Several years ago I read Ricardo Semler’s book ‘The Maverick’ telling the story of SEMCO, an incredibly successful Brazilian company that has been self-organising since the 1980s.
At SEMCO they have proven it’s possible to get rid of basically all kinds of bureaucracy if you just start treating your employees as adults.
There are no timesheets and no standardised expectations for where or when people should work because the assumption is that people can be trusted to create their own structure and that every person’s rhythms are different when it comes to when and where and how they do their best work. This allows employees to work a “seven-day weekend” during which they are encouraged to be their true selves every day of the week.
Leaders are still necessary but being a leader in SEMCO is not a question of status and privileges. Rather than expecting corner offices and their own parking spaces, they practice participatory leadership which encourages all employees to be highly involved in the running of the company. They realise that every time top executives step in and mandate a solution, they rob the rest of the organisation of initiative and the will to act.
Democracy and open communication define the SEMCO culture. Decision taking is not based on consensus; decisions can be driven by an individual after consulting, listening to and considering input from all relevant colleagues
- Their basic structure is team oriented, with teams that are self-organising and self-administering.
- A basic principle is trust instead of control – any adult can be trusted to take reasonable decisions
- Most of the companies have an explicit value system that they have created with their members, and which new members will learn through training
- Important training topics are communication, collaboration and handling conflict
There are more and more leaders in organisations from different sectors across the world coming to the realisation that when you trust your people, treat them like adults and enable them to self-organise then their productivity rises and they are able to contribute their full human potential thus benefiting all stakeholders.
If you’re a leader in the private, public or third sector in Scotland and would like to learn more about how these flatter flexible organisations are the role models for the workplaces of the future then register for this one day workshop in Edinburgh on 28th May.