wisdom to win

 Wisdom to Win
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Ricardo Semler (1959- )Ricardo Semler


Chief executive of the Brazilian company, Semco (pictured right) .

 A nervous breakdown encouraged him to give control to his employees with spectacular results.


Key books

Maverick! (1993)


Semco’s success is built upon giving all employees:


1. Democratic control over the company’s decisions

Semco's factories are run by employee committees and unions are actively encouraged.


2. Control over their work 

For example:

  • flexible hours.
  • employees’ evaluation of their managers.
  • involvement in decision making.


3. Equal treatment

  • abolishing management privileges.
  • reducing sex discrimination.
  • treating people like adults.


4. Trust - through:

  • delegation.
  • removal of fear.
  • job security.
  • profit sharing.
  • open decision making.
  • acting upon employee suggestions.


5. Freedom and motivation to innovate and change - by:

  • minimizing layers of management.
  • limiting all memos to one page in length.
  • learning from experience.
  • sharing information.
  • abolishing rules.
  • encouraging people to challenge conventional wisdom and other people’s ideas.


6. Work-life balance

Allowing employees to work at home.


Key quote on leadership and management

Only the respect of the led creates a leader.


Key quote on structure

“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”.


Key quote on empowerment

Empowerment means feeling confident to act on your own authority.


Key quote on unions

Unions are an important form of worker protection.



The Seven-Day Weekend (2003)


Creative thinking at work is vital to business success, so every employee must challenge how everything is done by asking ‘why?’ (the why way).

For example, if you work over the weekend, why can’t you go to the movies on Monday afternoon?


Leisure and relaxation are also vital to re-charge people’s mental batteries – Semco even has hammocks in its offices, so that people can rest!

Work and life must be balanced and intertwined.


Management must give up power and control to employees, so empowering them to take responsibility for results.


Key quotes on motivation and human resource management

Ask why... it means putting aside all the rote or pat answers.

Once employees feel challenged, invigorated, and productive, their efforts will naturally translate into profit and growth for the organization.


 Key quotes on work and leisure

The seven day workweek...robs people of passion and pleasure.

Why should the fun, fulfilment, and freedom stop first thing Monday morning and be on hold until Friday night?



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