We’re introduced to the world of Brazilian politics and industrial relations, conglomerate in the middle of a recession, and in a working environment where employees are suspicious of being exploited by employers, and employers can’t make an income because of Byzantine laws and checks which can only be passed by crossing many palms with silver. It’s half a world away, and nothing like our own dear public services.
In walks Semler Jnr, with his USA M.B.A. degree and lofty ideals, and inherits his father’s industrial conglomerate.
A lesser man would have bowed to the pressure to conform: so set rules and performance manage, to centralise and strip out costs, to look for loopholes in the law and pay off government officials. Remember this is no Silicon Valley dream of 100 motivated employees – even when Semler Jnr inherited there were thousands of employees with history.
Ricardo takes the road less travelled. He removes the executives that served his father, the old way of doing things. He teaches his workers little by little (“choose what colour you would like the wall of your workplace” then “decide for yourselves what changes you would like to make – I as managing director am only one vote on your governing council” then “the accounts are open for all to read, and we even give you lessons in understanding accounts” finally to “set your own wage rates and the wages of the executives at the top of the tree”). It took him years, but he now travels the world telling others of the economic miracle that grew out of such a harsh crucible.
Of course it is nothing like NHS. We don’t have Byzantine rules. We have innovative directors and executives, always looking for ways to improve staff relationships and do things better. We don’t have rules, only an empowering environment in which every person can excel. Healthcare is nothing like manufacturing, every patient needs a unique approach. We have nothing to learn from this book.