Posts Tagged ‘Ricardo Semler’

How To Run A Company With (Almost) No Rules

February 28, 2015 1 comment
  • Set your own salary
  • Vote your leaders in/out
  • Come and go when you please
  • Take vacation whenever you want
  • If you finish your work by Wednesday, go to the beach and come back on Monday
  • If you have to give back, you’ve taken too much
  • Ask “why” three times and then stop
  • Design for wisdom

A brilliant and emotionally moving talk from my favorite CEO of all time, Mr. Ricardo Semler.

Please, please, watch it. I guarantee that some, if not all, parts of the talk will fill your heart with joy! Well, maybe it will. If you’re an average, run-of-the-mill, anointed, business leader, it will either piss you off or strike fear into your bones.

If you want some more seminal Semler to whet your appetite, check out these two MIT-sponsored videos:

Managers Not MBAs

Leading by Omission

Make no mistake about it, Mr. Semler’s radical ideas are not a mess of pie-in-the-sky, Utopian psychobabblings. They’re the real deal, and they’ve been in play… in the real world… for over 20+ years at Semco.

Semco List

Watch And Learn

Vineet Nayar (HCL Technologies), Jim Goodnight (SAS Institute), Ricardo Semler (Semco), Terri Kelly (W. L. Gore), Tony Hsieh (, and John Mackey (Whole Foods Market). I try to follow and listen to what these CEOs say because they’re different, refreshing, authentic, and most importantly, eminently tweetable.

I’m happy to announce that I’ve just added Red Hat’s Jim Whitehurst to my CEO “watch and learn” list:

The quotes were plucked from “Management Tips From Red Hat’s Crazy Culture Every Company Should Steal”.

Fierce Transparency

February 4, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve been trying to figure out why I admire (I know, I know, they had a nasty security breach recently), Semco, and HCL Technologies so much. Since I have a burning need to understand “why“, I’ve concocted at least one reason: Tony Hsieh, Ricardo Semler, and Vineet Nayar ensure that fierce transparency is practiced within their companies and all their “initiatives” are rooted there.

Working in an environment without transparency is like trying to solve a jigsaw puzzle without knowing what the finished picture is supposed to look like. – Vineet Nayar. Employees First, Customers Second: Turning Conventional Management Upside Down (Kindle Location 547). Kindle Edition.

Of course, I’m making up all this transparency stuff, but hey, it reinforces my weltanschauung (<- I had to look up the spelling a-freakin-gain!). That’s what humans do to give themselves comfort. No?

He’s In The MIX

January 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Ricardo Semler, one of my innovation heroes, is now a MIXer: Ricardo Semler | Management Innovation eXchange. Until reading his first contribution to the MIX, I hadn’t seen hair nor hide of him for a couple of years. I had thought he’d retired or something like that.

As usual, in his Retire-a-Little: Enabling More Fulfilled Working Lives management hack, Mr. Semler tells the story of yet another  heretical and “outrageous” practice that he implemented at Semco Inc. Even if you don’t “buy into” his “retire a little” program, ya gotta love his 3 hour “Are You Nuts?” meetings, no?  Try to picture the reception someone would get in your org for suggesting something like an “Are You Nuts?” initiative. Would anyone even attempt to suggest it?


December 31, 2010 5 comments

Whoo Hoo! I thought of a positive complement to my negative FOSTMA acronym. It’s, it’s, it’s….. NASHMA = Nayar, Semler, Hsieh MAnagement:

Of course, in order to prevent chaos, NASHMA orgs still have hierarchical structures, but they’re not run as stratified caste system CCHs. In NASHMA orgs, there’s real, two way accountability; and symmetric relationships exist up and down all levels. Most managers in NASHMA groups are PHORs and not STSJs who spend all their “valuable” time planning, watching, controlling, and evaluating.

Now mind you, to avoid the trap of dualistic thinking, an org shouldn’t be judged as fully belonging to one class or the other. There can be pockets of FOSTMA groups in a NASHMA org and vice versa. Nevertheless, my scientifically collected and analyzed data revealed this current distribution of institutions along the FOSTMA-NASHMA continuum:

Over time, hopefully the threshold will move to the left – increasing the currently miniscule NASHMA to FOSTMA ratio. However, there will always be powerful and scary psychological forces opposing the movement.

