Semler's Strange Sequel. (Bookcase)

By Birchfield, Reg | New Zealand Management, May 2003 | Go to article overview

Semler's Strange Sequel. (Bookcase)


Birchfield, Reg, New Zealand Management


The Seven-Day Weekend By: Ricardo Semler Publisher: Century Price: $59.95

He's an odd bird, Ricardo Semler. There he is on the cover of his latest book, The Seven-Day Weekend, surrounded by a gaggle of bemused ducks which look more like geese to me. But like his first book, Maverick, this latest glimpse inside the Brazilian's managerial menagerie will probably sell very well.

Semler advocates a form of corporate anarchy--posing options like"choose your boss", "decide your own salary", "spend your working day in a hammock" and of course,"a seven-day weekend" attitude toward life. As he explains it, "the traditional weekend ended long ago. This book faces that fact and uses it (the metaphor) to explore making work more fun, to finding a balance between it and private passions."

Brazil-based Semler seemingly has turned his 50-year-old, inherited family business into a $160-million a year manufacturing, professional services and hightech software business that employs 3000 people in three countries. His company, Semco, is a "sociological and anthropological experiment" that also "makes an excellent business case".

In defence of his unconventional approach to stimulating his employees he says simply: "We've spent 25 years questioning the way we do things. When we started, everyone said we wouldn't last" It seems he and his company have lasted and the business still has no "official structure" and no organisation chart. There is no business plan or company strategy, no goal or mission statement and no long-term budget. "The company often does not have a fixed CEO," he proclaims proudly.

With no standards and proscribed practices, no human resources department, no career plans and job description or employee contracts, no report or expense account approvals, supervision or monitoring, how does anyone measure either their personal or the organisational success of Semco?

Well, success is not measured only in profit and growth terms. Semco, says the author, "succeeds in practice" and the book is his attempt to explain the theory behind it.

The theory is embraced by the phrase "on-the-job democracy". The author's particular form of democracy has unquestionably created one of the world's most unusual workplaces. The basic tenets "fly in the face of even the most progressive business owner or manager".

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