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Management Side
Technical Side

On France's work rules change

Jim,

Industry for many years wanted to and did disconnect the worker from information about the profitability of the company.  They shared precious little information on competition—other than to say they were all bad—and even less on plans to keep the company solid and alive.  Workers were expected to, paid to, and rewarded for work, not thought.  Not seeing themselves connected to the profit-making capability of the company nor to such things as customer satisfaction (a Sales function), they saw that they had to fight for any share of the wealth that the senior managers enjoyed.  Since performance was largely disconnected from reward, effectiveness and efficiency ratcheted down to the lowest acceptable level.

Enlightened companies realized the folly in this approach and tried to ‘engage’ workers in the company’s efforts to keep the invoice printer spinning.  It took a lot of energy to redirect years and years of ‘mushroom theory’ management.  Engagement meant not only opening the books to the workers but also training the workers to understand what the company’s goals were and how each one impacted the success against these goals and importantly why achieving these goals were important to the workers.  This is not easy, but the end result is a work force that embraces the company’s profitability and works like an owner/stakeholder rather than a contracted body.

I suspect the answer to France’s rules for 24/7 operations will be more employees on shift which will burden profitability unless they can find and employ offsetting efficiency gains.  In the long run companies will be forced to look for geographies where these work-limiting rules do not exist which will only increase France’s unemployment, the exact thing the 35-hr work week was supposed to help.

What’s next, a 28- or 32-hr work week?

Good, thought-provoking article.

Ed Turner

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