Blind, Ignorant, Deaf

December 4, 2010 Leave a comment

In “The Thought Leader Interview“, HCL Technologies CEO Vineet Nayar describes his shocking “Employees First, Customers Second” method of management to a pair of Strategy+Business magazine reporters. In keeping with my biased approach of culling only those quotes and passages that support my view of what the wildly successful company of the future looks like, I’ve assembled this self-serving list for your consideration:

Somebody said to me about the Employees First program, “Vineet, your competitors will copy this, and therefore, it will not be a differentiator.” My response was, “If our competitors can post the results of 360-degree evaluations, more power to them.

The moment the recession hit we went out to our employees and said, “We have a problem. We’re going to solve it together.” We had thousands of ideas coming in, and we implemented them. Most of them were operational: There were no new products, services, geographies, or contracts. But HCL grew 23 percent and increased global market share by 21 percent. Our employees felt they were a part of everything we were doing, because of our inclusive approach. Even if it may take a bit longer to arrive at decisions, this approach helps ensure that implementations are smooth and that initiatives are sustained after the initial hype.

We created a 360-degree process where anybody can give feedback to anybody, including to me. We post the results internally so that all employees can see them. Good or bad, we all learn from the results. It’s open, it’s transparent, and the impact is positive. We find that this practice is motivating people to change their behavior. They try harder.

We also looked for symbolic ways to be a model of openness. One thing I did was publicly dance in front of all my employees. This was to remove the halo that a CEO has around his head. Meaningful conversation happens after you have set the stage in this way, after you make clear that you are as open as anyone else — crazy but effective.

So I held an open house with a group of employees. “I’m feeling pretty bad,” I said. “Nobody is saying what is positive about our company. Do you think I’ve unlocked a genie that is spreading demotivation?” Their answer was interesting. They said it is good to wash dirty linen in public, in this case on the blog, because it builds trust. There are no rumors. We discuss everything openly and honestly. We don’t always have solutions to problems, but at least we expose them.

Whatever trust is left in command-and-control management structures has been deeply tested during the recession. I am told that in business in general, employee trust in management is at its lowest point ever.

Even though Mr. Nayar is a breath of fresh air, I’m not too optimistic that his ideas on effective corpo governance will spread like wildfire to a company near you. You see, Ricardo Semler, CEO of Semco Inc., was Vineet Nayar twenty years before Vineet Nayar. Of course, since Mr. Semler’s version of participative management was also an all out assault on the draconian, patriarchical, system of management that pervades the globe today, he was ignored by mainstream business too.

The Uselessness Of MBAs

August 15, 2010 2 comments

Two of my favorite management (or anti-management, if you prefer) thinkers and doers, Henry Mintzberg and Ricardo Semler, talk about the uselessness of MBA degrees for managing people in this MIT World video. In the video, Mr. Semler interviews Mr. Mintzberg shortly after the release of Mintzberg’s book, “Managers Not MBAs“, in 2005. The interview is conducted in front of a class full of MIT MBA students.

In case you’re interested, here are some of my notes:

This will work in practice, but will it work in theory 🙂

You can’t create a manager in a classroom.  When you do that, all you do is create hubris.

MBA students are taught how to apply business skills in an assumed command-and-control hierarchy, not how to be a manager. B-schools don’t distinguish between the two.

Management is craft (rooted in experience), art (rooted in creativity) and analysis (rooted in science). It’s not just analysis – which is what B-schools exclusively teach.

Earn a management position first, then go to business school while you are a practicing newbie manager.

There are no naturally born surgeons, but there are many natural managers who never went to MBA school.

The problem with being in a rat race is that if you win, you’re still a rat 🙂

In a study of Harvard MBA gradutates, 10 of 19 were outright failures, 4 had questionable records, and 5 did fine.

The notion that a generic manager can parachute in and manage anything is crazy. There are exceptions like IBM’s cookie man, Lou Gerstner, but failure is the norm.

