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Following up on France Telecom

Back at the end of last year, I commented on the initial findings of the report into the goins-on at France Telecom, where there had been a high level of suicides over the previous 24 months.

The second part of the report came out this week, a summary of the 102000 questionnaires which had been sent out to the employees of France Telecom. The report includes 107 – yes, that is a lot – recommendations as to how to improve the current situation.

You see, the independant auditor recognises that, despite the media attention, promises from the executive, and even a change in leadership as of the beginning of this month, things are still a long way from being perfect. In just the first two months of this year, there have been nine further suicides of FT employees, all away from the immediate vicinity of the workplace. And the major obstacle to progress is the lack of confidence the employees have in Human Resources, and in the works medical staff (an obligation in French companies).

Only 39% of employees are ‘proud’ to be a part of France Telecom, and report outlines the need to reinforce the identification with the company. The Human Resource function, the management system and the reporting system all have to be radically overhauled – simplified, in fact, to give back a minimum of autonomie to the workers.

Now, doesn’t this now start to look to be an excellent opportunity for Lean Management?

The matrix organisation in place is revealed to be far too complex, leading to a series of reorganisations which only serve to destabilise the employees – many end up simply doing nothing, as the priorities change all of the time. And the information systems are also seen as a barrier to efficient communications and relations – too many and inadapted to the actual requirements. Finally, objectives and measures are deemed to be “too numerous, too difficult to achieve and disconnected from reality”.

Now, this does seem to me maybe to be something to do with the management style that has developed over the past few years. The report states that management has not been sufficiently open to dialogue, to constructive criticism and to collective reasoning. Rules for promotion are seen to be ‘unclear’. Any meeting with Human Resources was seen as a sign that you were on your way out. And mobility was something that could be imposed upon the employee with little regard for his or her personal situation.

The new General Director of France Telecom, in place since March 1st, will be presenting his plan to the workforce in June. It sounds like that if he could bring it forward a few weeks, he may save another life or two in view of the current climate in the company.

And I wouldn’t think that any of the conditions for a successful Lean adventure exist today.

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