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Recardo Semler: A pilgrimage to the natural business

Viewed 1651 times 2014-10-30 16:39 |Personal category:reading note|System category:Life| successful, attention, continued, business, training

 Book review: Maverick!(特立独行)


One day at home I happened to pick an FT paper dated 2003 in which a recommendation of a small training company got my attention. The general manager's favorite book is Maverick! written by Rrcardo Semler. I continued to dig and found the English version from It's about the successful experience of a special management mode as well as the autobiography of Semler from Brazil.


We have too much Brazilian elements to catch: futbol, jogo bonita, samba, barbecue, but few know a SEMCO company producing all kinds of pumps. To some degree it can't be called a conglomerate. Its sensation is not from their products although they are expert in it. Quite right! Their operating philosophy.


Every Wednesday afternoon dozens of men and women flock into the third-floor meeting room in San Paulo. The guard can expect to see executives from some biggest companies such as IBM, General Motors, Bayer, Nestle, Ford and Yashica. The meeting room belongs to Semco.


A successful mode, but one difficult to imitate


The company has a reception without receptionist despite all the visitors. The company doesn't have secretaries or office assistants, either. Everyone in Semco, even top managers, fetches guests, stands over photocopiers, sends faxes, types letters, and dials the phones. They don't have executive dining room and their parking area is strictly first-come, first served.


The mood in Semco is informal; some people wear suits and ties or dresses, other jeans and sneakers. The employees feel free to put their feet on their desks, just like their top brass Recardo Semler. Their factory workers can come in any time between 7am and 9am. It's their choice.  With cooperation in mind, the disruption caused by co-ordinations never happens.


What are the sales managers doing? Generally the sale manager sits there reading newspapers hour after hour, not even pretending to be looked busy. That may mystify the visitors. Most bosses wouldn't tolerate it. But when a Semco pump on an oil tanker on the other side of the world fails, he will spring into action. He knows everything about the pumps.


Their management hierarchy is very thin and effective in sharp contrast with the old pyramidal structures. In fact the employees are absolutely trusted and they build a kind of partner relationship. The participation level is in record high. Sometimes the workers set their production quotas and even come in on their own time to meet them, without prodding from management or overtime pay. They help re-design the products they make and formulate the marketing plans. Their workers have unlimited access to their financial books and the company develops some courses to teach workers to read balance sheets and cash-flow statements.


Traditional companies have rules that govern how much a person can spend in every possible situation. At Semco, people can spend whatever they think they should, as if they were taking a trip on their own with their own money. There’s no department, no rules, no audits. If we are afraid to let people decide in which section of the plane to sit, or how many stars their hotel should have, we shouldn’t be sending them abroad to do business in our name, should we?


Semler's office is on the fourth floor. But most mornings he works at home. It's perfect except the sheepdogs barking when he is on the phone to the important customers. He encourages other managers to work at home, too. He also takes at least two months off each year to travel and roam far. He never leaves a number where he can be reached when he is away. Everyone at Semco is self-sufficient. The company is organized not to depend too much on any individual, especially the boss himself. It's a point of pride that twice on his return from long trips his office had been moved -- and each time it got smaller. His role is that of a catalyst.




Some people have likened the Semco philosophy to socialism, in the old, Eastern European sense. Nonsenseskaya. But the worker involvement doesn't mean that the bosses lose power. What was stripped away is the blind, irrational authoritarianism that diminishes productivity. From capitalism, they take the ideas of personal freedom, individualism and competition. They learn to control greed and share information and power from socialism. The Japanese have inspired them with the value of flexibility, although they shrink from the Japanese family-like ties to the company.





(Opinions of the writer in this blog don't represent those of China Daily.)




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