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Éditorial by Henri Savall

It was no longer possible to apply, disseminate and teach management principles or even recipes dating back to the late 19th century and now obsolete if not unfortunate.

Managerial principles and methods imported from abroad caused extreme disappointment within companies and, to a lesser extent, amongst some management theorists and researchers: all-out production, overspecialized organizations (taylorism, faylorism, weberism) or, conversely, pyscho-naïve otherworldly attitude, uncontrolled autonomies.

A deep-rooted and harmful idea became firmly established i.e. efficiency and profitability were to be obtained at the detriment of quality and firms had no choice but between strategies aiming at sheer profitability or more socially oriented strategies. Those basic antagonisms which we denounced and the feeling of discomfort which we pointed out within firms on the eve of the worldwide economic crisis (the first oil-shock in 1973, revealing a chronic and severe deficiency) constituted the starting point of my research aimed at building up a theoretical as well as an operational approach to management.

 

  • Since management practitioners as well as theorists had been doing their utmost to separate or even to oppose the economic field and the social one, I decided to observe what would happen within the firm if the various factors which had been traditionally pitted against each other were to be brought together: human considerations vs economic ones, satisfaction vs. profitability, productivity vs. quality, financial advantages vs. qualitative ones, ethics vs. efficiency.

Thus was born the socio-economic approach to company management as early as 1973 - the conceptual case consisted in the notion of dysfunctioning coupled with that of hidden costs and performance (hidden costs for short) - the activity of individuals, of teams or of organizations simultaneously generate an appropriate type of functioning (orthofunctioning) and anomalies or disruptions (dysfunctioning ). Each enterprise, continually turning out efficient products which fuel its profitability and pave the way for its development but also experience disruptions which tend to partly absorb its energies and financial resources, leading to reduced performances.

The financial costs of those dysfunctions are not identified in traditional information systems of management and less still in general or analytical accounting plans. That’s why I decided to call it "hidden costs" for if it is true that its cause is known (the identified dysfunctioning) its financial impact is neither measured nor supervised.

  • When a firm succeeds in reducing its dysfunctions it entails an improvement in its financial performance which is not specifically shown in accounting books; it is a hidden performance . Thus, the more important its hidden costs pool, the more the firm can expect an improvement of its performance through mobilizing and valorizing its current internal resources, without resorting to an additional external financing.

Such is the innovative socio-economic management approach we conceptualized as early as 1973, then experimented and evaluated over years. Even then we had to design an efficient technology aimed at its lasting implantation within firms and organizations. We have thus built up a socio-economic intervention method which proved to be efficacious and efficient.

Later on the question of how to maintain a socio-economic management was raised by the firms and organizations which had set up this management method.

Practicing and scientifically observing those implantation and maintenance of managerial systems helped in creating our field of scientific and technical competencies: management engineering.

The quality of firm management is as vital as technology and product innovation. Considering this challenge, would it not be sensible to carry out a fruitful and extensive research -development in management to be jointly handled by enterprises and management sciences researchers ?

  • Research in management sciences, when it does exist, remains too fragmented, the teams too small and not structured enough, the themes broached too pointillistic and fashion-dependant. Scientific research and pedagogical research are also too often confused. How can one meet the actual needs of the firm with pedagogical research alone? An efficient management research has to be scientific. In order to advance in the field of management, universities, schools, teacher-researchers must tighten the interactive links of scientific co-operation with firms and practitioners.

Research in management sciences, when it does exist, remains too fragmented, the teams too small and not structured enough, the themes broached too pointillistic and fashion-dependant. Scientific research and pedagogical research are also too often confused. How can one meet the actual needs of the firm with pedagogical research alone? An efficient management research has to be scientific. In order to advance in the field of management, universities, schools, teacher-researchers must tighten the interactive links of scientific co-operation with firms and practitioners.

With the creation of our ISEOR team we have consequently initiated a new approach to research and intervention within the firm: fundamental research universally applicable feeding on the inheritance of knowledge accumulated, structured and modelized through repeated experimentation evaluated "live" within a 1 300 firms and private or public organizations located in 37 countries on 4 continents.

1 600 000 hours of research-intervention of long duration and a strictly focused observation in the field of more than 110,000 individuals (managers, supervisors, shopfloor) enabled us to build up a solid managerial knowledge bank. The teacher-researchers, members of ISEOR management teams are themselves involved, nearly full-time, in the invigorating experimental research in the field, at the head of their teams of actor-researchers (600 since the beginning).

The socio-economic approach also intends to help firms and organizations put an end to the micro-experiments in improvement which rarely last and never feed through to the whole firm.

Our research moreover leads to a diploma. Indeed, ISEOR is a supporting laboratory of the management sciences doctoral program of University Jean Moulin Lyon 3 and CNAM, Paris.

The growing demand of private and state-owned enterprises and public service enabled us to develop a contractual research leading to self-financing, thanks to the multiplication and renewal of the contracts signed with the users. Thus the researchers can reach a state of full partnership inside the firm or organization, without being dependent on the trials, tribulations, fails and limits of a research solely subsidized or excessively academic.

Encouraged by our progressive and constant development for 38 years we keep on enriching our knowledge bank and self constructed database with each of our experiments, fine-tuning our program life-size. Thus we can enrich both our concepts and tools and bring supply to a vast international observatory of the actual internal and external life of firms and organizations networking in numerous countries.

Professor Henri Savall, President-founder of ISEOR

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Dernière mise à jour : 19/02/2013
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