Monday, July 30, 2007


I am reading Maverik by Ricardo Semler.
Ricardo is the son of a successful Brazilian businessman, owner of Semco, company specialised in industrial mixers.
When Ricardo took over the responsibility of the company from his father, he decided to foster a more participative and democratic form of corporate management, where important decisions where taken with the workers and not only by the top management.

I would like to share with you a short excerpt from the book:

Almost all businessmen think that their employees are involved in the firm and are its greatest asset.
Almost all employees think they are given too little attention and respect, and cannot say what they really think.
How is it possible to reconcile these two positions?
The sad truth is employee in modern corporations have little reason to feel satisfied, much less fulfilled.
Companies do not have the time or the interest to listen to them, and lack the resources or the inclination to train them for advancement. These companies make a series of demands, for which they compensate employees with salaries that are often considered inadequate.
The era of using people as production tool is coming to an end. Participation is infinitely more complex to practice than conventional corporate unilateralism, just as democracy is much more cumbersome than dictatorship. But there will be few companies that can afford to ignore either of them.

These illuminating words where written more than 10 years ago. What is the situation now in most corporations?
Apart from few exceptions, I would say desolating.
The rise of the Internet age has brought more participation but also more frustration. Employees imagine how corporations could change and improve creating a more fulfilling and productive environment but are often blocked by myopic middle and top management that is more concentrated on short term goals than value creation, on defending its small turf than growth.
The word company comes from Latin, meaning "divide the bread". How can we divide the bread if employees and managers do not share the same vision and the same goals?
What especially bothers me is ethical lapses which may start with a fake fax or a fake note but may end with jeopardising what a company is up to ultimately: building a better world.