Increasing labour efficiency by boosting local learning : a new role for management in large multinational groups ?

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Research director, CNRS (Centre Nationale pour la Recherche Scientifique : National Centre for Scientific Research), Centre de Recherche en Gestion (Management Research Centre) Ecole Polytechnique

Christophe MIDLER

Directeur du Centre de recherche en gestion de l’École polytechnique (CRG)

Seminar Business life | Friday October 01, 1999

What should one do in a multidivisional company when the central headquarters reach deadlock in their relations with the operational divisions ? This can occur when, for example, these divisions fulfil objectives at cross purposes to those of central management, and when the mean which have been devised by management and intended to help operations, are not well received. Dominique Centlivre-Petit was confronted with this problem during the time he worked for Danone, from 1993 to 1995. The deadlock was due to the fact that the operational divisions felt that systems were imposed on them which failed to respect their wish to be autonomous. This was seen as an attack on the way responsibility was delegated and as a threatening means of control. Everything changed completely when instead of restrictions, there was tolerance. By suggesting to the staff that they themselves should adapt the processes in keeping with their local environment, the deadlock was followed by productive reflection at both a local and a hierarchical level. How should one give people in a specific environment the means to use personalised methods without coming up against the tyranny of so-called ‘best practices’ ?

The entire article was written by:

Lucien CLAES