The liberated company
Traditional ways of working seem to be increasingly out of sync with the democratic ideals in today’s societies. Moreover, conventional, pyramid-shaped and hierarchy-based work structures lack a culture of empowerment and initiative. With these discussions in mind and based on its anthropological work, Méthos is assisting a company that has taken up the challenge of “liberating” itself and its employees.
Isaac Getz theorizes that most employees in what he calls “liberated companies” should be able to decide what to do – as long as their decision is in the company’s best interest – instead of following other people’s instructions or predefined procedures. With economic, philosophical and psychological reasons in mind, the approach to organizing work is based on trust and self-reliance, which in turn should promote employee well-being and business performance.
Although the concept is not especially well known yet, it is arousing curiosity in academic and business circles, and at the same time raising questions about the practicalities. Is it a philosophical utopia or a spark of managerial brilliance? Either way, “liberating” a company can be seen as a process rather than a prefabricated model.
Méthos’ team of anthropologists and documentary makers have been spending the past six months at an SNCF (French Rail) department working on this new managerial paradigm shift. Hovering between management committee meetings and operators’ conversations by the water cooler, listening to what employees and managers are excited about or unsure about, we are capturing and decoding the needs and desires of the SNCF team in their journey to liberation.
As a laboratory for experimentation, this project is showing us new ways in which people can collaborate and work together.