Friday, February 23, 2007

I'm inspired - corporate re-engineering and industrial democracy

I have a new hero. He’s a Brazilian called Ricardo Semler, CEO and majority owner of Semco and to my mind one of the most inspiring individuals in the business world. Forget Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Jeff Bezos, Stelios Haji-Ioannou and the rest. Semler is a better role-model for business people the world over and I for one would love to see more companies run by those who have been inspired by him.

So what am I making such a big fuss about? Well the best place for a crash course in Industrial Democracy would probably be this article. Semler's Wikipedia entry also provides a good round-up of his career. This article from 2003 is worth a read too. There’s a lot to take in about him and I’ve not even read the books yet!

The thing is though, I was telling a friend about this story a little while back. He was impressed with the figures involved but also made some crack about Communism being rife in South America. I guess with our regular perception of business and how it should work something like the Semler story seems crazy, utopian, Communist or the like. The thing is though it’s not. It’s massively democratic, meritocratic and workable. It does mean having some faith in people, placing levels of trust in your employees and colleagues to a degree that might seem scary and relinquishing traditional ideas of ‘control’. Yet if you do that I truly believe the benefits are there to be had by all.

I’m sure a heck of a lot of people will at best be very sceptical about this and at worst think it complete nonsense. I’m more than prepared for the fact that the majority of people here at Omni would disagree with me on this and I genuinely can’t think of a client or supplier that would go for it. But I don’t care! In fact I’m hoping people want the discussion. I’m sure any question you could think of Ricardo Semler would have an answer to. Without him here though I’ll do my best to debate the topic instead. So come on, lets have at it! What do you think? Pie in the sky or 21st century management of the most fantastically daring order?

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