Friday, August 23, 2013

Book Review of Ricardo Semler's "Maverick": The glory of a company is man fully alive


Red Book

I finished reading Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler.  I noticed that the principles that Semler used to run Brazil's SEMCO are based on Gospel values, though he may not consciously do so. Below is his Wikipedia entry:
Ricardo Semler (born 1959 in São Paulo) is the CEO and majority owner of Semco SA, a Brazilian company best known for its radical form of industrial democracy and corporate re-engineering.[1] Under his ownership, revenue has grown from US$4 million in 1982 to US$212 million in 2003 and his innovative business management policies have attracted widespread interest around the world. Time featured him among its Global 100 young leaders profile series published in 1994 while the World Economic Forum also nominated him. The Wall Street Journal America Economia, The Wall Street Journal's Latin American magazine, named him Latin American businessman of the year in 1990 and he was named Brazilian businessman of the year in 1990 and 1992.
 How did Semler do it?  The overarching principle of Semler's company management that we can deduce from his book is this:
The glory of the company is man fully alive.
This principle is not explicitly written in the company's manual of operations (because it hardly has any, except for some cartoons that are shown at the end of the book).  The original statement is that of St. Irenaeus: "The glory of God is man fully alive." Nevertheless, Semler has applied this principle by putting "quality of life first" and he has achieved this in many ways.

1.  Rest from Work

In the Book of Genesis, God created the world and humans in six days and on the seventh day He rested.  The necessity of rest hit upon Semler when he was diagnosed by his doctor with an advanced state of stress, which required him to take 16 aspirins a day.  In order to prevent himself from being overworked, Semler reorganized his life by identifying four major causes of bad time management:
  1. The belief that effort and result are directly proportional
  2. The gospel that the quantity of work is more important than the quality of work
  3. "Things are a little uncertain at the office right now.  I'll just have to work a little longer until they straighten out."
  4. Fear of delegation, and its cousin, fear of replaceability.
At SEMCO, the company instituted Hepatitis Leave: it is a forced vacation from work, which may last for weeks or months.  Rest for Semler is the time for recharge and for thinking, for thinking requires a leisure mind, according to Aristotle.

2.  Dignity of Man

The Bible says that God made man in God's own image and likeness.  Herein lies the dignity of man according to Semler: man is not just a cog in the company machine.  Man has a potential for great creativity.  Semler gave an example.  Three stone cutters were asked what their job was.  The first said that he cuts stones.  The second said that he cuts stones according to specific angles and shapes.  And the third says that he builds cathedrals.  Semler wants cathedral builders for his company not just stone cutters.

In order to have more cathedral builders in his company, Semler instituted many things.  Anyone can come to work at any time as she pleases as long as he gets the job done.  Workers are not treated like children by subjecting them to endless inspections; instead they are treated as responsible adults.  Anyone can make a strike and he still remains in the company; his days in strike will just be counted as his absences.  Workers vote for their leaders or coordinators; in order to lead, prospective leaders must get a grade of 80% or higher among his fellow workers whom he shall lead.  Anyone is free to set his own salary and how he is to be paid, and this information is set up publicly visible or knowable to anyone in the company.  Everyone is trained how to read the company's balance sheets and see whether the company is doing well or not or whether his what he is particularly doing is earning profit or not.  And there are so much more.  Check out the book: Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace by Ricardo Semler.
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace
Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace
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