Book Review: The Seven-Day Weekend

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What the heck does that title mean? The answer is in a paragraph from the “forwarning” to The Seven Day Weekend. Many books have a foreword, but this book has a forewarning. Here’s how it and the book start.

“NEVER MIND THE CHEESE —who moved my weekend? I’m serious. Where did it go? One minute Saturday and Sunday formed an oasis for rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. The next thing we know the cell phone is ringing, e-mail is piling up, and the fax machine is vomiting paper onto the floor. Paradise lost. Welcome to the seven-day workweek. I’ve got a much better idea, though, one that I’ve been road testing now for many years: the seven-day weekend. If the workweek is going to slop over into the weekend—and there’s no hope of stopping that from happening—why can’t the weekend, with its precious restorative moments of playtime, my time, and our time, spill over into the workweek?”

That’s a key premise for The Seven Day Weekend by Ricardo Semler: the restorative power of the old weekend should be part of today’s week. The other key premise is that the people who work in our organizations are adults. Therefore, treating them like adults and not third-graders, inmates, or convicts makes sense. The Seven-Day Weekend is about Semco’s experience creating a company that lives with those two ideas in mind.

I’m writing this in 2018 when these ideas may not seem so radical. But Ricardo Semler wrote this book in 2004. It’s about Semco’s journey to a more human workplace. The journey started in the 1980s. Semco wasn’t a new company then. Semler’s father founded it in the 1950s. Semler didn’t have the luxury of starting with a clean sheet of paper.

Traditional business culture in Brazil is very much what we would call top down, command and control. Forget those images of Carnival or soccer fans.

And Semco wasn’t a high-tech or service business. They made and still make industrial equipment like centrifugal pumps. When Ricardo Semler took over from his father, he became the CEO of a very traditional manufacturing business. Then he changed it.

I should have said, “Then he sparked change.” One of the great things about this book is that it’s not about a culture that someone designed. It’s about a business culture that emerged from applying common-sense principles to the workplace

That may mean this book is not for you. If what you want is a step-by-step guide to creating a more human workplace, this book doesn’t do that.

Ricardo Semler says, “Here are principles we used.” He tells you how Semco applied them and what happened. I like that. We have plenty of advice on how to apply different theories to our organizations to make them better. This is a book that tells you how a more human workplace developed from an old-line company by applying a few basic principles. Patty McCord’s book, Powerful, about how the culture at Netflix developed has a similar message.

Semler divides The Seven-Day Weekend into nine chapters. He called the first one, “Any Day.” Every chapter begins with three bullet points. For this chapter, the first bullet point is “Ask why?”

The next seven chapters are organized around days of the week. The last chapter is “Every Day.” In between the opening of the book and the end of the book, there are loads of stories, examples, and ideas to try.

In A Nutshell

The Seven-Day Weekend: Changing the Way Work Works by Ricardo Semler is a perfect book for you if you want ideas about how to develop a more human workplace in a company that’s got a tradition of something else. You won’t get step-by-step instructions, but you will get first principles, examples, encouragement, and a chuckle or two.

You can check out some of my highlights and notes from this book on my GoodReads page.


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