Book review – Fish by Stephen Lundin, Harry paul and John Christensen


Previously I reviewed the book One Minute Manager by Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson which is a management book with some key management principles explained through a story. Fish! is another book written in exactly the same story format. In fact Kenneth Blanchard wrote the foreword to this book. This book also deals with some key leadership and management principles, but that of motivating teams to perform and what makes it a great book to read is the simplicity with which the book is written, it’s captivating story and how short it is. The book is just 110 pages of reading content and that includes a real life story of applying the Fish! principles.

So what really is this book about? Mary Jane Ramirez is a mother of two children who recently lost her husband. She works in a department nicknamed the ‘toxic energy dump’ by the other people in the company because of how demotivated the team members of the department are. Mary Jane has been told to turn her team around or risk losing her job. She is thinking hard about the possibility of turning the team around when she comes across the Pike Place Fish Market in Seattle after taking a wrong turn during her lunch break at work. She observes how motivated the guys selling fish are, considering that selling fish is not the most glamorous or exciting job in the world. She gets to know one of the guys in the fish market called, Lonnie, whom she tells about her situation at work.

Lonnie offers to help her using the principles of the fish market and gives her the four principles which were used to make the fish place an exciting place to work. She applies the principles to her department and successfully makes her team a more motivated one. The four principles that Mary Jane learnt from Lonnie are:

  1. Choose your attitude: There is always a choice about the way you do your work even if there is not a choice about the work itself.
  2. Play: Create an environment of fun while working. If people can have fun selling fish then almost everyone can create fun in their work.
  3. Make their day: Involve the people, especially your customers in the fun environment too. Help them to enjoy interacting with you.
  4. Be there: Fully engage with the people you work with. Give them full attention.

Mary Jane worked hard to understand these four principles and found a way to apply them to her workplace. There is a fairy tale ending to the story, Lonnie and Mary Jane get married.

The significance of this book is that the writers, Lundin, Paul and Christensen believe that we can implement the Fish! principles in our own teams too, and it does not necessarily have to be a work team. It can be a family or even a volunteer group. If you want to make a team more motivated or responsive the Fish! principles might just help.

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