Is he a philosopher? Is he CEO?
I was very surprised by Jean-François Zobrist, who was the CEO of a foundry company called FAVI in France for 30 years and then wrote a book called “The Company Liberated by a Naive and Lazy Little Boss”.
He was the CEO of a foundry company called FAVI in France for 30 years and then said “ Company Liberated by a Naive and Lazy Little Boss Jean-François Zobrist, who wrote a book called ”, surprised me a lot. However, I have been looking at the new leadership definitions that I have been seeing constantly on social media lately as dreams. Zobrist appeared before me in Frederique Laloux’s 2013 book “Reinventing Organizations”. FAVI was just one of the companies given as an example of Developmental-Turquoise organizations in the book, which explains the organizational structures that develop with the development of human consciousness, with examples. Zobrist, who transformed the company into a “self-directed-autonomous” one, shared all his practices transparently on the company website and books:
- According to Zobrist, the purpose of companies is to BE PERMANENT.
- The condition of being permanent is that the company BREATHES; breathing is MAKING MONEY.
- To make money, companies need to achieve PERFORMANCE, that is, to create added value.
- The prerequisite for performance is the HAPPINESS of those who create added value.
- For happiness, the FREEDOM of SELF MANAGEMENT and AUTONOMY is necessary for the employees.
- Confidence is required for self-management-autonomy.
In other words, in the model he applied in FAVI, Zobrist started everything with TRUST.
On the basis of this trust, I would like to share some of the company’s management principles. Again, from the company’s website, the management principle on the uncertainty that we all live and try to manage these days:
“10/Managing certainty OR managing uncertainty:
The world is uncertain. Life is uncertain!
This is proof! So why are we still trying to manage the certainty?
If one thing is certain, it is that “consumers outnumbered producers” from the beginning of the industrial era, that is, from the 1850s to the end of the 70s. Afterward, the number of “manufacturers became more than consumers”, as manufacturers introduced new products to meet the needs of consumers at all levels. In fact, the “consumer” has become the “customer” who decides everything about the product. In other words, until the end of the 70’s it was “certain that we could sell”, we could make 5-year plans and 1-year budgets.
The customer determines everything and their needs change all the time. In order to respond to this demand, it is necessary to be hyper-reactive and work in another model. At FAVI, as FAVISTS, we voluntarily treat uncertainty as an “adventure”, a “celebration”. So how do we do it?
Undoubtedly, we open wide areas of freedom for each individual, especially productive ones, to adapt to the environment:
- We have a budget that we can compare according to our projections each month, but in no case, this budget is mandatory/changeable.
- All employees’ antennae should be open to the outside to seize new opportunities and analyze the situation and decide what to do and what not to do as quickly as possible.
- In the context of managing this uncertainty, it is essential that the leader do nothing. To hear weak signals outside, the leader must create an environment where there is no background noise and they can amplify the signals inward, analyze and use them together.”
The FAVI management states that the budget should be used as a tool, not a target. The task of the leader is to remove all obstacles – even if it is the budget – that prevent employees from creating added value by seeking opportunities.
Saying that there is no performance without happiness, the company explains this principle as follows:
"14/It takes responsibility to be happy OR it may just be a project of the elite.
To be responsible, you have to be free about “how?”. In fact, this is one of the foundations of Kaizen “whoever does a job knows it”
Let us humbly leave it to those who do and know, and only support them if they ask for it.
When we deal with repairs or gardening, we have a nightmare of someone right behind us constantly telling us how to do it, but we would be happy to have a friend who we can call and ask for details while we are doing the jigsaw of a gearbox of a motorcycle.
This is also the case at work.
Just a new perspective:
- Why do only the elite have projects?
- Why should not everyone have such a right, regardless of their function?
Let’s not just limit it to PARTICIPANT roles imposed by procedures so that people can be CREATIVE with the desire to be the owner of a project…”
FAVI’s definition of employee does not include the blue-collar/white-collar distinction as we are used to today, and focuses on added value, not working hours.
At this point, I would like to tell two example cases of employees taking responsibility and acting in line with a purpose by being self-organized. These cases are taken from the book “Reinventing Organizations” by Frederique Laloux.
“One Monday morning, CEO Zobrist noticed an unusual situation at the mini-factory producing gearbox forks for FIAT. The routine for this team was that every Sunday night, a full truck gearbox forks was on its way to the north of France for Italy. That Monday morning, one of his co-workers at the mini-factory said to Zobrist:
Can you believe it? We made 2 trucks!
Zobrist had no idea what it was. They immediately told what happened. On Friday, FIAT asked if they could exceptionally send 2 trucks of parts on Sunday evening. The team came together and after some thought and planning, they decided to accept the order. Volunteers from other teams were determined and they worked in 3 shifts on Saturday and Sunday. Exhausted but proud, they set off 2 trucks for Italy on Sunday night. In this process, they did not even think of informing the CEO or getting his permission. No one asked for overtime. The team is self-organized to compensate for the overwork later on.”
“Another day, a manufacturer in the Volkswagen team noticed a quality problem in the part he was working on. He stopped the machine and checked all the manufactured and being manufactured parts with one of the quality team. They never found any faulty parts. He did speak to the Volkswagen sales executive, though. Together, they got into a company vehicle and went to the Volkswagen factory, 8 hours away. When they arrived, they explained the reason for their unannounced visit and were allowed to examine similar items from FAVI. All the pieces were perfect, they found no faults. The Quality Manager at the Volkswagen plant was stunned. Normally, as a faulty part would require a formal notice and in the best case only a legal report; a manufacturer at a supplier tended to keep this situation quiet because he feared the backlash from management. However, this manufacturer working at FAVI not only took ownership of his mistake, but also took the responsibility of going all the way to the customer to make sure it was not causing another problem.”
These cases show us that if organizations are built on foundations that foster a sense of trust and responsibility, extraordinary and unexpected results as above can be produced. Undoubtedly, there are different salary policies and decision-making mechanisms that affect these results.
Zobrist has transformed the company into autonomous mini-factories by combining trust in people and love of customers with innovation. According to 2013 data, FAVI is in a healthy financial position with a return of over 15% in the last 25 years and has continued to consolidate and develop in the lands where it was founded, in line with the purpose of BEING PERMANENT – while all its other competitors are leaving for the Far East.
In my opinion, there are 2 main reasons for the success of FAVI and CEO Zobrist:
- A developmental goal, TO BE PERMANENT= WHAT?
- HAPPY and AUTONOMOUS ORGANIZATION supported by innovation and customer love on the basis of TRUST= HOW?
According to Zobrist, the basic philosophy of TRUST: “People are good, they like to work, they are happy by working in an autonomous organization, they create added value…”
Everything starts from this point, and is knitted loop by loop….
So what exactly is this philosophy?
What actually is TO BE PERMANENT?
Why did I tell you all this?
To get your attention to how a leader can make a difference with a purpose and a belief.
Throughout history, there are many leaders that humanity has witnessed and is already witnessing….We can be the leader of an organization or the leader of our own life to make a difference.
It is in your hands to lead the organizations you lead, to lead your life to success.
What do you believe? What is your purpose?