Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workshop (Anglais) Broché – 6 septembre 2001
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Revue de presse
"In this book, Ricardo Semler tells how Semco, Latin America's fastest growing company, uses a revolutionary way of working to run a profit-making company with a work force who love their jobs." (The Sunday Times)
"Are there real-life lessons to be learned? The answer is yes...Pragmatic, inspirational and intriguing advice." (The Times)
"Ricardo Semler is our kind of capitalist" (Guardian)
"Semco takes workplace democracy to previously unimagined frontiers" (The Times)
Présentation de l'éditeur
The international bestseller that tells how Semler tore up the rule books - and defied inflation running at up to 900% per year!
- Workers make decisions previously made by their bosses
- Managerial staff set their own salaries and bonuses
- Everyone has access to the company books
- No formality - a minimum of meetings, memos and approvals
- Internal walls torn down
- Shopfloor workers set their own productivity targets and schedules
Result - Semco is one of Latin America's fastest-growing companies, acknowledged to be the best in Brazil to work for, and with a waiting list of thousands of applicants waiting to join it.
Learn Ricardo's secrets and let some of the Semco magic rub off on you and your company.
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Ce livre raconte ces dix et quelques années de transformation que Ricardo Semler a progressivement introduit chez Semco, pour le plus grand bonheur des salariés et la performance de l'entreprise.
Un livre de recettes qu'il ne faut pas appliquer stupidement, mais qui doit vous donner matière à réflexion dans votre activité quotidienne.
A great insight on thinking differently, how not to accept preconceived ideas and establish a new order to fit one's own purpose
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Maverick tells the story of the transformation of Semco into a radical and high performing organization.
Here's a sampling of Dr. Dickie's good ideas...
* Make each business unit small enough so that those involved understand everything that is going on and can influence the outcomes.
* Implement a rounded pyramid organization structure with floating coordinators. Coordinators are the only supervisory level and are all at the same organizational level but different pay rates.
* Demonstrate trust by eliminating symbols of corporate oppression as well as the perks of status.
* Share all information and eliminate secrets. You can't expect involvement to flourish without an abundance of information available to all employees.
* Every six months bosses are evaluated by their subordinates and the results are posted.
* Salaries are public information unless the employee requests that they not be published.
* Allow employees to set their own salary. Consider these criteria: what they think they can make elsewhere; what others with similar skills and responsibilities make in the Company; what friends with similar backgrounds make; how much they need to live on.
* Share 23% of pretax profits. Employees vote how the pool will be split. They must vote to determine the manner of each quarterly distribution. In practice they always vote for equal dollar shares.
* Substitute the survival manual for thick procedure manuals. Eliminate policies and rules wherever possible.
* Job rotation; 20% of managers shift jobs each year.
* Set up workers in their own businesses as suppliers to the company.
* Eliminate the wearing of wristwatches whenever and wherever possible. It is impossible to understand life in all its hugeness and complexity if one is constantly consulting a minute counter.
* Either you can create complex systems so as to manage complexity, or you can simplify everything.
My company used Maverick as assigned reading for a management retreat some years ago. The result was a change of direction that it's hard to imagine would have been arrived at otherwise. Highly recommended for those open to having their organizational paradigms shifted.
The book reads like an autobiography, and it is, but only with the focus on the transformation of Semco and how Semler and his colleagues evolved through it. The reader is escorted through the many gestation periods of Semler's organizational theories. It's an amazing trip that you can hardly believe took place.
Instead of paraphrasing Semler here I want to use a pretty long quote from one of the last pages of the book. There Semler has such a succinct description of his core theories and the way he put them into practice that I feel his words summarize the plot of this book far better than I ever could:
"To survive in modern times, a company must have an organizational structure that accepts change as its basic premise, lets tribal customs thrive, and fosters a power that is derived from respect, not rules. In other words, the successful companies will be the ones that put quality of life first. Do this and the rest - quality of product, productivity of workers, profits for all - will follow. At Semco we did away with strictures that dictate the "hows" and created fertile soil for differences. We gave people an opportunity to test, question, and disagree. We let them determine their own futures. We let them come and go as they wanted, work at home if they wished, set their own salaries, choose their own bosses. We let them change their minds and ours, prove us wrong when we are wrong, make us humbler. Such a system relishes change, which is the only antidote to the corporate brainwashing that has consigned giant businesses with brilliant pasts to uncertain futures."
