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Archive for November, 2009

Don’t hit me, boss

November 30th, 2009 admin No comments

A survey report published this morning in Les Echos concludes that three in five workers no longer have any confidence in their management. The same number (not surprisingly) claim that management no longer has the same interests as their employees, who are unhappy essentially with not only their own salaries and level of recognition, but also management pay and even company strategy.

The report suggests that employees are becoming more and more individualistic, moving away from the unions and collective negociations and prefering face to face bargaining with the manager, who is not always equipped and experienced enough to respond correctly. 45% are worried for their jobs even though 73% reckon that their employer is economically in a solid position, and the two pet hates that are mentioned are redundancies in companies which are making profits (quoted by 2 out of 3 surveyed) and the excessive pay of certain executives (1 in 2). Funnily enough, stress at the workplace is not seen as a major concern, despite the media attention of these recent weeks.

Of course, the “new management methods” (Taylor, Fayol and Weber are quoted, so the newness could be debated) come in for scrutiny, and in the future, it is suggested that there is going to be an increasing need for not only “a closer collaboration between the base, operational management, and the executives“, but also “mutual listening, emotional intelligence, and above all the capacity to motivate others and give purpose to actions“.

Could it be that there is a future for Lean Management after all?

The short-term needs to face up to the current economic context, improving performance, reducing costs, and increasing profits, are seen as a obstacle to this more ‘human’ side of management.

How many exclamation marks should I put after that last sentence? Sadly another case of journalism not exactly getting the whole story.

Thanks to this current economic situation, we are seeing more and more the emergence of the need to align the  ‘Respect for People’ pillar of the TPS with the ‘Continuous Improvement’ work. Once we get journalists reporting on how profits have increased because of a much tighter and human collaboration between management and their teams – and their mutual listening and emotional intelligence’  -then we should see a snowball effect pretty quickly.

Les Echos report on employee confidence is the full report for those French-speakers amongst you.

Categories: Respect for People Tags:

The future of Japan

November 27th, 2009 admin No comments

Fascinating article in this morning’s “Les Echos” entitled “What does Japanese youth dream of?”.

Well, for a start, did you know that (according to the journalist, of course), the average Japanese youth is spending one or two hours today…. reading books on his mobile phone!! That’s more than my 14-year-old gets through in a month, and he’s still on the paper versions. The principal editor is called Magic Island, and they have a million titles available, and it seems that anyone can start off a ‘book’ and have his readers influence its development!! Looks like I could be learning Japanese pretty soon, it sounds like fun. The parents can’t be happy though – the average mobile bill is 12000 yen, or 90 euros a month.

The article goes on to reveal that today’s Japanese youth is much more conservative than previous generations. Fear of unemployment leads to a quest for security and stability – young men dream of working in the same large company or public administration… for life and the girls all (well, maybe with exceptions) want to get married to a rich man and stay at home and look after the house.

Surprisingly, getting international experience of education or business outside of Japan is not seen as an accelerator for a Japanese career, and can even lead to individuals being penalised when compared with pure home-grown elements. And given that 31% of 15-24 year-old non-students are in temporary employment, a figure which is increasing all of the time, there is every interest in sticking around rather than galavanting all over the world.

Obviously not everyone gets a job in a large company or finds a rich husband, and one sector taking advantage of this is the smaller companies, who are able to recruit some really good people. However around a third of Japan’s youth never get this kind of opportunity, and some end up totally dependant on the virtual world which is the only one they ever end up really knowing.

There are some things which don’t change, whatever the country.

Categories: It's Happening Worldwide Tags:

Why on earth would you want to train me like a Dane?

November 24th, 2009 admin No comments

As we all know (or suspected, if we had taken the time to think about it), people just love getting trained. Lean Management is all about building a competent, responsible and dependable work force, so it’s not surprising that everybody jumps at the chance of even more training…

Don’t they?

There’s an interesting article in this morning’s “Les Echos”, France’s number 1 daily business read. For some reason not at all explained in the article, somebody carried out a survey in France and… in Denmark of all places (obviously Belgium and Germany were not exotic enough, and the budget didn’t extend outside of Europe). I won’t quote all of the figures, only the more interesting ones. How about these?

           – 75% of French people questioned see training as a way of improving their CV (86% in Denmark)

           – only 55% (69% in Denmark) think that training could help change jobs

           – 85% reckon that the employer gets more out the training than the individual

           – 18% judge that training protects them against layoffs … against a massive 62% in  a very utopian Denmark.

