Monday, December 24

Book Review: Maverick

Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace is the autobiographical braggadocio of Ricardo Semler and his Brazilian company Semco. Long story short: rebel son inherits company from traditional father and turns it into Willy Wonka's Chocolate Factory where the employees set their own hours and their own salaries and there's no org charts and no secretaries and everybody rides a unicorn to work. OK, that might be a bit of a hyperbole, but you get the gist of it.

After suffering a perspective-on-life-changing physical breakdown, Semler decides to break all the rules, think outside of the box, try new things, and manages to create a rather unique workplace where employee morale is high, turnover is low, changes are quick and painless, and tough financial times don't require drastic downsizing... as long as all the employees vote on it.

It's a rather impressive tale, but I took it with a grain of salt. I know Semler's type. Or, to be fair, I should say that I know guys that talk the way Semler writes. They are successful self-made men and to listen to them talk you'd believe they can do no wrong and everything good in their lives and their company's history has been the direct result of their foresight and perseverance, but they seem to gloss over the bad stuff and completely omit the really embarrassing screw-ups.

But all cynicism aside, the book is an entertaining read, and I do recommend it. Semler is a solid writer and weaves a good tale. The chapters are very short easily-consumed parables. Who knows, after reading it, you might be able to convince your boss to let you set your own salary and work hours.

As an aside, Semco is very much a blue-collar business, responsible for manufacturing industrial machinery for shipyards and biscuit factories -- I wonder how Semler's ideologies would fare in a large software company.

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