France's business culture, a modern travel in Dante's Inferno ?
This text is a compilation of several dialogues and/or answers to debates concerning French companies. In a moment of great irritation, I decided to put it on my blog so that whenever I need it, I can copy and paste the link.
This article will be updated whenever I find something relevant. Stay tuned.
A year ago, I began writing the french version of this article. I decided to provide this translation as enlightment for foreign friends, or whoever might read this. however, almost all links are provided in french - there is no way around it.
The Enterprise, thou shalt not criticise.
In France, it is difficult to have a healthy criticism of business. The State, taxes, unions, yes, we argue about. Sometimes violently as it’s the french way of doing things. Business, not so much (out of far-leftist circles). Which is a bit of an aberration. I tend to think that the business world should be a place where we criticise and do our own - fair - self-criticism, with the aim of constantly improving. In particular, we should take the opportunity to reflect on procedures, their meaning and their effectivity.
I think that when you are faced with a problem, the first thing to do is to ask yourself this question…
What can I do about it? What is my responsibility in this problem?
This is such a non-French attitude. The French are so grouchy and so easily believe that it’s the other who must change…
So business here is the same.
It’s not for me to improve. Why should I ?
Fulfillment at work
There are jobs that, unfortunately, no matter what you do, will hardly be fulfilling. (factories workers, cleaners…). They are, however, necessary for everyday life.
That’s no reason for them to be sh*tty. I find people who are quite happy in these jobs. In Denmark.
What is a fulfilling job? The definition depends on each person.
Well, no, in fact, the definition is fairly well known.
A fulfilling job is a job that makes the best use of your talents, develops your skills both personally and professionally, so that you can always be more productive and not be locked into the same job.
A fulfilling job will also make the best use of your capacity for innovation, creativity and personal initiative in your work. You will also be given a lot of leeway to organise yourself in such a way that your energy and motivation are not limited, and of course because you know better than anyone when you are effective and why.
In short: no micro-management.
Companies will hardly be able to please everyone, and above all, satisfy everyone. Besides, you’re only talking about companies, but the civil service is not much better in that respect.
That’s true. It’s just as important to improve it there too.
On the whole, a fulfilling job should therefore take place in a relaxed but professional atmosphere, and with the lightest possible management (this is where things start to go wrong).
A good part of management in France is in fact managing through fear and stress.
The painfulnes of work has been mentioned many times. There was a time, I don’t know if it’s still actual or not, when the “penibility account” was a nightmare to set up for many company managers because of the vagueness of the criteria.
This does not mean that it is not legitimate nor that it should not be dealt with. What do other countries do? Germany, Scandinavia? Well, we have adapted workstations, we make people change jobs when we see that people are no longer at ease. The result is that people work better, healthier and longer. It’s just good work organisation. It’s not impossible, it doesn’t depend on the size of the country or anything. We have tried to eliminate, to remove the hardship, or to reduce it considerably.
Macron, who during a speech assumes that he doesn’t like the word penibility because it would mean that work can be painful, Thanks Captain Obvious, makes me deeply angry. He’s reforming the country but he’s not interested in that aspect of things. He’s denying the problem and assuming it.
French companies may be bureaucratic (although I’m not sure what you’re referring to), but it’s also because the state imposes a certain number of regulations on them that they have to comply with. I’m not absolutely sure that companies love bureaucracy, which certainly covers them in case of a glitch, but which requires a sometimes large amount of expenditure and investment (because you have to pay the staff who deal with this bureaucracy and adapt the equipment to the new standards).
I was waiting for that one. So the state imposes bureaucracy on them… No. Well, not all the time.
I’ll take as an example the case of a competent site engineer, managing a huge building site worth half a billion euros. The guy was bored, you could see it on his face. Why? Well, because every time something had to be changed, the methods engineer had to be called in, who then had to propose a new plan, which had to be validated by who knows who…
I’ll pass over the fact that safety standards are the first bureaucracy that we’re trying to eliminate. No problem here…
Otherwise, bureaucracy :
Le système bancaire en 2019, c’est toujours la purge quand même…— aeris 🏳️🌈 (@aeris22) May 13, 2019
Faire un virement… 😱
Mercredi, ajouter l’IBAN dans l’interface de compte
Attendre 72h, ce qui tombe un samedi …/…
https://mcorbin.fr/posts/2020-05-03-wtf-sysadmin/ -> article unpublished by author. Too bad.
And we have tons more. In particular, I remember absurd banking procedures where you had to make a customer come back to sign a paper… But it couldn’t be prepared in advance… No. Kafka.
Otherwise, banking is also when you ask if your bank offers any form of investment for individuals and it answers “No, we don’t.” Or when you ask for a meeting by email, provide various information to allow your banker to prepare the meeting and when you arrive, he asks you “What can I do for you?”
Read my mail?
I can also give the experience of my mother, working in France, in a Danish company. When she has a computer problem, she has to make an appointment with a French technician and have it validated by the head office (in Denmark). No Danish company would come up with such an absurd thing, but Hey, what can you do ?
No, we really don’t need the state imposing red tape. Companies always find a way to impose it on their customers and employees.
