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  • Writer's pictureLars Christensen

Maverick by Ricardo Semler


I finished this book in March. I recommend this book 7/10.


I would never have picked this book up if it wasn't recommended, and I'm so glad I did. The fact that this book was written in 1993, in South America, by a son who inherited his dad's business. And then dared being so forward thinking is thought-provoking—we should be so much further ahead than we are.

Get your copy here.

My notes and thoughts:

  • xiii. As I tell our people constantly: we've all learned how to answer emails on Sundays, but none of us has learned to go to the movies on Monday afternoon. Until we learn that, we are email slaves harnessed to the wicked ways of the Profit and Loss Master.

  • P3. My role is that of a catalyst. I try to create an environment in which others make decisions. Success means not making them myself.

  • P57. So many executives find that the daily quota of 24 hours is too few to get everything and still have any leftovers. I realized that if I was going to find a cure for time sickness, I first had to identify the causes.

    • Cause 1. The belief that effort and result are directly proportional. In business, effort is too often confused with results. To say it is possible to establish a successful business just by arriving early and staying late is like saying that every mailman can be Howard Hughes.

    • Cause 2. The gospel that the quantity of work is more important than the quality of work. This is a variation of the same theme. The executives who judge his contribution in hours will find himself muttering things like: 'Well, we all know how unfair it was that they didn't promote me. Everyone knows I'm here at eight in the morning and eight in the evening.'

    • Cause 3. "Things are little uncertain at the office right now. I'll just have to work a little longer until they straighten out.' Few executives are as convincing as the 'we're-just-going-through-a——. Fill in the blank: change at the top, restructuring, layoffs, expansion. Almost any change can be an excuse for poor time management.

    • Cause 4. Fear of delegation, and its cousin, fear of replaceability. Here is where we lay bare some nerves. Fear of delegation is the belief that no one is as competent to solve a problem as you are. This leads to the fear of replacement.

  • P92. Without rules, all answers are suggested by common sense. No, I can't define what common sense is, but I know it when I hear it. Some of our people stay in four-star hotels, and others, sometimes with much higher salaries, choose lesser digs. Some people spend $200 a day on meals: others get by on half as much. A company makes, sells, bills, and, God willing, collects. It doesn't need to know if the taxi ride being claimed by a manager was for business. Or if another manager couldn't have stayed in a hotel with three rather than four stars. With few exceptions, rules, and regulations only serve to:

    • Divert attention from a company's objectives.

    • Provides a false sense of security for executives.

    • Creates work for bean counters.

    • Teach men to stone dinosaurs and start fires with sticks.

  • P94. I liked to tell them that a turtle may live for hundreds of years because it is well protected by its shell, but it only moves forward when it sticks out its head.

  • P128. I know all the arguments against a policy of full disclosure. Employees will use the numbers to argue for raises in good times or be frightened by the numbers in bad times. Even worse, trade secrets will be leaked to the competition. Maybe. But the advantages of openness and truthfulness far outweigh the disadvantages. And a company that doesn't share information when times are good loses the right to request solidarity and concession when they are not.

  • P180. That small, innermost circle would enclose a team of half a dozen people (including me), the equivalent of vice presidents and higher in conventional companies. They would co-ordinate Semco's general policies and strategies and be called Counsellors. The second circle would enclose the seven to ten leaders of Semco's business units and be called Partners. The last, immense circle would hold virtually everyone else at Semco—machine operators, cafeteria workers, janitors, salesmen, security guards, and so on. They would be called Associates. And the triangles? They would be scattered around that last big circle, each enclosing a single person we would call a Coordinator. These people would comprise the first crucial level of management—the marketing, sales, and production supervisors, the engineering and assembly-area foremen, and anyone who had a basic leadership role in our old system.

  • P191. Before they told us what they wanted to be paid, we asked them to consider four criteria: what they thought they could make elsewhere; what others with similar responsibilities and skills made at Semco; what friends with similar backgrounds made; and how much money they needed to live. To help when with the first two, we gave them a salary survey from Semco as well as national surveys compiled by such consultants as Price Waterhouse and Coopers & Lybrand. For the second two, they had to look inside themselves. Then they decided how much they would be paid, just like that.

  • P255. Sometimes, just by sticking my nose into some issue, I'll find myself straddled with half a dozen phone calls, faxes, and memos. So unless I'm the only one who can handle a problem, I'll steer clear.

  • P269. Except that this textile factory existed in 1633. And the moral of the story: our advances in technology have far outstripped our advances in mentality. It was a particularly appropriate message for an audience of people who turn over our technology base every year or so. They have made it possible to teleconference instantly to China and call home from the belly of a 747 over the Pacific. And yet most businesses today are still organized in much the same way as they were in 1633, with stultifying top-down management, close and distrustful supervision, and little room for creativity. The conflict between advanced technology and archaic mentality is, I believe, a major reason why the modern workplace is characterized by dissatisfaction, frustration, inflexibility, and stress.

  • P272. If money isn't all it's made out to be, information is, I believe, a most undervalued commodity. There is power in knowing something someone else doesn't, which explains why executives are so often loath to share information with employees. You don't believe me? Try this test at your next meeting. When some important item comes up, say that it's better not to discuss it now because a related issue was decided that same morning that will change things considerably. They, after a few moments of apprehensive silence, say that you just can't discuss it now. I'd be surprised if you haven't just become the most powerful person in the room. You know something that others don't - at least, that's what they think. But when cards are held close to the chest, communication will be faulty, and anxieties, misunderstandings, insecurity, and eventually hostility will manifest itself. No amount of 'we're-all-in-this-together-because-we're-all-one-big-familiy' sloganeering will compensate.

  • P291. Make time to think. Try blocking out a half-da a week on your agenda. I find that Monday and Friday mornings are good because I can clear away post- and pre-weekend distractions. During this half-day, avoid your office. Camp out in an unused conference room or, even better, stay at home. Thinking is difficult. It requires concentration and discipline. Give it the time it deserves. Aristotle would approve.





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