A Journey Towards Self-Organization
with the Semco Style Expert Certification Program
An interview with Rodrigo Del Campo and Ricardo La Puente
The Semco Style Expert Certification Program is especially beneficial to to-be pioneers. It equips them 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, while also allowing them to explore the potential to establish a Country Partnership in the future.
Rodrigo Del Campo and Ricardo La Puente, based in Chile and Peru respectively, are the stars of the latest testimonial from the Expert Certification Program. These colleagues, at the Santiago-based consultancy ‘AltoImpacto’, share how their partnership has reached new heights, way beyond just their professional interests. The four-month certification process, from March to July 2021, sparked their passion to combine their personal vision with their business.
For this interview, we asked these certified Semco Style Experts to reflect on their journeys and elaborate on how they started implementing their learnings at AltoImpacto.
When did you first hear about Semco Style?
“Ricardo Semler’s journey, at the original Semco, is obviously a great case study which had a huge impact on me during my time at university back in the 80s and 90s. It was especially impactful because it was so different from everything I was taught back then,” Rodrigo says.
Rodrigo, who is the founder of AltoImpacto, says he has instilled a lot of the practices mentioned in the Semco philosophy into his own company. Rodrigo was also inspired by Ricardo Semler’s best-selling books, but it was the more recent philosophies and practices that made their way to AltoImpacto.
What made you decide to become a Semco Style Expert?
The creation of the Semco Style Institute kicked off a new chapter in Semco’s way of working. With it, came an international angle that was aimed at structuring organizations based on the Semco story.
Rodrigo had been following the Semco story for many years, and he jumped at the opportunity to explore how Ricardo Semler evolved his groundbreaking philosophy over time. He had an urge to see how Semco’s story formed the basis for a new way of working.
Rodrigo also found senior manager Ricardo to be the right person to accompany him through the Semco Style Expert program.
Were there any eye-opening moments during the Expert Program?
The program enabled the duo to be part of an international cohort aimed at exploring how to create human-centered organizations, based on learnings from Semco and similar organizations. This diverse cohort included junior employees, founders of organizations, and modern work enthusiasts.
Ricardo observed that though diversity could lead to some friction, “the alignment in the interests of all participants was clear from the outset. A wide range of focus lenses and objectives did not change the fact that every member of the group was open to learning about creating human-centric workplaces.”
The barriers of language and generations didn’t interfere with the group’s productivity, according to Ricardo and Rodrigo. Interestingly, it was the group’s commitment and rather broad spectrum of perspectives that shone through.
A joint effort to share, promote creativity and continuously experiment with one another — elements that are intrinsic to a psychologically-safe environment — are the cornerstones of the Semco Style framework. “Focusing on bringing these abstract elements to life and understanding their practical implementation was great to experience and vital to creating a sense of teamwork, albeit artificial,” Rodrigo says.
Can you share some of the first steps you took in your organization after completing the Expert Program?
The focal point was self-management, and it became integral to facilitate this right from the start of the AltoImpacto’s transition journey. “We started off small — the weekly team meeting was where we started experimenting”, Ricardo mentions.
Rodrigo, who acted as the initiator and facilitator of team meetings in the past, now started to operate in the background. He attended fewer meetings, and let others create the agenda and take charge.
At first, this made the team go through feelings of discomfort and uncertainty, especially while making decisions. Rodrigo being relieved of many responsibilities in his new role meant several gaps that had to be filled were exposed.
Fortunately, many team members stepped up and took on new responsibilities. And although they had to grow into their new role, which often demands guidance along the way, Rodrigo steered clear of stepping in, providing answers, and dealing with the challenges at hand. The goal was to familiarize them with uncertainty, and in doing so, find innovative ways to cope with challenges.
It was found that transparency and being open with information were vital to creating an atmosphere of learning and trust. Openness regarding financial matters, supportive communication tools, and updating information channels regularly are some key practices and habits that allowed employees to reap the benefits of this new way of working.
“Working is based on sharing, which is more clearly defined now. Sharing one’s thoughts with the rest of the team has become an essential and decisive factor in creating a sense of openness,” says Ricardo.
What were the challenges you faced in making the transition from your engagement in the ECP to the real world/your organization?
“We don’t try to be perfect; we don’t try to worry about things we’re not implementing. We’re focused on the things we gravitate towards, and then make them happen,” says Rodrigo.
Rodrigo emphasizes that real progress comes from what you do, not from what you don’t do. “It comes down to not wasting time by thinking about the things we’re not doing and focusing on the things we want to do to see actual growth,” Rodrigo adds. He says that this practice has its roots in the saying — things that you give attention to tend to grow.
The flip side can bring about a sense of fear, Rodrigo says, as it makes one ponder over the things they are missing out on. “If you focus on the things you don’t do, the list becomes longer every day,” he sums up.
After completing this course, what advice would you give yourself?
“Stay open-minded. Try not to judge the course material based on previous experiences and prejudices,” says Rodrigo.
He adds that the true learnings of the course are in the interpretation of the material laid out by the Semco Style. Interaction with the international cohort and sharing different contexts and perspectives helps position your understanding of the course material in your own organization. “To make consistent progress, you need to go through the experience of experimenting with the concepts on a weekly basis and implement small bits of a fresh understanding in your organization,” says Rodrigo.
He also believes that trusting the process allows you to become actively aware of the theoretical concepts, and how these can be practically implemented in your organization.
What is the next goal for your organization on the road to becoming self-managed/self-directed?
Describing Semco Style in one sentence, Ricardo says, “Change for freedom and freedom for change.” His words represent the transition towards a more autonomous work environment, which, in turn, enables more flexibility to facilitate change.
Ricardo describes how the growing space for team members to share their ideas during team meetings has created new opportunities. These opportunities opened up doors that had never been explored in the current way of working. What lies behind these doors are ideas that are fueled by the personal interests and beliefs of the team members, paving the way for a brighter future.
Rodrigo adds that some of the small adjustments already implemented at the organization have “pleasantly surprised” him with what people can do, structure-wise and creativity-wise. The absence of guidance from a manager and no routine structure in place allowed his colleagues to create new structures that guided projects towards the desired, sometimes even an improved, goal.
Rodrigo has realized that providing his colleagues the space to be creative and unleash their potential will now be his consistent focus — with the prospect of being pleasantly surprised, consistently.
What a great interview – thanks to Rodrigo and Ricardo 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?