“Choosing a slow business means putting ethics in your business”

We knew the slow food movement that advocated the art of living at meals. The slow business spirit, which consists in reintroducing better time management in the company, at all costs stopping the race for speed and urgency, is also slowly starting to find its way. Various initiatives are emerging on the planet, which Pierre Moniz-Barreto, founding member of the French Association for Fair Trade Management, has mapped out in his book “Slow Business”, just published by Eyrolles. Interview.

What is slow business? An excuse for slowness in business?

Probably not. Rather, it is a matter of reinventing the concept of time management in the workplace and of creating a better balance between work and private life. The key is good rhythmic control, with changing phases of reactivity and on the contrary deceleration. It was believed for decades that in order to get ahead of your competitors, you had to choose speed in any case. There are other ways to succeed. In terms of management, the individual must have greater room for maneuver. The logic in ROWE (Results-Only Work environment), for example, is part of slow business. This is a system where employees are allowed to take full control of their professional time: they independently determine their work schedule and are no longer evaluated on attendance time, but only on the result. It is estimated that between 10 and 15% of companies in the United States have switched to ROWE. It’s a soil tumor!

Would the Anglo-Saxon world be more advanced than France?

That is for sure. Slow business is developing more in the Anglo-Saxon sphere. And yet the value of the work is sacred there. Like what, it does not mean working less, but working better. That being said, in France, with our five weeks of annual paid leave and our RTT, of course, we have the ability to achieve the results that are ours, in a moderate amount of time. This necessarily means that we have socially partially integrated the slow phenomenon. But we still have a lot of progress to make. Psychosocial risks are a reality. And there are countless studies where managers express their discomfort because they feel too much pressure in their business. This should make us question ourselves.

Some French executives may be practicing slow business without knowing it …

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It is true that when the French show initiative in leadership, it is not necessarily by marking a brand or asserting a new fashionable leadership concept. There are many “Mr. Jourdain” of slow business who do it without knowing it. For example, I talk in my book about TPE du Nord CIV, which offers its 25 employees the opportunity to match their work rhythm and their biological rhythms (chronobiology), with particular flexibility at the time of arrival at the office. Recently, people were still talking to me about the company Evercontact, whose manager, Philippe Laval, was inspired by the big American high-tech companies, to somehow make Rowe without saying it. Employees have full control over their agenda. It is clear that they hardly take more leave than if the latter had been carefully considered.

What is going on in business today against slow business?

Short-term dictation in the area of ​​investment. Or, on a daily basis, at all levels, the absence of time for judgment, or “latency” time, which allows us to take a step back before making decisions. Or what Chicago entrepreneur Jason Fried, who founded 37 Signals, calls “toxic time” in his bestseller “Rework”: interruptions, meetings, urgency and overtime.

Slow business imposes break times during the working day. For years we have heard that we should rebuild the nap, encourage meditation … In fact, there is no need. Why ?

Meditation in France is complicated. It smells of spirituality, religion. The United States is much more uninhibited on the subject. Giving employees the opportunity to take a nap, on the other hand, is an idea that wins out. Some companies have contracts with siesta bars in the center of Paris. It’s not a total flop. But in any case, it can take various forms to bring a better balance to the employee. When the employer establishes a company nursery or gives access to a gym, he responds to the problem of slow business. The fight against presence is another lever for action. Of course, it all goes very slowly. In entrepreneurial circles, there is a desire for things to develop, but there is also an innate caution against phenomena that we imagine could pose a danger to the well-functioning operation of the company. A kind of Gallic conservatism … In the United States, people have more of a sense of risk, they are less hesitant to implement alternative solutions.

Why basically think of slow business?

This is a matter of business ethics. The way we manage all stakeholders in the company must be a fundamental concern. We can put as many ethical charters as we want, that is not what will improve things in practice. At a time when I was teaching business ethics at business school, and when I became fully aware of the gap between theory and practice, time management appeared to me as one of the areas where we could act concretely, in the same way as sustainable development, for example. .

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Marianne Rey


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