In 1983, Jean-François Zobrist was appointed CEO of FAVI, a family owned brass foundry in the north of France. Within 3 years, he transformed FAVI into a highly successful, self-managing organization. In a market that has been steamrolled by Chinese competition, FAVI is the only European producer standing. It generates double digits margins and commands a 50% market share in automotive gearbox forks in Europe.
When FAVI switched to self-management, and in the years that followed, Zobrist and his colleagues defined three new assumptions[i] that over time have become mantras inside the factory:
- People are systematically considered to be good.(Reliable, self-motivated, trustworthy, intelligent)
- There is no performance without happiness. (To be happy, we need to be motivated. To be motivated, we need to be responsible. To be responsible we must understand why and for whom we work, and be free to decide how)
- Value is created on the shop floor. (Shop floor operators craft the products; the CEO and staff at best serve to support them, at worst are costly distractions)
These three assumptions can and have in a number of instances revolutionized the way work and productivity can be achieved and organized. Frederic Laloux has researched both for-profit and not-for-profit organizations that operate from similar assumptions and have achieved similar results[ii]. Since the late 1940’s such organizations have been envisioned and attempted – few have succeeded.
This column website proposes to engage its contributors with a process that was identified nearly a hundred years ago by Dr. Henry Nelson Wieman[iii]. Even then this process was an articulation of even much older wisdom and understanding. The great question arises as to why something now being practiced by only a few has been resisted for so long by so many. We want to identify and explore that process which was so successful for Zobrist and others, as well as, understand it with greater precision and understand why it has caused so many to shy away from it.
We invite you to join us on a quest to understand what brings out the best in humankind and ways of organizing and utilizing more of that vast reservoir of human potential for collaboration, creativity, innovation and productivity.
[ii] Laloux, Frederic Reinventing organizations. A Guide to Creating Organizations Inspired by the Next Stage of Human Consciousness. Nelson Parker, Brussels, 2014
[iii] Wieman, Henry Nelson described this process in many articles and books: e.g. Man’s Ultimate Commitment. Carbondale,IL.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1958