How to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning

Forget socialism, capitalism, just in time deliveries, salary surveys, and the rest of it and concentrate on building organisations that accomplish the most difficult of all challenges: to make people look forward to coming to work in the morning.


“Maverick” tells the story of the transformation of Semco into a radical and high performing organisation.  Leadership should not get lost in an endless search for consensus: that people are free to work as they like when they like; that bosses don’t have to be parents and workers don’t act like children. A company should trust its destiny to its employees

Semco standard policy is no policy

The basic message is to use your common sense. By keeping it simple they have reduced the corporate staff of legal accounting and marketing by 75%, whittled bureaucracy from 12 layers of management to 3.

The lessons

  • Workers and bosses are associates and coordinators
  • Focus on personal freedom, individualism and competition
  • Share information and power
  • When you eliminate rigid thought and hierarchical structure things usually get messy
  • By working in clusters or teams assembling a complete product, not just an isolated component, it gives people more control and responsibility which makes them happier and our products better
  • Make each business unit small enough so that those involved understand everything that is going on and can influence the outcomes.
  • Implement a rounded pyramid organisation structure with floating coordinators. Coordinators are the only supervisory level and are all at the same organisational level but different pay rates.
  • Demonstrate trust by eliminating symbols of corporate oppression as well as the perks of status.
  • Share all information and eliminate secrets. You can’t expect involvement to flourish without an abundance of information available to all employees.
  • Every six months bosses are evaluated by their subordinates and the results are posted.
  • Salaries are public information unless the employee requests that they not be published.
  • Allow employees to set their own salary. Consider these criteria: what they think they can make elsewhere; what others with similar skills and responsibilities make in the Company; what friends with similar backgrounds make; how much they need to live on.
  • Share 23% of pre-tax profits. Employees vote how the pool will be split. They must vote to determine the manner of each quarterly distribution. In practice they always vote for equal dollar shares.
  • Substitute the survival manual for thick procedure manuals. Eliminate policies and rules wherever possible.
  • Job rotation; 20% of managers shift jobs each year.
  • Set up workers in their own businesses as suppliers to the company.
  • Eliminate the wearing of wristwatches whenever and wherever possible. It is impossible to understand life in all its hugeness and complexity if one is constantly consulting a minute counter.
  • Either you can create complex systems so as to manage complexity, or you can simplify everything.
  • Do away with bureaucracy, which creates a sense of false security.
  • Let employees determine everything themselves: their salaries, their working hours, their managers.
  • Let go of control to stimulate creativity.
  • ·Strip away special treatment for managers – no parking space or secretary, not even their own desk.
  • Continually question whether what appears to be self-evident is actually good for the company.
  • Remember that leadership has nothing to do with hierarchy because everyone can develop leadership skills

The questions it raises

  • Why are so few companies in the world run like Semco?
  • What can managers do differently?
  • Doesn’t a major corporation with thousands of employees require a different style of management than a company with 10 staff members?
  • How can an organisation become more democratic?


At the Semco Group, it makes no difference whether someone has a high ranking or a humble position. The most important thing is to always try to learn and teach new things.


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.

Use of authority

Many positions of the company involve the use of authority. Pressure, tactics that involve people working while afraid or any type of disrespect are considered incapable leadership and improper use of authority.


At the Semco Group, each person controls their own working hours. This is a method of transferring responsibility to each person.


The Semco Group does not believe that anyone cannot be replaced. Everybody must take their annual vacations, always. This is fundamental for the health of the people and the company as a whole – no excuse is good enough to justify accumulating vacations.


They have no restrictions on active or part-time work for retirees or people on advanced age. Nobody is too old, on the contrary, they  believe that experience comes with age.


The Semco Group is normally a company that implements major changes from time to time. Don’t be scared – we think this is positive. Look at the changes without fear – these are typical characteristics of the Group.

sensemaking cover


Sense making; morality, humanity, leadership and slow flow. A book about the 14 books about the impact and implications of technology on business and humanity.

Ron Immink

I help companies by developing an inspiring and clear future perspective, which creates better business models, higher productivity, more profit and a higher valuation. Best-selling author, speaker, writer.

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