Learning From French Industrial Relations

I was at an event with a client last night celebrating the success of a major project that I have been involved in over the last few months.   I normally don’t like such events as they are usually attended by an “interesting” array of individuals turn up to drink the wine & fill themselves up on canapes.  I much prefer impromptu, informal celebrations.  

But I decided to attend as I am really proud of the work that we’ve achieved together to make this project a success.  And as predicted, although I have been heavily invovlved in the project, I only knew about 15% of the people in the room.

As I was gathering a plate-full of canapes a man turned to talk to me:

“And what brings you here?”

Although I groaned inwardly, I embraced the moment:   that simple question lead to an interesting conversation.  

The man was a partner from one of the consulting companies I have working with.   He had not been involved in the project, but he was aware of some of the challenges I had faced on the project – particularly in relation to the trade unions and staff engagement.

He shared with me the experiences that he’d had working in France:   the trade unions have a particular ritual that accompanies any major change, including mergers or TUPE-type scenarios. 

The staff KIDNAP the boss for 3 weeks and lock him in his / her office. 

It’s all part of the peacock-display as they protest their objections to the proposed plans.  And after the 3 weeks, it’s business as usual and the changes are made regardless.

Apparently, it’s such a common occurence that some management consultancies are now recommending that this 3 week interruption is actually factored into the road-map.

Which leads me to think:  with the current challenges facing the NHS accompanied by the increasing amount of union unrest, we could find ourselves in a similar position.   In a pragmatic move, should NHS Trust start factoring into their PRINCE2 gant charts time-delays caused by collective grievances, ballots and industrial action?

I don’t think that I’ll be advising any of my clients this particular to factor this into their planning just yet, but it’s worth thinking about (just in case).

PS – I’m not sure if it’s a true story or not, but thought it was one worth telling.

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One comment on “Learning From French Industrial Relations

  1. karencwise says:

    Thanks to @KevinJBall there is some grain of truth to this! See http://bit.ly/9XAR2P

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