Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0
wim

Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil-based Semco

9 posts in this topic

Has anyone read his book or heard of him?

The article is longer than a news article but only about a 5 minute read.

http://www.cioinsigh...-Set-Them-Free/

For nearly 25 years, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Brazil-based Semco, has let his employees set their own hours, wages, even choose their own IT. The result: increased productivity, long-term loyalty and phenomenal growth. Can his radical approach work for you?

...

If you were to draw a graph of innovation and Microsoft's wherewithal in terms of people, capacity, recruitment, training and salaries, you would find that the more Microsoft hired the best minds at the highest salaries, and so forth, the less innovation it got. For a user, there are no substantial changes whatsoever between the various versions of Microsoft Windows. For anybody who's used a 1990 version, a '96, '98, 2000 or XP version, it just seems like the color of the icons changes. Does it take 5,000 engineers with postgraduate degrees to change the color of icons?

Or another example I particularly like is Gillette. Does it take $600 million to stick another blade between the other two? Or consider the airline industry—I think that is the only industry so far that has managed to make all of the stakeholders lose. The shareholders don't make any money. The executives don't last. The planes don't get better. The air-traffic controllers have the worst job in the world. The crew is never happy. The pilots are on strike. The food is just awful. There's not a good thing you can say about the business of flying. So I think the answer to "So what?" is that if people look closely, they'll see that the traditional model isn't working. And there's incentive there to start looking for something else.

...

Is it true Semco buys or leases whatever technology the employees want?

It's more like expense reports. We don't want someone going to another city to negotiate something for us, or trying to sell something for us, who doesn't have the good sense to choose a rental-car company, the hotel where they'll stay, or whether they're going to take a bus or a cab. Because if they don't know how to do that, chances are very slim that they'll know how to negotiate our contracts. So we don't want to control their technology either. They will fill it in themselves, ask for reimbursement, and there is no approval process there.

Now chances are that every one of the new notebooks our staff buys are probably the best available, because the decision to buy the new one is going to be an analysis based on talking to 15 people and finding out what is considered hottest and most coveted—that's the one you're going to buy because you're not under a restriction. Now we didn't talk to Dell and to Compaq and to IBM to decide what they want for us, and there's never a meeting to discuss an upgrade of anything because it's already upgraded.

But you do have someone in charge of IT?

No, we don't—and the issue goes away, doesn't it?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Has anyone read his book or heard of him?

I haven't had the time since I work for a slave driver.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I read his book 'Maverick' about 10 years ago. His ideas are extraordinary and seem to work very well for his company. Although his company was already mature at the time, I was wondering if his democracy based corporate governance and culture could be successful in the long run. It was therefore interesting to discover that Semler is still used as a case study in the MBA course I did last year. My lecturer showed some recent interviews of the guy and his self-managing team structure seemed to still work and his business is thriving.

In my opinion, there are a few special circumstances that enable his approach to work:

- He has full ownership of the company - good luck trying to convince a risk averse board to embark on such a radical corporate structure

- He seems to have a passionate personal philosophy that reflects his management approach. Having a "normal" manager jump on this as another fad is doomed to fail.

- Recruitment of the right type of staff that can fit in with this culture is key

- I have a vague memory from the book that his company was in some sort of crisis when he introduced his new measures - so change management was easier as they had to do something different to survive.

- At the time of change the company seemed to have had a core group of long term very loyal workers that was backing Semler all the way.

In general, his approach fosters intrepreneurship and enables a kind of genetic evolution of businesses within his business - without punishing failure.

The bottom line - I like it and I wish it was possible to incorporate some of his ideas in "normal" businesses. However, it won't work if you have staff that have an attitude of "you're the highly paid boss - you tell me what to do, and if it fails it is not my problem".

Edited by AndersB

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

- Recruitment of the right type of staff that can fit in with this culture is key

My personal experience of Brazil suggests that if you have half a brain you can make a real success of a business there.

There are lots of clever, highly qualified (often good US universities) graduates willing to work for peanuts.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In general, his approach fosters intrepreneurship...

Oops! Meant intrapreneurship...

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

entrepreneurship

Well, Semco as a whole is an entrepreneurial company.

But the individual employees within the company are skilled at intrapreneurship:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Intrapreneurship

"Intrapreneurship is the act of behaving like an entrepreneur, except within a large organization rather than a market as a whole."

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing.

I was at the Agile Australia conference this week, very inspiring stuff. It's pretty clear management thinking of the 20th century, which was largely developed in the first quarter of that century, will not survive the 21st century.

The following book written by Daniel Pink was mentioned almost countlessly by presenters:

http://www.amazon.co...38589678&sr=8-1

Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money--the carrot-and-stick approach. That's a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink in Drive. In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction--at work, at school, and at home--is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does-and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation--autonomy, mastery, and purpose--and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

That's not say that he is "right" but does touch on some important topics.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for sharing.

I was at the Agile Australia conference this week, very inspiring stuff. It's pretty clear management thinking of the 20th century, which was largely developed in the first quarter of that century, will not survive the 21st century.

The following book written by Daniel Pink was mentioned almost countlessly by presenters:

http://www.amazon.co...38589678&sr=8-1

That's not say that he is "right" but does touch on some important topics.

Yeah, Dan Pink has some great insights about motivation.

Here is a great TED talk he did:

Dan Ariely is also worth checking out.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!


Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.


Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  
Followers 0