Thursday, October 15, 2009

Comment Versus Pourquoi

From the French - How versus Why. Jean-Francois Zobrist, the former executive of a France-based manufacturing company does a wonderful job illustrating the leadership differences between "How" and "Why" companies. "How" companies spend their time telling workers how to do their job - where to place the machinery, when to come to work, when to leave, and so on. This has two fundamental consequences. The first is that you end up judging employees by everything except what counts, which is whether the job gets done and the customer is happy. The second is that it becomes difficult, if not impossible, to change any of the myriad of rules about how to get things done. You want to move that cart to a different spot on the shop floor? You need clearance from your manager, who may have to ask his manager, and so on, creating a never-ending "chain of comment." The result is that it becomes impossible to get the work done without disobeying somebody in the chain of command. A pourquoi company is different. It replaces all the myriad "hows" with a single question: Why are you doing what you're going? The answer is always the same: to keep the customers happy. As long as what you do satisfies that commandment, Zobrist doesn't worry about how you do it. Freedom at his firm meant replacing the chain of comment with a single pourquoi.

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