I truly enjoyed every page of this book and I highly recommend it.
Clearly, the ideas in the book didn't come out of a vacuum. Semler read and studied widely, building on the ideas of people like Robert Townsend and Peter Drucker. But he has elaborated and improvised on those ideas to create an entirely unique, collaborative work culture at Semco in São Paulo, Brazil, that he has then sustained over a period of 25 years. Astonishing!
Semler inspired me to look at some of his sources like Robert Townsend's 1970 book, "Up the Organization," a similarly contrarian and original creation. Semler shares a kindred spirit with Townsend and his book is just as entertaining, and as concise and full of important ideas about governance and leadership. Townsend calls his style of management "Participative Management" and puts into practice many of the principles from Douglas McGregor's Theory Y (as proposed in his 1960 book, Human Side of Management). But whereas Townsend simply orders his ideas alphabetically, Semler's book is organized chronologically. Each of its thirty six chapters tells a story from the history of Semco, and each contains at least one important lesson. At the end of the book, as if in homage to Townsend, Semler encapsulates all his key ideas in what he calls his ABC's, which includes an alphabetic glossary of management ideas, as well as his ideas for time management and his "Survival Manual," which is given to new hires at Semco and contains just twenty-one cartoons illustrating its governing principles -- amplified by just one or two sentences -- that constitute Semco's only policy manual or rule book.
Just to give you a flavor of "Maverick", here is the story from one chapter, in which Semco gives up control to energize the workforce.
<em>"By the middle of 1984 we were...ready to buy another company," starts Semler. "Hobart Brazil's Ipiranga plant, near São Paulo, had a long but less than glorious legacy, endured by a weary band of employees, some of whom had invested as many as forty-five years there."
Some months after the acquisition, Fernando Lotamorro, who was Semco's executive in charge of operations, became convinced that the Hobart plant lacked organization, ambition, and controls and insisted that some action should be taken.
As Semler relates, "Clovis [Bojikian] and I discussed it often and, in the end, agreed with Fernando. We were worried about his hard-edged style and lack of experience as a general manager. But Fernando had the aggressive personality that we then believed a successful business required, especially one in a slump."
"Fernando changed everything about the Hobart plant in his first few months...I would soon have cause to wonder whether all this movement was taking it in the right direction. We thought we were more organized, more professional, more disciplined, more efficient. So, we asked ourselves with a shudder, how come our deliveries were constantly late?"
Semler became dissatisfied with the way things were going and says in the book, "During this time I often thought of a business parable I had heard. Three stone cutters were asked about their jobs. The first said he was paid to cut stones. The second replied that he used special techniques to shape stones in an exceptional way, and proceeded to demonstrate his skills. The third stone cutter just smiled and said, "I build cathedrals." This story, which is probably centuries-old, seemed to be a catalyst for a deep change in Semler's behavior.
"I was particularly distressed by the malaise that was all too apparent in our factories, both old and new. Workers just didn't seem to care."
Semler decided that he needed to take over Hobart and show that "improved performance and touchie-feelie style were not mutually exclusive." So he fired Fernando and took over the job of running Hobart.
"Every few weeks the Hobart plant's managers would spend a lunch hour talking to the workers, who would gather in the cafeteria, 200 strong, and talk about anything on their minds. No subject was taboo -- salaries, profits, new products, hiring and firing policies were all fair game...Everyone could be a cathedral builder."
