Monday, May 2, 2011

Maverick:The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace

Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace
By Ricardo Semler
Published by Warner Books

I read about Ricardo Semler in the book Drive (see my previous blog of April 4) and was intrigued enough to get this book and read it. I have to confess that there were times that I became a speed reader as I did not understand much of the business terms that were used. That said, I certainly learned more about what it means to think "out of the box" as well as the commitment and time thinking in such a way requires.

Certainly, we use the term loosely in the church. But what I have realized after reading Maverick that we really don't know what thinking (and acting) out of the box means. Maverick tells of the story behind Semco, a Brazilian company that changed its ways of doing business and being a manufacturing corporation. In the course of a couple of decades, Semco became a company in which nothing is done in the way that anyone else has always done it. This includes the fact that employees get to choose their salaries, review their supervisors and everyone has a say in changes made on the floor and in the offices. Semler himself points to the fact that many CEOs like to claim that they listen to everyone but then make the final decision. Not only does Semler listen but he lets the employees make the decisions as well. They also listen to Semler but not to just do as the big boss says to do; they make their own decisions.

These things did not happen quickly nor were they really planned or orchestrated by one man. One fact I appreciate about this book is that it shows that you cannot take a big corporation and turn it into a democratically led organization overnight. The ones who will resist it most are all the employees - not just the managers and CEOs but the workers on the shop floor.

To give an example of how this works at Semco, I will show you how it might work at the level of my own United Methodist Church at our Conference level. Every year the Bishop and his Cabinet (made up of pastors who are assigned as District Superintendants) get together and decide what pastors stay at their assigned churches and which pastors will be moved. Of course there are a variety of issues they must consider including retirements, deaths, special requests, etc. but it is up to the Bishop and Cabinet to make the final decisions. I know they spend much time in prayer and are led by the Holy Spirit but what if they did something like Semco does? What if the pastors themselves got together on a regular basis, got to know one another and their churches, and what if the pastors themselves made recommendations on who should be moved? The pastors could see up close the gifts and graces of each church and pastor and could recommend moves based on their close-up knowledge.  I know there would be lots of other factors including salary (currently not equal at every church) but this at least give you a better idea of what they do at Semco.

As for my faith, I wonder how many times we squash the Holy Spirit because we do it as our system dictates - wheter in business or in our churches. What would a truly democratic method look like at my own local church? What kinds of power and control would I have to give up (as well as other church leaders) in order to allow this kind of thinking?

I highly recommend this book, especially for those of you in business. For all of us, we could certainly learn how to think out of the box.

Happy Reading!


Copyright 2011 Amelia G. Sims

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