economy

Save the French Zuckerbergs!

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"The French economic fabric suffers, again and again, from the preference for large companies, whose organizational model is clearly a failure. This is the analysis by the futurist André-Yves Portnoff, who proposes in this article five urgent ideas for reform.
 
Illustration: Painting " Voluntary blindness " by Antony Squizzato - Canvas oil 2014
 
Gagning the battle for jobs is humanly, politically vital. But no presidential candidate has yet assumed three major facts.
 
Firstly, the deindustrialization of France, which destroys millions of jobs and is presented as inevitable, is in fact the result of the choice of elites who believe that industry is old-fashioned in the service era.
Second, let us stop hindering those who create jobs and support those who undermine them. The growth of SMEs generates employment, while large groups destroy it. Europe is hardly creating any world leaders any more, as innovative SMEs, except in Germany, do not manage to exceed 500 employees without being absorbed or "killed".
 
After the Mozarts, it's the French Zuckerbergs we're assassinating. Never before have so many of our SMEs been bought out by American or Asian competitors. These are all gifts financed by our tax dollars. In spite of these (me)known facts, our successive governments offer nearly 75 % of public aid in research and development (R&D) and innovation to "a small number of large groups not representative of the French potential", we already read in a ministerial report of July...1987.

Our policies cannot remain blind

Thirdly, for a competitive economy, we need to clean up our large public and private organisations. Their silo structure hides the complex reality of problems from management, blocks cooperation and degrades collective intelligence. A Taylorian management stresses the operational actors, dissuades talents, and spoils field experience. Pressuring subcontractors reduces resilience and creativity.
 
All this prevents the proper exploitation of digital technology. We are calling for aid to enable our industry to make up its deficit in robots, just as 30 years ago we excused our lack of productivity by saying that Toyota used many more robots than its competitors. On the contrary, management expert Hervé Sérieyx revealed that not only did Toyota have fewer robots, but did not turn its employees into robots. Toyota became the world leader by inventing toyotism, which values the talent of each individual.
For the lure of immediate gain, in the West the "Taylorism" was preferred, that is to say Taylorism plus productivity. However, a plethora of studies prove that it is financialisation and the training of elites which, by inducing management through mistrust and contempt, degrade competitiveness in the West. Our policies can no longer remain blind.

Five urgent measures

So here are five proposed measures for a presidential programme that would take account of this evidence.
 
The first measure would cost the taxpayer nothing and would have a rapid effect on growth: along the lines of the US Small Business Act (SBA) of 1953, states and regions would reserve one fifth of public procurement for independent SMEs and TWAs. The idea was proposed by François Bayrou in 2007, taken up by candidate Nicolas Sarkozy, but quickly abandoned because it was blocked in Brussels by bureaucrats, neo-liberals and lobbies. An SBA remains possible and necessary in France. The corollary would be for the State to become exemplary as a principal by drastically simplifying the procedures for access to public contracts.
 
The second measure would redirect aid for research and innovation towards SMEs and TGEs, particularly the research tax credit (CIR) which initially encouraged SMEs to increase their efforts. Its modification in 2008 by François Fillon's government offered an additional 1.4 billion euros to large companies. Candidate François Hollande described this as a windfall effect and promised to do something about it. When he became president, he renounced it. By resisting blackmail and refocusing the CIR on its initial objective, the State would recover revenue to help SMEs.
 
A third set of measures would support the development of enterprises aiming at long-term development, particularly family, cooperative or with strong roots in the territory, and favouring loyal and sustainable cooperation with their stakeholders - employees, subcontractors, territories, competitors. They are more resilient and create more value for all stakeholders. The corollary would be to exclude from support large companies that abuse their position to act counterproductively towards their suppliers and employees.

Organizations do not reform by decree

The fourth measure would concern the public sector. Competitiveness depends, as has been said, on the quality of internal and external relations with stakeholders, which the State, as the country's largest employer, sets an example! A management with a sense of direction would revitalise the staff.
The problem is not to reduce the number of staff, but to enable them to produce more value together for the common good. The corollary would be that the State should place at the head of public institutions personalities chosen for their ability to listen and mobilize, instead of placing former members of ministerial cabinets.
 
The fifth measure concerns the method of reform. Neither organizations nor society reform by decree. Let us act at the level of everyday practices. Let us generalize a proven method of creativity, value analysis. It requires transparency of the objectives to be specified, it subjects the solutions to achieve them to a free criticism of the functions concerned, upstream and downstream.
The result is fewer hidden goals, more creativity, spectacular savings, improved quality of service. This generalisation would allow a real administrative simplification. A manifesto of 800 experts and entrepreneurs called for this in vain in 2014. The previous year, President Obama had imposed it on his administration. But over there, the president himself knew what value management was. This is not yet the case in France!
 
André-Yves PortnoffScientific Advisor to Futuribles International and Professor at the University of Applied Sciences of Fribourg (HEG), Switzerland
Courtesy of the author
Article originally published in Le Monde on April 8, 2017
 

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