Many managers practice “Kiss up, kick down”. The dudes who receive the kisses don’t care or want to know about the “kick down” behavior.

Without action, nothing gets done. Without reflection, action is mindless. Thus, mindful action is required for success.

Central Planning

February 16, 2010 3 comments

The most visibly confirming event that showcased the fact that “central planning” doesn’t work was the demise of the former Soviet Union. The 5 year plans foisted down on the populace by the politburo big-wigs stifled creativity, innovation, and motivation. In spite of the impeccable planning by those “who knew better“, the country imploded.

Likewise, in corpocracies that are incapable of learning from the past (no matter how compelling the evidence), the same fate awaits. By the time the perfectly infallible strategies and plans from the corpo  junta get approved, poured in concrete, and trickled down to the DICforce at rock bottom, they’re mostly useless and obsolete.

So, what’s a better way? How about generating flexible, multi-year rolling plans that are revisited often? Ricardo Semler uses that method at Semco. How about exposing the plans to the DICforce as they are being developed in real-time so that some insights from a larger pool of brains may be elicited? Got any other ideas?

Man, I Love This Guy

November 8, 2009 Leave a comment

I’m not gay (not that there’s anything wrong with that), but I love Scott Berkun. I’ve spoken about him before, and it’s time to speak about him again. Scott’s got a new book out titled “Confessions Of A Public Speaker“. Like all of his other work, it’s a funny and insightful page turner.

It’s incredibly hard to be original, but everyone has the innate capability to be authentic. Scott is authentic. Check out this quote from the new book:

“In the interest of transparency and satisfying your curiosity, I average 25–30 lectures a year. Sometimes I’m paid as much as $8,000, depending on the situation. Maybe one-third are paid only in travel expenses or small fees, since they’re selfpromotional or for causes I’d like to help. Roughly 40% of my income is from book royalties and the rest from speaking and workshop fees. So far, I average around $100,000 a year, less than I made at Microsoft. However, I work fewer hours, am free from the 9 to 5 life, and have complete independence, which is worth infinitely more. I limit travel to once or twice a month, which means I turn away many gigs; I’d prefer to have more time than money, since you can never earn more time.”

Do you think many people have the cajones to expose that amount of detail about how much money they make? I don’t. Maybe I don’t because I feel guilty that I’m an overpaid and underperforming slacker. Scott follows up that trench coat opener with:

“I also think it would be good if salaries were made public, which is why I offered my fees and income. If more people did this, the overpaid and underpaid would be visible and more likely to be corrected. Or, total anarchy would ensue and civilization would end. Either way, it would be fun to watch.”

LOL! I love that idea and I would sign up to it any day. Then I, and everyone else, especially the corpocrats that run the show, would have a reference point of relativity for determining whether or not they’re overpaid.

There’s at least one company that I know of that operates this way – Semco. I know this because CEO Ricardo Semler said so in his book “Maverick“. How about you and your company? Would you try it out? Why not? If the result turned out to be FUBAR, you could always revert back to the same-old same-old and do what everybody else in the moo-herd does.

Public Salaries

Few people are capable of expressing with equanimity opinions which differ from the prejudices of their social environment. Most people are even incapable of forming such opinions. – Albert Einstein

Some Of My Heroes

September 29, 2009 3 comments

“We’re just two wild and crazy guys” – Yortuk and Georg Festrunk

Wild And Crazy Guys

Unlike the quote above, Joe Walsh’s “I’m just an ordinary average guy” fits me to a tee. In spite of this, I’d like to think that I’m open to new ideas and thinking. At the moment, here are some of my favorite, inspirational, weird, and forward looking (but pragmatic) thinkers:

Check out what one or more of these whack jobs have to say if  you’re yearning to explore and discover new opportunities that may crack the  concrete in your brain and challenge your same-old, same-old mental models of the world. If you think there is an “edge” to my blarticle posting style, then you should give all the credit to those dudes.

Who are your favorite thinkers, visionaries, and potential status-quo busters? What, you don’t have any? Why not?

%d bloggers like this: