2008/05/01

Back in the U.S.S.R.


East Germany may no longer exist, but now we have companies featuring central planning by Troikas, mission statements crafted by apparatchiks, quinquennial planning, no right to choose leaders in companies, no democracy in the workplace, a clear distinction between intelligentsia and peasants (top CEOs make 512 times the median salary and enjoy company 'dachas', jets and limos), and 'state' monitoring (time clocks, dress codes, drug-screening, 'employee assistance' plans, e-mail monitoring, smoking and personal conduct rules, as family-life audits). [1]
This is not a quote from a labor union leader, an anti-globalization essay or a witty comedian. It's from a proponent of democracy and transparency in the workplace that happens to be a business owner putting his money where his unconventional mouth is [2]: Ricardo Semler, in The Seven-Day Weekend [3].

I loved this book, even if its writing style is not that great. Its main point is showing how Semco, Semler's company is run. When Semler and Clovis Bojikian started changing the traditional command and control ways,
"We wanted to demonstrate that the workplace could be a place of satisfaction, not of suffering. Work should be a pleasure, not an obligation. But this wasn’t just some humanitarian thesis. We believed that people working with pleasure could be much more productive.”
To Semler, it's not about values: it's about competitive advantage.

Hurry up and read his book, or take a peek into The Semco Way by reading a 1989 article by Semler in the Harvard Business Review or a 2006 article about him in Strategy+Business. I'm sure that it will give you lots of food for thought.

[1] Soviet/Corpororate parallels quote: It's a funny coincidence that I read this during International Workers' Day
[2] Unconventional mouth quote: by Geoffrey Colvin in a Fortune article
[3] Even if Semler is a best selling author, I never heard about him until I recently read a post by Jon Lister. Thanks so much, Jon!