help you energise and enthuse your teams.


The book’s central character Mary Jane Ramirez was given the responsibility to turnaround the operations team that lacked energy, creativity, passion and good work ethics. For instance the team treated their customers as if the customers were interrupting them. During a chance visit by her to Seattle’s world famous Pike Place Fish Market, she observed that despite the mundane work, the fishmongers were cheerful, playful and enjoyed their work. The book tells the story of how Mary unravels the secret of their happiness and how her team adopts their four principles of choosing the attitude, playing at work, treating customers to make their day and being emotionally present for people to transform the operations department from a “toxic energy waste dump” to a place where people would vie to work in. Inspired by Mary’s teamher company had this inscribed at the entrance which also summarises the principles of this book... “As you enter this place of work please choose to make today a great day...Find ways to play. We can be serious about our work without being serious about ourselves. Stay focused in order to be present when your customers and team members most need you. And should you feel your energy lapsing, try this sure fire remedy: find someone who needs a helping hand, a word of support, or a good ear -- and make their day.”

The book demonstrates how the four principles can be implemented. For instance Mary’s team implemented ‘Choose Your Attitude’ by putting up an ‘attitude menu’ comprising items like ‘energetic’, ‘creative’, ‘supportive’ and ‘caring’ to serve as a constant reminder of ‘making the right choice’. Instead of playing like the fishmongers by having flying, smiling and talking fish the operation team implemented initiatives like joke of the month contest, turning small lights on when it is time to lighten up, posting signs saying “This is a playground. Watch out for adult children.” etc. There are also illustrations of consequences faced by people who were not working based on these principles. One of the characters describes how not being present for her colleague resulted in her colleague losing her job and the company losing a client and a lot of money.

Apart from the main principles Fish also illustrates other important success factors at work like not losing faith in oneself, learning and growing continuously, taking personal risks, not giving up on your team for you own career advancement and being persistent. These are again demonstrated through the numerous challenges faced by the central characters in the book. Throughout the book Mary exemplifies qualities of an ideal manager like implementing what she preaches, giving her team the adequate flexibility and authority to take decisions, being transparent about the problems, encouraging the team members to identify solutions rather than prescribing them herself etc.

If you loved “Who Moved My Cheese?” then undoubtedly you are going to love this book. It uses a deceptively simple and engaging story to convey its message. Take for instance the way the characters in the book describe the benefits of ‘Play’... “Happy people treat others well. Fun leads to creativity. The time passes quickly. Having a good time is healthy. Work becomes a reward and not just a way to rewards.” This book can serve as an excellent guide for creating energetic, enthusiastic, creative and effective teams with the key learnings highlighted in quick read boxes, supported by inspiring quotations like “Meaning is not something you stumble across, like the answer to a riddle...Meaning is something you build into your life.”  And you don’t have to be a manager to benefit from reading this book; you can apply the lessons in the book in any aspect of your life in order to keep yourself excited about what you do.