Posts Tagged ‘semco’

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?

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

Not Of This Earth

Did you ever hear of a company named SEMCO? If not, then you’re missing out on one of the greatest corporate success stories on the planet. The CEO, Ricardo Semler, is perhaps the smartest and most courageous executive to ever lead a for-proft company. Semco and Semler are so different and “out there” that they may not be of this earth.

Check out these snippets (followed by my snarky comments) from the SEMCO Survival Manual:

Only people who have respect for their followers can be leaders.

Amen. How does SEMCO determine which people can become, and remain, a leader in their organization? Read on.

“There is no space at the Semco Group for formalities. The doors are always open and people should say what they really think, without worries or inhibitions.”

Unlike the vast majority of corpos that are clones of each other, there’s no “checking your personality at the door” at Semco.

Unions are an important method of protecting workers. Unionization is free within the company. The Semco Group believes that constant relationships with unions are healthy for the company and the employees. The presence of union members at the company is always welcome.

Rather than taking the standard corpo “unions are enemies” stance, SEMCO treats unions as partners. Wow, what a concept.

Based on the fact that everyone can say what they think, rumors and gossip should not be stimulated. Any attempt to harm another person is looked on very seriously. Take part and speak openly of what you are thinking in order to improve things.

Wow, more weird concepts, “saying what you think” and “speaking openly“. How uncorpo and disrespectful of the SEMCO leadership for promoting such lunacy in writing.

“Every six months you will fill in a questionnaire and say what you really think about your immediate superior.”

Cool rule, eh? Every six months you get to say how you feel about your “leader“. If he/she isn’t measuring up, they get demoted.

“Have an opinion, put yourself forward as a candidate, always say what you think – do not be just another cog in the wheel. State your opinion about everything that interests you, even if you weren’t asked for it. Be active about your feelings.”

OMG! Stating your opinion even when you aren’t asked for it? Arrrrgh! More blasphemy that should be punishable by death. Feelings in the workplace? There’s no place for expressing feelings in the workplace. Feelings are for the weak and un-promotable.

“We want everybody to participate; opinions will always be welcome and should be spontaneous.”

Spontaneous espousal of opinions? More sacrilege that is unacceptable at 99% of all corpo clones. In the land of the clones, before publicly stating your opinion, you must always think it over carefully and ensure that your words won’t offend a single soul – especially one with a big title and high stature. If the words will offend anyone, then keep your piehole shut.

“Watch the results closely and ask any questions you want – there are no issues that cannot be discussed. “

OMG again! There are no “undiscussable topics” at SEMCO? That can’t be. They’re lying through their teeth. It’s obvious that this policy can’t be applied in practice.

After reading all the above lies, I’m convinced that SEMCO doesn’t exist. No company can do all that, make money, and stay in business. No freakin’ way. If SEMCO-styled companies do exist in the good ole USA, they must be found out and closed down at all costs. It’s unacceptable to “us” real capitalists to operate a company in such an unpatriotic way. Quick, someone mobilize the corpo SWAT team. We’re goin’ on a kill mission to snuff out this abomination.

High Falutin’ Titles

March 29, 2009 Leave a comment

Along with a whole bunch of co-workers, I’m a member of the professional networking site It’s a great site and I highly recommend it.

It’s interesting to browse through the profiles on LinkedIn. Everybody’s a freakin’ manager, or director, or chief-this, or chief-that. However, when you read their accomplishments, you can’t tell what the freak they’ve done.  They seem to mostly describe the functions of the org areas that they’ve worked in. WTF? Of course, I don’t have any facts (I only use facts when they bolster my argument and I auto-reject all others 🙂 ), but I’d bet the farm that most of these people don’t direct or manage anyone and they haven’t done squat in years. They’re each, OMG!,  a dreaded individual contributor. I picture them, perhaps wrongly, walking around flaunting their titles, manipulating people (instead of helping them to develop and grow) and barking out non-sensical orders that they’ve pulled out of their arses. They behave this way to look/feel important and they actually fool a few people for a while.

It’s sad, because I think that at the core of their souls, all people want to do the right thing for all. However, the shining light at their core has been trapped in no man’s land by layer upon layer of ego. The culprit behind ego inflation in the corpo world is a dysfunctional org structure.  Specifically, it’s the obsolete 150 year old pyramidal, hierarchical structure of entitlement that all dinosaur corpo citadels pay homage to.

“Enough with the rant, got any alternative ideas smarty pants”? How can you mobilize a large group of people to change the world and prevent chaos from reigning without a corpo pyramidal caste system? One way is to organize as, and more importantly, operate in accordance with, a circular ring structure where all rings are directly connected with robust and high bandwidth communication channels. Instead of managers in the inner rings, there are leaders. Leaders focus more on developing people instead of enriching themselves.


So you say that the multi-ring design is nothing more than a squashed hierarchy with the innermost node representing the CEO? You’re literally right, but not figuratively. The main reason for operating your org structure as a flat concentric set of rings is to eradicate the deeply ingrained 1000s of years old “I’m better than you because I’m higher up in the food chain” mindset that unconsciously pervades all hierarchies. Sure, the people residing on the inner rings still have the responsibility to make org-wide decisions, but they do so with a more down-to-earth and people-centric mindset.

A non-conforming, ring-based company organization can’t possibly work, right? Blasphemy and off with my head! I know of at least one company that’s successfully implemented the “ringo star”. Semco Inc. of Brazil. If it piques your interest, Google them and/or check out the articles bookmarked in this twine: The Magic of Semco.

Thanks for listening.

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