The article concludes that the French see training as a means to mobility, of kicking off a new stage in their career outside of the company. However, it is perceived as being more imposed than desired – it’s more a case of the employer taking the opportunity to ‘train and move the people on’. In Denmark, training is seen as part of a career plan : 10% of Danes see it as a means of developing their network, against a measly 1% in France. And the conclusion of the conclusion is that France has a lot to learn from Denmark in their approach to training.

I can’t say that I’m totally convinced given the figures that either country has the right outlook. However, it certainly prods us to think twice next time that we proudly send our teams off for training, under the impression that they actually want to go.

Categories: Respect for People Tags:

Autoentrepreneurially (very) Lean (indeed)

November 24th, 2009 admin No comments

A short update on last month’s post and the ease with which people can now set themselves up in business.

Figures that came out this week revealed that 112000 people set themselves up as ‘autoentrepreneurs’ in the first half of this year. And of these, only 41000 declared any form of revenue for the third quarter. In total France now has 245000 self-employed under this status. Proportionally therefore, there could be around 150000 who are still waiting to make any money. As I said at the time, these people are not likely to be in the SAP market just yet.

Or could it be that, despite the government’s encouragements to officialise their status, a lot of our autoentrepreneurs are sticking to working ‘money in hand’?

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

Now, that’s service for you

November 20th, 2009 admin No comments

They say that for every one satisfied customer who expresses his contentment, there are ten or so who will only voice their discontentment. Well, start queuing up, you unhappy customers, because I’m today’s happy one.

I came across (actually I was searching for it) the dates for the next Lean Enterprise Institute Lean Summit (first week of March) and decided that, having never been to one before, and the reviews being good, I might as well make an effort to get over to Orlando. With it being only a couple of months away, and knowing that flights get more expensive the closer to the date of departure, I decided to take a risk on the event being cancelled/moved/swine-flued, and entered “cheap flights” into the search engine. Some twenty not-really-value-adding minutes later, I’d made my choice, and entered my personal and card details…. only to get a big red warning that the on-line travel agency had been unable to get a confirmation of the flight from the carrier, and advising me to make another choice.

A bit cheesed-off to say the least, I started weighing up my opt…. and the phone rang. A very helpful young (I suppose) lady from Go Voyages, who had seen the same message as me flash up on her screen, proposing to investigate what happened and find a solution.

It turns out that the initial carrier had not been keeping the database of available flights up to date, and it was no longer available. But there was another one with a different carrier (admittedly 20 euros more expensive) but with only one change rather than two on the outward leg… and in five minutes, it was all settled, and Orlando here I come.

And I really did get the impression that this young lady had been sitting there just waiting to jump in and save me. This post is categorised as ‘Respect for People’ – it is not only your employees that you need to show respect for!

govoyagesCongratulations, Go Voyages (I’m sure you also have unsatisified customers, hopefully not ten times more than the satisfied ones).

And here’s hoping that the LEI keeps their side of the bargain!!

Categories: Respect for People Tags:

Why make it easy?

November 15th, 2009 admin No comments

Just read a snippet in the Usine Nouvelle (sorry to any remaining non French reading readers) on Airbus’ s plans to store spare parts in India. Now, the Lean Supply Chain geek within me is sort of asking, “weren’t they doing this already”? Or every time the coat peg fell off the back of a seat, were they DHLing the part out, nailing the aircraft to the ground for the best part of three days.

Now let’s imagine that they were already holding spare parts locally, and that cost or other pressures have led them to envisaging outsourcing this service. Now, me and you would have probably either sold off the distribution centre that we owned locally, or had one of our project managers perform a quick sweep of locally available service providers and come up with a 112-slide  Powerpoint presentation on just how he got to his recommendation.

Why make it easy when you can make it complicated? Airbus’s answer. A joint-venture (make that a tri-venture) with an Indian and a Turc!! Who between them share 74% of the capital while, you (or rather, them, Airbus) hold the minority rest. Well that’s going to make performance measurement of the contribution of each party pretty straightforward, isn’t it?

Now, there are obviously some very good reasons which you and I are oblivious of, and which if we understood, we’d be well-placed in the hierarchy of some multinational this evening,  and munching on smoked-salmon sandwiches rather than expressing our astonishment to our regular two readers.

And because I do like salmon, if anybody could explain, I’d be most grateful.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

Go For It, Boeing, It’s All Yours

November 11th, 2009 admin No comments

The French Government are not particularly renowned for their smart decision-making. This is certainly the current view of the French people, with President Sarkozy enjoying an all-time low popularity rate of 39%, and his Prime Minister (yes, we manage to get both over here) having less than half of surveyed people appreciating what he was doing.

