The Semco Style 5 Principles to transform the way we work
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Scale sensibly

Don’t make the sky the limit

Bill Gore from Goretex was a very strong influence because he was one of the first larger companies to experiment with freedom in the workplace. – Ricardo Semler

In a Nutshell


Dunbar’s number, the magical 150, rose to prominence with the discussion around social media popularity. Dunbar suggests that it is challenging to build meaningful relationships beyond this number due to how our brains are structured. We’re used to community sizes built for hunter-gatherer communities that were scattered but well interconnected. Today’s living of close proximity leads our networks to be dense but distant – not compact – which leads to a lesser-integrated society.

In the workplace, this is an important learning for administration and building trust. The number 150 is a useful guide to build teams around and scale towards. People need to feel comfortable in order to maintain a level of quality in relationships and interactions. Semco realized this organically but also took a lot of inspiration from WL Gore Associates, which rose to fame in Malcolm Gladwell’s book “The Tipping Point” for embracing radical management techniques like Semler.

Scaling sensibly is important to create synergies and minimize miscommunication. Also, if you were to try to make a decision with the participation of everyone in the company, it is likely that no decision will ever be made. Instead, it makes sense to scale down the decision-making to smaller groups. When groups need to be permanent, keep a core group, typically 10-members strong, and multiply it.

While the trend of building huge internal structures is on the decline, there are still many older companies which have business units that consist of nearly a thousand employees, which definitely act as a bottleneck for efficiency. But, on the other end of the spectrum, there are several multinational companies that follow this principle: They have a group of 150 members in a country, which is broken down into smaller groups of 10.


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