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In the News

'Responsabilisation' at Michelin tyres

Penny Brooks

18th May 2017

Is this the french translation of 'Empowerment'? Michelin are following a gradual process of shifting more responsibility on to their shop floor staff. They say that this translates to a mixture of empowerment and accountability - which feels logical, as one of the key elements of empowering employees is giving them the authority to make decisions.

As each of Michelin's locations takes on the Responsabilisation programme, they are first prepared with a training programme called Oser, or 'To Dare'. As team leaders step away from deciding and organising production, team members learn about teamwork, how to manage conflicts, how to communicate in non-confrontational ways, and how to structure a project - many of the basics of management. The workers assess their own work, they plan the production process and quality control, and they liaise with the other teams in the factory. They take over many of the roles of middle management, leaving top managers free to focus on strategy. But in achieving that strategy, teams are starting to take on responsibility for recruitment, incentives and rewards, which could mean a variety of different approaches to each of those HR issues within the factory. 

Michelin clearly believe that this is working. They say that it is bringing more engagement with work, faster solutions to production line problems, and more interesting jobs. But some workers might feel that they are being exploited. Some managers may feel that they are undermined. However, CEO Jean-Dominique Senard, now intends to reorganise the whole group — more than 105,000 employees, at plants in 17 countries — along the same lines as the six pilot plants to become more agile and more responsive to customers.

This Explainer article reads like a text-book example of a business embracing empowerment. There is much more detail of how and why the process is under way, and of the experiences of staff at all levels of the Michelin organisation, in this article 'Power to the Workers'. 

Penny Brooks

Formerly Head of Business and Economics and now Economics teacher, Business and Economics blogger and presenter for Tutor2u, and private tutor

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