"The pot soon began to boil and before long the old Hobart plant was unrecognizable...Workers who had for years -- even decades -- reported to the plant and promptly turned their minds off became full-fledged industrial citizens, making decisions not only about their jobs but also about the products they were making and indeed about their company." </em>
With its new philosophies and policies, Semco had one of the highest growth rates in Brazil and Semco became No. 1 or No. 2 in each of its markets. The Hobart plant became successful with Hobart scales going from 3 percent of the market to 23 percent in three years, despite many strong competitors, but it had to face many crises, and this was just one of the stories and one of the transformations that it underwent.
The concept of participative management and trust in employees is central to Semler's achievement. This is hard work and Semler is critical of other managers who pretend to this philosophy while failing to fully embrace it: "What people call participative management is usually just consultative management. There's nothing new to that. Managers have been consulting employees for centuries. How progressive do you have to be, after all, to ask someone else's opinion?...It's only when the bosses give up the decision making and let their employees govern themselves that the possibility exists for a business jointly managed by workers and executives. And that is true participative management as opposed to merely paying lip service to it."
Semler has not rested on his achievements at Semco, going on to work on environmental issues and founding the Lumiar International School, a progressive school that serves all segments of São Paulo society.
Larry Fisher, writing in the Winter 2005 issue of strategy + business magazine, is respectful, but expresses some skepticism that Semler's ideas would work elsewhere, giving doubting quotes from Warren Bennis and Charles Handy: "I just wish that more people believed him," laments Charles Handy, the British management guru and social philosopher. "Admiring though many are, few have tried to copy him. The way he works -- letting his employees choose what they do, where and when they do it, and even how they get paid -- is too upside-down for most managers. But it certainly seems to work for Ricardo."
True, the model is idealistic, but it is no easier to apply in Brazil than in America. Robert Townsend, back in the 1960s, made participative management work at Avis -- and Dennis Bakke was similarly successful at AES in the 1980s. In fact, it seems to me that there is an inevitable movement towards participative management and democratic practices in the workplace simply because it consistently produces better results than more traditional autocratic styles of management.
Nor should people make the mistake of thinking that participative management is necessarily a worker's paradise, or that the workers at Semco have it easy. This model can only work if it motivates people to perform at very high levels. This happens at Semco because workers have to compete in a global marketplace and there is zero tolerance for low performance. As Semler puts it, "The pressure is greater at Semco because we truly believe in the market. We don't protect anybody from the vicissitudes of the business cycle or the crazy Brazilian economy. This is not for everybody."
Semler is ahead of his time. His ideas are consistent with the needs of the future. Eventually, they will not seem as radical as they do today. (See, for example, Drucker's "Management Challenges for the 21st Century," written in 2001, which argues that management will need to change radically to accommodate changes in society and particularly the aging populations of the world.)
In conclusion, this is a book full of profound lessons about how people can be motivated to work together in an organization and how the productivity that is hidden inside each of us can be unleashed. It reaches both to an organizational level -- making us question common business assumptions -- and to a deep personal level -- making us question whether we are doing enough to create meaning in our work lives. Semler points a way to a better workplace and ultimately a better life.
Semler's account of how he arrived at Semco's democratic organizational culture is a fascinating case of personal growth. Some readers, however, may be less interested in "how I got there" and some of the Brazilian background than in its account what Semco has actually achieved in workplace governance. In this respect, Maverick is a seminal book, because Semco's management style is so unusual. Just reading about it is a liberating experience!
As to practical application, the book has some very readable sections such as the excerpts from the famous Semco operating manual, its glossary (which has "valuably eccentric" ideas), and a test for employees to rate supervisors. These sections give a very good introduction to empowerment and workplace democracy that can be read usefully anybody.
Put Maverick's operating philosophy together with Tom Peter's reinventing work ideas (most particularly in his The Circle of Innovation). Then, add in some Greenleaf servant leadership and combine with some shared vision (a la Chapter 11 of Senge's Fifth Discipline). You then have an excellent recipe for best practice 21st century management. More books like this showing in detail how advanced ideas actually have been successfully implemented in the workplace are very much needed.