Business in Focus: Semco Partners

A closer look at companies executing leadership excellence

semco_partnersIf your employees could vote you in or out as their leader, would you keep your position? That was just one of the many questions that Richardo Semler started to ask when he went to work for his father’s company, SEMCO Partners, in the late 1970’s. At the time, the San Paulo, Brazil-based company built pumps and propellers for ships. Semler immediately noticed that SEMCO employees were clearly boxed in by a hierarchical organizational structure. This was not a structure in which Semler wanted to spend the rest of his career. So, he started asking questions. Lots of questions.

Why do we record every time an employee clocks in and out for 40 years, then give him a gold watch when he retires?  Why can’t we share our strategies and financials with our employees?  It became quickly apparent that the answers to these questions were neither inspiring nor logical for a company that he wanted to innovate and grow.

SEMCO_Org_CultureFrom firing layers of managers, to ripping out timeclocks, Semler guided SEMCO over the years to create a self-organized system. Under his leadership, the company grew from 140 that built two products to 1,000’s of employees who today make rocket fuel, build factories, and manage ATM’s all across Brazil.

Ricardo Semler has turned his ideas on radical reorganization into a movement. In his TED Talk, What Happens When You Run a Company With (Almost) No Rules, Semler shares that today, SEMCO managers get evaluated anonymously every 6 months.  About a decade ago, he was voted out of the CEO position – and he’s okay with that.  If he was not the best person for the role, then he gladly stepped aside for the good of the organization.

No longer focused on the day-to-day management of the business, Semler is free to spread his ideas by teaching, writing, and speaking around the world. You can learn more about radical reorganization by listening to Semler’s podcast, Leading Wisely.



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