Declan Meaney, a coworker at Reliance, recommended “The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works” by Ricardo Semler. I’ve haven’t quite finished it yet, but it’s been incredibly inspirational so far.
Ricardo Semler is the CEO of Semco, a Brazilian company that has undergone a set of radical changes since he took over after his father in 1980.
It’s a bit hard to sum up in a few paragraphs, but I’ll give it shot anyway.
Semco is an amazingly democratic organization. Very, very few decisions are made at the top and the workers on the floor seem to have the power of veto on almost any issue.
In essence, every employee is treated like an adult. An adult whose opinions matter and who is able to make sound decisions if given enough information.
The quintessential example is how salaries are set. According to Semler, there are 5 things one needs to know in order to set one’s salary appropriately:
- What do people in similar positions get paid elsewhere?
- What do other people (with slightly different skills, more/less experience, etc.) in the organization make?
- How is the company doing in the marketplace? I.e. can it afford above or below average salaries?
- How much do I feel I should be making at this point in my carreer?
- How much do I feel I should be making compared to friends, family, former schoolmates, etc.?
Traditionally, 1 has been well known to everyone. 2 and 3 have been known only to the company. 4 and 5 have only been known to the individual.
Semco provides the workers with all this information. They distribute market surveys to show what people make at competing companies, they’re told what everyone (all the way from the CEO down to the janitor) at Semco makes, and share the company’s profit and forecasts openly. This gives the employees all the information needed to set their own salary appropriately.
It’s so crazy, it works.
The list of things they do differently from most companies is long and fascinating (salaries being set by employees themselves; meeting attendance being entirely optional; office hours being up to each employee on their own; travel expenses being automatically approved, but get posted on the intranet for all to see; etc.), but what interests me the most is the mindset of never just accepting everyone else’s way of doing things as the only way of doing it.
Taking the time to allow yourself and your organization to reconsider all these things as well as being able to actually think outside the box and solve the problems in a way that makes sense in the 21st century is exceptional and inspirational.
If you’re a manager in any capacity or if you’re otherwise interested in organizational and management theory, make sure you put this on your reading list.