A Journey Towards Self-Organization
with the Semco Style Expert Certification Program
An interview with Floor van Mens and Jiska Rutteman
The Semco Style Expert Certification Program equips to-be-pioneers with all the relevant Semco Style content, while also creatively immersing them into our philosophy. The program enables them to work on Semco Style-related assignments and pivot organizational structures, but to also explore if there’s potential for establishing a Country Partnership in the future.
Floor van Mens and Jiska Rutteman, who participated in the Expert Certification Program between March and July 2021, share their experiences in this testimonial. During their four-month journey, these colleagues at the Dutch social fashion enterprise i-did, experienced first-hand how to go from being inspired, to being the inspiration.
Jiska, based in the Netherlands, handles the sales and financial aspects at i-did. She coaches and takes on the role of sparring partner for her HR colleagues. Her global experience as a member of several MT boards at IKEA allows her to combine her knowledge about business with the growth and development of people. She facilitates and enables her colleagues to use their full potential. Floor arrived at i-did as a volunteer after completing her Masters in Labour Law. She works as an HR advisor, and brings in a great sense of compassion and eagerness to learning how she can embrace the core values needed to grow a social enterprise.
Now that the two are certified Semco Style Experts, we asked them to reflect on their journey and how they implemented their learnings at their organization.
When did you hear about Semco Style for the first time?
Floor first heard about Semco Style through her dad’s colleague, who had participated in an earlier edition of the Expert Certification Program. She had read Ricardo Semler’s book Maverick: The Success Story Behind the World’s Most Unusual Workplace, which inspired her to have discussions within i-did about this new way of working. She then received support from a co-owner at i-did, who encouraged her to pursue a Semco Style-inspired journey.
Jiska, a firm believer in combining professional and personal growth, saw the benefits of Semco Style too. Along with i-did’s directors, she began her journey towards everything Semco.
What made you decide to become a Semco Style Expert?
The first step was to reach out to the team at Semco Style Institute (SSI). After a bit of mix and match, a personal approach to familiarizing i-did with the principles of Semco Style began.
Floor says she was very interested in deep-diving into all-things Semco Style for her personal growth as well. Hence, rather than calling in a team from SSI, she decided to take up the Expert Certification Program herself. Partnering with Jiska to embark on this journey was a logical choice, since “by doing it together, we built a strong knowledge base with different experiences. This helped while implementing it in our organization, as we functioned as facilitators that truly complement one another,” says the duo.
“Consultants and in-company employees came together and put all their efforts into bridging cultural and linguistic barriers”
How did you realize that the Semco Style philosophy was what you were looking for?
For a social enterprise, the social and cultural values of the organization remain vital in daily operations. Floor explains that in her quest for self-management approaches, she found that the Semco Style seemed to answer all her questions. “We were looking for a culture-based program — one that showed us how to integrate these new insights within our own culture,” Jiska adds.
Did you have any eye-opening moments during the Expert program?
The Expert Certification Program shows an international cohort of enthusiasts of new ways of working, boosting autonomous teams, individuals and organizations. It encourages them to share their cultural, organizational, or personal contexts on a weekly basis. Jiska found this truly inspiring. “Consultants and in-company employees came together and put all their efforts into bridging cultural and linguistic barriers,” she says.
The breaking down of barriers is a challenge faced by more and more organizations these days. Floor explains that in a globalized environment, it’s the values that become vital parts of any organization. “A core value, such as trust, is understood in every country and every language. So, centralizing these values as emphasized in the program, allows for discussions and learnings to be understood by a larger audience,” says Floor.
Regarding the later phases of the program, Floor says, “It had made me realize that the answers to the challenges we face as an organization are always in the team itself and its people, not any one individual. The solutions you come up with as a team, with a facilitative leader at the core, will always be better than the solutions instituted by a know-it-all leader. Hence, the first step is creating a safe environment for people to share their ideas and ambitions. This will ensure trust and commitment at the leadership, team and individual level.”
“A core value, such as trust, is understood in every country and every language. So, centralizing these values as emphasized in the program, allows for discussions and learnings to be understood by a larger audience.”
What were some of the first steps you took in your organization from the start of the ECP until now?
“Sharing the framework with the team and having weekly updates with the leadership team, after each Expert Program session, was our focus during the program,” Floor says. Consistent sharing became a winning formula to evoking interest within the organization.
After the program, the two prepared for the official ‘kick-off’, along with the whole organization. The people at i-did designed a game based on initial discussions about the Semco Style Framework and the Semco Style Roadmap. The intention behind this game was to create an understanding of adult-to-adult conversations, and move away from adult-to-child conversations. The challenges, frustrations, and opportunities during this stage revealed practical insights on the importance of transparent, clear, and action-oriented communication.
The next step was for the team to open up and share their thoughts. In true self-management fashion, the team came up with the idea to assemble a ‘change team’, comprising Floor, Jiska and four others. This team would be responsible for the direction and further development of the transformation.
Can you elaborate on the challenges in making the transition from your engagement in the ECP to the real world/your organization?
Floor says the wheels of change had already been set in motion before the start of the program. “We sat down with the management team of i-did before joining the program, so the eagerness to start a transformation was already present across the organization.” Getting the leaders of an organization on-board is critical before engaging in such a transformation. This results in an environment of excitement and interest.
“Semco Style is not a recipe, it’s an invitation.”
Do you feel that you found what you were looking for in the program?
“The knowledge I gained, and the opportunity to implement it directly in my organization, made me realize that ‘learning by doing’ is the best approach going forward. Implementing the philosophies of a self-management model would have made me feel lost had I not gained that knowledge first-hand,” Floor explains.
Floor says the program beautifully summarizes the Semco Style, paving the way for self-management. “The Semco Style philosophy highlights a journey towards self-management. Implementing this journey in your organization involves shaping the roadmap to your organization’s own context and requirements. Experimenting with these fundamental understandings will then enhance your journey towards self-management in a tailor-made fashion,” says Floor.
As Jiska put it, “Semco Style is not a recipe, it’s an invitation”.
Jiska gives her experience of the program a metaphorical twist. “The program is like getting your driver’s license. Once you get your license, you still can’t really drive a car properly yet, but it’s safe to let you on the road. As soon as you rack up your miles, you start learning how to drive. It’s the same with the Expert Program. You want to get a practical sneak-peek into self-management, but actually getting there is all on you.”
What is the next goal for your organization on the road to becoming self-managed/self-directed?
“Going forward, we want to focus on clearing up roles and unearthing talents. We aim to commit people to personal and organizational goals by having a clear overview of everyone’s abilities and responsibilities,” Floor explains. Jiska adds that the thought of redesigning the organization comes to mind when trying to implement this new mindset. “Looking into our roles, talents and responsibilities will uncover what we are actually focused on as an organization – either clients, becoming self-managed or something entirely different,” she says.
If the collective focus is on the right things, an organizational redesign will not be necessary, as the focus is already in the correct direction. Following a predetermined path may lead nowhere — but Jiska feels a collective, unique approach towards self-management can put you on the right track.
Focus, clarity and clear responsibilities set i-did up for a tailor-made experience towards self-management — guided, of course, by the Semco Style philosophy.
What a great interview – thanks to Jiska and Floor for sharing such inspirational experiences, learnings and insights about their personal journey during the Expert Certification Program. We are happy for them to be part of our global community of certified experts! We wish them all the best with their transformation projects! Would you like to become a certified Semco Style Expert yourself?