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Comment This has been done, it works well... or not... :-) (Score 1) 297

The example we talk about in business school is Ricardo Semler's 'Semco' company, in Brazil. Read "Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World's Most Unusual Workplace", authored by Semler, R, ISBN 0446670553 (paperback). Semler is the poster child of MBA and Graduate Business schools worldwide. He's written other stuff on the topic, and there are other examples. Semco is a good start though.

Semco has a very open arrangement. A revolving board of directors, so each guy is only CEO for six months (focus on the position, not the man). The books are open, and the staff are given training courses in accounting, etc, so they can read and understand the books. Everyone knows what everyone earns, everyone chooses their own wages. The company openly supports private enterprise, and will support (financially as well) anyone who wants to take a Semco machine out and start his own business selling goods back to Semco. It sounds like a nice system.

The goal is to remove something that Max Weber called "The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy" - the restraints of industrialised society. It works, perhaps...

Once you've read Semler and you think that he's on to something, then read Barker, J. R. (1993). Tightening the iron cage: Concertive control in self-managing teams. Administrative Science Quarterly, 38, p. p. p. 408. What you see from that is that so-called empowerment is worse than just being told what to do by a single boss. Workers in empowered self-managed work teams felt under more pressure than they did before. One guy said "before, it was just my boss watching me. Now, everyone is watching me".

Email me if you'd like help finding a copy of Barker.

Oh, also, David Boje has interesting things to say on the subject. Maybe 'empowerment' is now what the world needs! See: Boje, D. & Rosile, G.A. (2001). Where's the power in empowerment? Answers from Follett and Clegg. The Journal of Applied Behavioral Science, 37, p. p. p. 90. (email me for help finding a copy)

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