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Speed Review: The Seven-Day Weekend

Speed Review: The Seven-Day Weekend

Speed Review: The Seven-Day Weekend

Changing the Way Work Works

by Ricardo Semler

Ricardo Semler has been breaking traditional business rules as the CEO of Brazil-based Semco for 25 years. Along the way, he asked himself, “If the workweek is going to slop over into the weekend ... why can’t the weekend, with its precious restorative moments of playtime, my time, and our time, spill over into the workweek?” In The Seven-Day Weekend, a book that is a political manifesto, a Semco business history, and an anthropological study, Semler provides a road map to personal and business success

Review

Changing the Way Work And Life Really Work
Ricardo Semler has been breaking traditional business rules as the CEO of Brazil-based Semco for 25 years. Along the way, he asked himself, "If the workweek is going to slop over into the weekend ... why can't the weekend, with its precious restorative moments of playtime, my time, and our time, spill over into the workweek?" In a book that is a political manifesto, a Semco business history, and an anthropological study, Semler provides a road map to personal and business success.

Semler writes that the seven-day workweek robs people of passion and pleasure, destroys family and community stability, and sets up businesses to fail once they have "burned out their employees and burned through ever more manipulative and oppressive strategies."

Semler's seven-day weekend approach, although more of a metaphor than a literal week of idle pleasures, revolves around the idea that work can be made more fun, and finding a balance between work and private passions can be significantly gratifying. The Seven-Day Weekend describes how managers can turn the repetition, boredom and aggravation of the usual workweek into work that is filled with joy, inspiration and freedom.

Balance and Money
Semco is a company that employs 3,000 people in three countries in manufacturing, professional services, and high-tech software. While redistributing the weekend across the workweek, Semler explains that the company's employees find balance and Semco makes money. Using Semco as a business case study of a successful company that has experimented with the way business gets done, Semler explains how his company has grown from $35 million in revenue to $212 million in the last six years. As he outlines the principles that have led the company to outstanding success while breaking every tenet in the traditional rule book, Semler offers an alternative to the hypercompetitive, bottom-line-obsessed American work ethic that has often turned into a seven-day workweek.

Semler writes that a company that puts employee freedom and happiness ahead of corporate goals can still achieve profit, sustainability and growth that surpass the competition's. He believes the old way of doing business is dying, and welcomes its demise. The path Semco has been blazing for more than two decades, Semler writes, has led to an unprecedented record of innovation, customer satisfaction, growth, and an end to repressive command-and-control management practices that "cause much labor unrest and personal misery, from the top to the bottom of many organizations."

Semler explains that there is an absolute necessity for companies to give up control to cope with recent changes that are transforming the way people live and work. As an example of Semco's successful use of unorthodox business principles, he cites Semco's joint venture with "staid, proper, blue-blooded Cushman & Wakefield" that has grown from a handshake between Semler and Cushman & Wakefield's president Arthur Mirante II into a business that now employs 1,300 people and has gross revenues of more than $65 million. Semler explains that the joint venture's "strangeness is its strength," and there is resiliency, flexibility and sustainability to the venture that would be missing in a more traditional partnership.

A Fatal Business Error
Semler writes that he believes the obsession with control is a delusion and a fatal business error. He blames a desperation for control for the Enron and WorldCom disasters, and writes that the seven-day weekend is Semco's way of getting out of the control business and back to the central purpose of business: "a satisfying, worthwhile life for those involved and a reasonable reward for their investment and hard work."

In The Seven-Day Weekend, Semler explains how Semco has grown to become a company that grows an average of 40 percent a year and has annual revenue of more than $200 million while instituting "true democracy." This principle gives Semco's workers the power to veto a deal or close a factory with a show of hands. While professing his faith in flextime, satellite offices, and the seven-day weekend, Semler explains that treating workers like intelligent adults and allowing them to manage themselves is a business model that has not only worked for Semco, but could be put into use at any organization that wants to move beyond traditional thinking into a more democratic realm.

Why We Like This Book
Although The Seven-Day Weekend describes how flextime and employee self-management can improve a company's bottom line, it also describes how self-organized employee groups can harness extra productivity by eliminating wasted time. While advocating the value of creating employees who rely on their own intuition and use it in the workplace, Semler provides strong examples of how a business can run circles around competitors by simply embracing democratic principles. The result is a thought-provoking guidebook that reveals how freedom and happiness can lead a business to success.