I’ll skip the fact that a lot of entrepreneurs think they are above the law, above the common man because …
I provide jobs…
… like one provides bread. Or internet access…
A very arrogant state of mind, often. As if, if you haven’t set up your own business, you weren’t so worthy of respect? In short, they see themselves as superheroes.
There’s quite a violent dichotomy between business theory and practice. Many entrepreneurs I’ve read about don’t accept that the violence they denounce in the state, in taxes, in regulations, they themselves impose on their own employees and sometimes even on their customers, and that it comes from there!
For example when you realise that if you didn’t come out of Jupiter’s thigh (the big schools and the aristos), then in the end, your skills or your creativity won’t matter that much.
I was amazed when I heard (repeatedly) the praise of the international media for the big French companies, especially when they were described as “top of the competition”. And I thought “Where are these great companies? Because so far, I really don’t see that!”
When the company is trying not to do its job.
I can also come back to the companies which deploy fiber with public contracts, but refuse to let customers in. This is a good one.
You are awarded public contracts on behalf of the state, or the municipalities or another public entity. And you don’t allow the ISPs that are supposed to commercialize the access… in.
We have the map here: https://fibre.ffdn.org/#rating
The method here: https://fibre.ffdn.org/metho.html
One of my regular problems is finding clothes. The local fashion is … uniform… and not very colourful. But in France, we have good clothes, and what’s more, at good prices! So let’s try to buy clothes on the online shop of a big French clothing chain (whose name I won’t mention).
The shop actually supplies what I want… in France. Not in Europe! They can super easily send packages to the other side of the continent (thanks EU) and banking is just as easy. According to Wikipedia, there are over half a million French people living in the EU. French people who are therefore obvious customers for this online clothing shop. Well no, we’re not going to send a shirt by parcel post abroad. No.
Let’s talk about banking again… A bank that refuses to let you use your money, what is that?
We also have the example of a major construction company whose practices I have heard about but also seen: they make the tightest prices, but then they get lawyers to intervene, find loopholes in the contracts, avoid certain responsibilities, all in order to have extensions and overbilling.
This industrial group doesn’t make money on its building sites (in fact, many professionals assert that this group loses money on certain constructions), it makes its real business around. What is it called when you don’t make your profit on your major activity?
Another try, with the bank again: 2020, annus horibilis.
Not being able to go home for Christmas, I try to buy, online, from Denmark, some fruit pastes from Auvergne for my dear grandmother and have them sent to her address in France. The confectioner’s bank refuses my payments with my three credit cards - because the cards were not issued in France. That’s all I can think of. And my own - danish - bank backed that.
What would they have done if I had tried to buy in the physical shop?
This is one of my favourite topics. Ipv6. In other words, the internet protocol that we should all be using today if the transition plan had been followed. So it turns out that French companies have predictably dragged their feet. In 2013, OVH’s boss said we were safe.
@iMilnb In France, each ISP has enough ipv4 adresses to double its customer base. IPv6 ? relax ;)
But guess what? In 2016, Free has to share addresses between several customers.
In this case, you can’t blame the company, since it has been ahead of the game for a long time: Free is the best prepared French customer-grade network. But the internet itself (other companies, networks, etc.) is not ready.
What should have been the policy of the big IT companies? Ask their administrators to train themselves as soon as possible, introduce ipv6 clauses in hardware and software purchases, review all their own software - and take advantage of this to pay off the technical debt. And so on, to be able to very gradually and at almost constant cost, make a transition to ipv6 internally, then open up to their customers. This is what several large international groups have done. I’ve seen videos of conferences that show this clearly. Has this happened in France? Apparently not much.
People don’t like to go to work.
Otherwise, to add to the discussion, I can mention the case of my father who was a few years from retirement, but still in good health. He is nevertheless a bit tired, which is understandable. So he asked for his on-call duty to be reduced. He had to have the occupational health doctor check this out, and they asked him what he wanted, so he was able to ask for his on-call time to be reduced and to have this checked out by the Labour Inspectorate. His company could have managed to keep him longer in supervisory and organisational positions, since he knows what he’s doing. No, they spoiled the deal.
So he left as soon as possible. And generally speaking, that’s what people want to do. That’s what the Left and the Radical left hammer out.
Here, we have one of the economists behind Macron’s pension reform who recognises this: even when you give people a bonus to work a few more years, no, they still want to leave early. So it’s not just a leftist thing.
I tried to find some figures to give a statistic, because I recognize that the examples given are not necessarily representative. I couldn’t find any.
But I think it’s fair to say that the fact that we still have regular strikes and huge demonstrations at the slightest announcement of a social reform is proof that a large part of the population doesn’t like its job. And we’re not just talking about small jobs. We are also talking about qualified, even highly qualified people.
And I believe that so long France does not improve its business culture, we won’t really reduce France troubles.
For all those reasons, I finally get very few respect for entrepreneurs. Not individuals. But for the social class. The function.
I get a strange impression of perversion. From entrepreneurs, providers and innovateurs, we switch to corruption and conservatism.
I have been asked why I did not want to start a business. I heard it often, on LinkedIn or other social networks but also, first and foremost, in real life, like University.
You did not start your business ? Why ? Why don’t you do it ? What holds you back … ?
Well, read again the whole article. That’s what holds me back. I cannot see myself as an entrepreneur because I cannot have respect, I cannot pass this perversion of the fonction.