What does affirmative action mean to you?
A positive word can cover many areas. So-called “affirmative action” is an activity that extends far beyond the mere production of goods and services. He who participates in the interest of his environment in the public interest. This is necessary! The president must think about the meaning of his company’s business to determine the long-term direction and strategic main lines.
What role does the reason for the report you co-wrote with Nicole Notes play?
The raison d’être makes it possible to connect the past with the present; It is the DNA of the company. It has no economic significance, but rather a matter of vision and meaning. This beautiful expression is also not theoretical, on the contrary, it is very practical. What was the reason he defended? In what perspectives do you locate the company? Purpose is a common benefit that engages and aligns with everyone. It’s a deep thing.
And the stacker?
Purpose is a very powerful concept! All those who make an effort to define and share it know how mobilizing people’s minds can be. Work is at the heart of political, social and economic life more than ever. The glorious thirties have passed their days and the welfare state is disappearing. Today there is a real need to create a liberalism acceptable to all. However, the company inspires some distrust in many people. By giving meaning and inspiration, the reason for being strengthens consensus. In the world of work, meaning and reason must continually feed motivation, otherwise we lose people. But meaning and reason are found in many other societal themes. It goes beyond work.
What was your motivation before writing the Notat-Senard report?
My interest is in the strong relationship between political will and commitment to the spirit of action, which is why I agreed to co-write the report on “Work, a topic of collective interest”. For if we do not set out on the path of peaceful and united liberalism, we are on the verge of very big problems. We will have to create a different model, which is neither classical Anglo-Saxon capitalism nor state capitalism. In France, the tone of the discussions on this issue, prior to the report, was very lively. Our work helped calm the situation even if the discussion did not end. The line that Nicole and I sent are balanced notes. the following ? It is first and foremost a passage before the Council of State, within the framework of the Charter Act. Then there will be a parliamentary debate.
Michelin is often cited for experimenting with the concept of the liberated company…
Better to talk about a responsible company. This concept is at a very mature level at Michelin, which has experimented with it extensively, starting from 2010-2011. At all levels of the company, employees take charge. It changes their lives, he is very impressive in terms of results, independence and team commitment. I am very happy and very proud of it.
How do we achieve such a cultural shift?
With a lot of training methods and the involvement of everyone, general management, managers, employees, unions. Thus, in France, we were able to sign innovative social agreements. But if it seems too innovative, it is not based on self-management, but on trust based on a common goal.
Does this explain your place as the number one employer in the United States?
It’s a happy surprise, but not a coincidence. Well-being at work, consistency of attention, treating employees with the same consideration as customers, all these form a theoretical group that has led in Michelin to enormous practical applications. This explains our astonishing rise in the Forbes rating.
But isn’t digital technology likely to upset this beautiful system?
No, because our empowerment approach is paving the way for digitization. The latter, by speeding up the deal, shows that the important thing, as in rugby, lies more in the method of the pass than in the scoring of the attempt. A hierarchical organization that is not aware of these risks, in the long run, is no longer able to function.
You have prepared your caliphate with the same anxiety of anticipation…
I’ve thought about it since the day I was asked to be number one. Preparing for succession means avoiding the dangers of chaos at a sensitive moment such as that of a cultural transition. I know Florent Ménégo [qui lui succédera en mai 2019, NDLR] a while ago. We live and work together in great confidence.
What advice would you give a new boss in terms of balance and values?
Everyone has their own equation. I do not believe in the myth of separation, it is impossible to get out of the company with which you live day and night. On the other hand, wisdom lies in delegating and empowering.
Everything number one does or says gets noticed, which is why I advocate consistency and the ability to know how to keep your feet on the ground. Another tip: Avoid this tendency to pretend that everything is coming from you. For student groups, explain how important it is not to miss your convictions. Thus, at the end of their career, they will be able to look at themselves in the mirror.
In the end, what is the main role of the number one today?
It remains that the conductor. And in an empowering company, this role is highlighted: giving meaning, defining and sharing the company’s raison d’être, checking the suitability of the major thrusts that result from it… Number one ensures absolute consistency. Another point: people management. It is up to him to figure out how to motivate them and respond to the growing thirst for independence, which I moreover notice among the younger generations, as well as among the others. This is one of the great keys to retaining talent. Companies, which do not look like havens, should be quick to understand this.
How does he recover?
“Swimming makes me a scholar of good! Reading too. I have a passion for history and international politics: the Six-Day War, the question of the Middle East… My father, a diplomat in Egypt in particular, conveyed to me this passion for major geopolitical topics.”