Games Workshops Little Red Book

The Infamous Games Workshop Little Red Management Book

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Over a decade ago I was issued the Little Red Games Workshop Management Book, this opus to toy soldier empire building, was written by the then GW CEO Tom Kirby, and was ‘given’ to me way back in 2003 during my last few of months at Games Workshop USA before I was ‘let go’.

Actually, to be closer to the truth, it was issued to the entire GW US team like an infantry primer after we sat through a videotaped speech. The Little Red Book is Tom Kirby’s tips on how to be a ‘better manager’ and what the culture should be at Games Workshop. Each section has a handy note page after it, should Dear Tom issue an amendment, and to be fair if my memory serves it does have some good practices, but also a lot of bad practices.

One of the worst (and likely most infamous) practice was the section on how to score an Employee as a threat to company culture, this badly thought-out flow chart led to many Managers at GW using it to justify letting go very effective employees (usually the ones threatening their job by actually being competent.) During this time at GW I was convinced you only got ahead in the company, if you had a significantly impressive body count to show how ruthless, effective you were at being a manager.

However, I digress…

The day I was issued with this book, we sat through a videotaped speech that was bizarre to say the least and worrying Nuremberg rally like. Along with the book, I was given a piece of paper by a very fanatical Games Workshop Middle Manager, who was quite literally teary eyed and drooling, and stated I should sign and hand in the paper as receipt of my book. Yeah, that was odd, by signing the paper I had to agree to memorize the words within said book, repeat them on rote if required and if I could not repeat the words my job would be jeopardy. I stared at the paper in disbelief and point-blank refused to sign it, opting to sign the sheet of names that everyone else had to sign saying we got a copy (for record keeping purposes?!?).

You see to me, it was just a book, mainly for management, something I didn’t have the ‘effective’ skills to ever become, nor wanted to be, and frankly I think I would score low on the company culture flow chart. Do not get me wrong, I enjoyed working for Games Workshop, and was very much a company man, but this wasn’t conscripted service, or a cult, although sometimes I wasn’t too sure, and I bet that even GW US laughably bad HR (at the time) would have balked if they knew about the agreement that we were being peer pressured into signing..

In short, the book is a very real modern HR nightmare, and if you are ever around my studio I will let you look through it. It will make you wonder how GW ever survived itself.