However, there was one absolutely fantastic decision they made last year and implemented at the beginning of this one. Basically, public televison (the channels that we licence-payers pay for) is no longer allowed to show (and therefore sell) advertising after eight in the evening. This has had a couple of effects. Firstly, evening prime time starts earlier than that of the other private channels – who are all showing a lot more advertising, to such an extent that there is often a great urge not to try to watch anything on these channels as all we ever see is BMW, Audi and a comprehensive selection of the big banks every twenty minutes or so.

Secondly, the public services have had to do some serious thinking on how to exploit this tremendous opportunity… and came up with a world-beating plan. Basically, they started making programmes which are worth watching. They are having a go at increasing customer value. And it’s working. Last night, there was another belter, following the ‘Death of Work’ programmes a couple of weeks ago.

This one traced the history of EADS, the ‘European Aeronautic, Defence and Space Company’, basically the European conglomerate that Airbus represents the most important part of. In fact, the history traced back to the origins of the aeronautic industry in each of the main European countries, and the event that led up to the creation of EADS almost ten years ago.

Since that date in July 2000, it’s basically been all uphill. Talk about European collaboration!! This was nationalistic infighting like you’ve only ever seen in the ex-Yugoslavia over the past twenty years or so. Sorry, let’s not bring the Brits and the Spanish into this – let’s just say that if you wanted to show your kids just how well the French and the Germans get on these days, you wouldn’t use this programme as your introduction.

All the main directors over the past ten years were profiled and most interviewed. And not all of them were convincing. At all. Especially one, who will remain nameless just in case I ever have him in front of me as a customer, although I think my maybe too stringent ethical morals would prevent me from even turning up at the initial meeting.

And you really did get the impression that the management was spending basically all of its time defending attacks from behind, developing national alliances and positioning itself for press photos. Oh, and maximising the value of their shareholding – there was obviously a large part of the programme dedicated to the insider dealing.

We also got inputs from the shop floor. People wanting just to be able to get on with their jobs, but puzzled by what was going on above them, and becoming and more impregnated by the franco-german rivalry that was raining down from up above.

The result of all of this? We’re told that only one in ten of all employees (I think we’re taking Airbus here, as we little of the other divisions) is motivated. And only one in five has confidence in the management to turn things around. I make that 10% raring to go, 10% turn up for their pay having confidence in  the boss, and 80% demotivated with no expectations of the current management.

They are having a go at implementing Lean Manufacturing, by the way!!!

Go for it, Boeing – the road ahead is wide open.

Unless you have similar issues, that is!

Categories: Respect for People Tags:

I’d rather sell a Toyota than a Citroen

November 2nd, 2009 admin No comments

The 2008 car dealer hit parade has come out on the usinenouvelle.com site.

classement_concessionnairesSurprise, surprise, Toyota have come out on top, for the second consecutive year. What is that Lean principle again? When the going gets tough, hang onto your key personnel, and get them doing other things to hang onto customers. Such as delighting your dealer network.

A look at the fallers drums up some interesting surprises. Mercedes, the 2007 champions, confirm their mid-table position of last year. Citroen, last year’s runners-up by a whisker… down to 16th!! How can you get that bad in the space of one year?

In fact the French constructors are huddled together in the bottom third. The article explains that this is due to the size of the dealer network. Big is not always beautiful. In the case of Citroen, the fact that the dealers had to fork out 100 grand each to absorb a logo change didn’t win many votes either. Talk about customer value!!

Toyota, on the other hand, have “an attractive range, good quality products, a ‘green’ image, and availability is good. The processing of guarantees and the financing of new cars is also praised. Looks like they’ve implemented Lean processes pretty much everywhere.

The only criticism is that the dealers don’t seem to be making a whole mountain of money out of Toyota. Oh well, when that’s all there is to complain about…

Congratulations must go out to Chrysler, up to ninth, after a couple of years in the lower reaches.

And one word of advice to any of you thinking of buying an Italian car from a French dealer. Don’t!! The dealers haven’t had a high opinion of any of the constructors for three years now. So how on earth can they convincingly try to sell them?

But that’s car dealers for you.

Categories: It's Happening in France Tags:

Respect for the (temporarily) unemployed

November 1st, 2009 admin No comments

Good report on French television this evening. It followed a medium-term uncmployed family from Nashville Tennessee, lost their home, living on a camp site. Like many thousands of others.

We have similar cases in Europe. Possibly even more unfortunate and distressing one, with the rise of immigration from the East.

What we don’t have is the US spirit. Not only onsite soup kitchens, but also school shops and a general movement of solidarity. Respect for people.

The future is rose.

Categories: Respect for People Tags:
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