The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work

Keep Rules To A Minimum

– No need to spell out the obvious

To survive in modern times, a company must have an organizational structure that accepts change as its basic premise, lets tribal customs thrive and fosters a power that is derived from respect, not rules. – Ricardo Semler


All irrelevant rules and regulations are removed. Instead, a framework for freedom with responsibility is in place. The rules that are drawn up, have a short-term validity and are therefore continually being revised (see ‘Self-Set Rules “in pencil”). There is no set of policies, procedures and rules which must be adhered to by all, regardless of the circumstances.


The key to productivity is to create an atmosphere in which employees are treated like adults rather than like children where everything has to be spelled out. Moreover, rules divert attention away from important matters; provide a false sense of security for managers; create unnecessary work in the form of monitoring and reprimanding; and tend to become obsolete quickly. Last but not least, rules and the need for innovation are diametrically incompatible.


Allow employees to customize the company to meet their requirements, rather than having a long list of rules and regulations that must be complied with.


How to get started?

Start a discussion about the pros and cons of rules and regulations: Include workers, managers, supervisors and authors. Suggest abolishing them may be a good idea. Discuss which rules might minimally be necessary.Throw away all existing rule books.

Encourage employees to draw up the rules they need to do their work together and by themselves.

When (NOT) to use it?

As a general rule (pun intended), this powerful practice is always applied. In all other cases, the Survival Manual (see ‘Minimalist De-Regulation’) applies. Also: safety protocols are of course upheld.

Level to implement



Remove irrelevant rules and regulations.

Encourage employees to use their common sense.

Use peer interaction to resolve issues in creating or around rules.

Revise rules that are obsolete or need adjusting.


Set rules for emplyees.

Set up departments or even positions to monitor rules.


Atmosphere that encourages creative thinking.

Atmosphere that encourages the use of common sense.


Time-consuming at the beginning.

Might lead to hard to resolve conflicts.


When Ricardo Semler took over Semco from his father in 1980, it was a traditional company with a rule for every contingency. Twelve years later, there were no dress codes, no regulations on travel, no internal departments to check if employees were obeying the rules, etc. The company was extremely successful financially, by then.