A Journey Towards Self-Organization
with the Semco Style Expert Certification Program
An interview with Pietro Antolini and Roberto Venezia
The Semco Style Expert Certification Program equips to-be-pioneers with all the relevant Semco Style content, while also 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.
Pietro Antolini and Roberto Venezia take the stage in a new Expert Certification Program testimonial. These two colleagues at the Italian consulting organization Indaco, went through the four-month certification journey from March until July 2021. During the course of those 4 months, they experienced, first-hand, how to pursue self-management in a fun, creative and explorative way.
Pietro, who is based in Italy, started his career as an aerospace engineer. He had always been inspired by the Toyota way of thinking, ever since his final years at university.
Pietro followed the Lean philosophy and principles at several organizations, before becoming a Lean consultant in 2013. Various flaws in the Lean philosophy made Pietro want to explore something novel, and thus began his journey towards self-management. The Semco Style Expert Program pushed him to develop his understanding of self-management further. Roberto arrived at Indaco in 2019 after being a successful engineer and operations manager. His career shift towards consulting has Roberto focused on using his expertise to create fun, innovative and insightful structures in organizations.
We asked these certified Semco Style Experts to reflect on their journeys and elaborate how they implemented these principles at Indaco.
When did you hear about Semco Style for the first time?
“I stumbled upon Semco Style while looking for other sources of inspiration around the internet,” says Pietro, who went looking for better options after assessing the challenges he perceived in the implementation of the Toyota and Lean philosophies. “The principles and practices in their manifestos certainly resembled the principles of self-management. However, I did not see these come to life in organizations,” Pietro says. It made him believe it was necessary to work at a different level from what it is usually done while implementing Lean.
Roberto saw the benefits of the Semco Style as soon as he started his career at Indaco. He immediately became passionate about this new way of working. The frustrating experiences at his previous job, as an operational manager, made him connect with the Semco Style philosophy immediately and provided him with new insights.
How did you decide to become a Semco Style Expert?
Roberto explains that his personal philosophical alignments matched those of Semco Style. “The gaps I was seeking to fill professionally were filled, which only intensified the urge in me to enter the Semco Style Expert program,” he says.
Pietro adds that the methodologies in Semco Style triggered something in him — it positioned itself differently from any other methodology. “It was not a new methodology like at Holacracy or an almost pure theoretical approach such as Teal, so I was convinced,” Pietro says. He elaborates that the Semco Style focuses on learning from successes of the past, with its foundations staying true to the unique way of thinking at the Brazilian Semco.
“The coherence between the principles, core values, and practices was very impressive.”
Were there any eye-opening experiences during the Expert Program?
Roberto found that the core principles of Semco Style are very much based on real life. Even a heavy concept such as trust was based on real-life experiences, which he found very impactful. “For instance, the Semco Style practice of opening up chair seats in board meetings to all employees is only possible in a transparent and trusting organization,” he says.
For Pietro, the sheer amount of material and various practices that forms the Semco Style framework was eye-opening. It was especially important to him since he had a hard time finding this kind of content prior to the program. “The coherence between the principles, core values, and practices was very impressive,” he says.
“Many organizations have a lot on their principles and core values. Sometimes, these were even written on the walls, reiterating their presence in the organization. However, these principles were not being applied in daily operations, nor were they present in the mindset of the people,” Pietro reflects, adding, “Seeing the practices in Semco Style, derived from actual operational functionalities, was eye-opening – particularly because of their simplicity.”
Can you share some of the first steps you took in your organization post the Expert Program?
“I started to look at things differently in our own organization immediately after sessions about certain principles or phases,” Pietro explains. “In the past, we implemented a lot of practices of self-management. However, looking back on it, we were not always conscious of what was most needed. Similarly, we did adhere to some values and principles, that became clearer after the session in the program,” Pietro adds.
Robert started to implement Semco Style during the onboarding phase at Indaco. This, he says, was a fundamental shift in how newly-recruited employees should embrace the organization’s core values. “Starting off with the right mindset leads to more personal alignment within the team,” he says.
“I started to look at things differently in our own organization immediately after sessions about certain principles or phases.”
Can you elaborate on the challenges in making the transition from your engagement in the ECP to the real world/your organization?
Talking about how his relationship with his clients changed, Pietro says, “Applying the Semco Style to my dealings with clients has helped me a lot. Usually, I’m constantly giving clients answers to overcome their challenges. Now, I have learned to stop providing answers, and start asking the right questions instead. It has been a fun experience.”
One thing that Pietro noticed was how some team members would treat other team members as children, rather than as adults. To tackle this, he has started stimulating the involvement of all team members in decision-making from the very start, rather than involving them only when they are needed. This required more transparency and better alignment of roles and planning.
Roberto emphasizes the effectiveness of the above approach, saying, “Instead of one or two individuals providing all the answers and making decisions, I now focus on teams creating solutions and making decisions as a collective. This creates a sense of community and teamwork. Now, teams have more discussions that lead to better solutions. Though this process may seem time-consuming at first, it actually ends up saving a lot of time when trying to align interests and goals in the future.”
What advice would you give yourself regarding this course?
Pietro says he would tell himself to play around more with the principles and practices during the program, and use them to uncover the different boundaries within teams. “Resorting to order and structure may result in standardized forms of these concepts. Moulding them in the direction you want to use them and then aligning it with others’ perspectives would be more insightful,” he elaborates.
“I don’t want to be shy of being fun at work. I want people to realize that work can be fun and productive at the same time. It all comes down to being yourself and having faith in your abilities.”
What is the next goal for your organization on the road to being self-managed/self-directed?
“Shifting the mindset of current and future Indaco consultants will need to be internalized better over time. This change will soon become natural even to our customers. Internalizing the Semco Style mindset, by personalizing it to individual needs, will make it more authentic and credible,” says Roberto.
Pietro says that practices and tools need to be better aligned in the future. “Integrating management and self-management is something we have been talking about for a while. This distinction should not exist anymore. Only when this happens can self-management truly become the standard way of working,” he says. The dot on the horizon, according to Roberto, should be to create a better work-life balance. Centralizing core values in your working environment, that you can apply in your personal life too, creates a bridge between these two perceived worlds. The Semco Style uses the values of trust and creativity to smoothen the interaction between work life and personal life.
Pietro says that his ultimate goal is to share these principles and understandings with others in his sphere of influence. He aims to create awareness among people on different ways of working, with a special focus on human values such as creativity, pleasure, and fulfillment. Talking about his own way of working, Pietro says, “I don’t want to be shy of being fun at work. I want people to realize that work can be fun and productive at the same time. It all comes down to being yourself and having faith in your abilities,” he signs off.
A big thank you to Pietro and Roberto for sharing such honest experiences, learnings and insights about their journey with the Expert Certification Program. We are happy for them to be part of our international community of certified consultants! We wish them all the best with their transformation projects! Would you like to become a certified Semco Style Expert yourself?