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  • Balesh Raghurajan

Why Democratize your workplace

When Ricardo Semler revolutionized management thinking in the 1980s and 1990s, he was way ahead of his time. He was extremely progressive and brave to do what he did after years of legacy being handed over to him in his family run business.


Not only did Ricardo professionalize a deep rooted manufacturing business, he radically transformed Semco into an agile organization that grew 40 times bigger. And that’s just one metric. They had the longest list of applicants wanting to join the company. Needless to say, voluntary attrition was so low, it did not take management attention at all. Semco created several entrepreneurs out of shop floor employees. Their profitability was enviable. The list goes on…


The key learning is not what Semco did, but "how" they did it. Several companies around the globe have attempted something similar with equally amazing business results. 


One of the corner stones of “how” is democratization of the organization.

Democracy at work place is, among other things,

  • giving “power” to the people in the company

  • giving them the choice to voice their thoughts

  • treating everyone equally and with no privileges to hierarchy

  • ensuring employees have flexibility in work hours and shift the focus to output rather than tasks and time spent

  • providing everyone with a fearless and safe environment with no emotional pressure

  • encouraging participation and involvement

  • giving feedback and suggestion, but also taking them


May be there are few more points to add. But why would a business leader do this in his/her company?


Here are few points to ponder:

  • The average age of India is around 27. Your workforce is probably a true reflection of India’s average age. To get more out of a young workforce, leaders would need to think like them.

  • In this digital age, the product or service your business delivers needs to have the “wow experience” quotient. Experiences are always garnered bottom-up and not top-down.

  • There’s a lot of cultural invasion with Gen X, Y, Z getting exposed to multi-cultural inputs through social media. A lot of western behaviours such as lower power distance have already found their way into Indian organizations.

  • The buzzword of today is how much you can learn and stay relevant rather than become a manager of managers and hit your glass ceiling.

  • If curiosity and innovation are not encouraged enough in your company, you may lose more good employees than what you would like. Curiosity goes up when employees feel free and safe.

Many leaders have felt these winds of change. Slowly, but steadily, more and more businesses are embracing them and reaping the benefits of it. Is this Industry D.0?




Watch this video here for a compilation of learnings from Ricardo Semler on workplace democratization