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L'interculturel franco-allemand en entreprise : l’influence du management américain : l’exemple du management franco-allemand chez Total

Abstract : Franco-German cross-cultural relations in business cannot be dissociated from the world economic context in which the United States play a dominant role. We have used Total, the leader in the French petroleum industry, specifically through its German subsidiary in Berlin, as a case in point for our investigation of the influence of US business methods on a joint Franco-German top management team. We conducted 35 extensive interviews, 12 of which were held with French nationals, 11 of them top company officials at the Berlin office and one at corporate headquarters in Paris; 18 of the tête-à-têtes took place with German top executives in Berlin. In addition, we consulted one Dutch, one British and three Belgian directors of the petroleum group.Part One of the report is an inventory and review of the literature devoted at this day to cross-culture in the area of corporate management, a subject that began to attract the interest of researchers in the 1980's. We here correlate theory and practice in dealing with the impact of national cultures on corporate behavior. This leads us to reconsider the functioning modes of French, German and US companies and thus, working on the typology of their respective business structures, to classify them according to their specific management styles and corporate cultures. We thus, of course, create mere models, significant but abstract. The distance between theory and actual practice is bridged in Part Two of the report.In Part Two, we concentrate on the cross-cultural ambiguities and misunderstandings that have attended Franco-German business relations as these have evolved since the inception of the Common Market to the present day. The misfortunes of the A380 at Airbus in 2006, consultant Jacques Pateau's reasearch and conclusions on the importance of Franco-German cooperation in business ventures, the solutions offered for the recurrent cross-cultural conflicts by J. P. B. Consulting, and the close working relationship of French and German journalists on the Arte cultural television network, all these have provided us with material for an accurate appraisal of the problems raised by a Franco-German partnership in a corporate environment, whatever the area of professional activity. We learn from the experience of the Total company that it is possible to rise above the recurrent cross-cultural "critical incidents" that plague such binational professional communities, and to achieve common values in the working relationship, proof that it does not take generations to amend long ingrained cultural traits, and that these are amenable to outside influence. The daily interaction between individuals of different cultural backgrounds will eventually lead to common cultural patterns of behavior, susceptible in turn to further changes in a unified framework. In Part Three, we shall inquire into the nature of these outside influences and the changes they have brought to the inner workings of the Total company.Part Three of the report addresses the question of the influence exerted by US managerial praxis on the procedures at Total. This influence, merging with the unified methods developed by the Franco-German partners through their respective contribution of managerial know-how, has resulted in new concepts in management, of a more liberal complexion, and yet, while now standard practice, perceived in a different light by the French and the German executives; the different cultures color the outlooks differently even when the individuals act in harmony. The notion of "teamwork" and "group action" now prevalent at Total, is one of the concepts, now put into prevalent practice by the executive staff, that the company owes to the American business philosophy. We were thus able to identify a number of significant instances, the "project teams" are one, of the American influence on a Franco-German management group.
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Submitted on : Monday, March 17, 2014 - 4:32:15 PM
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  • HAL Id : tel-00960149, version 1

Citation

Véronique Boirie. L'interculturel franco-allemand en entreprise : l’influence du management américain : l’exemple du management franco-allemand chez Total. Gestion et management. Université Michel de Montaigne - Bordeaux III, 2013. Français. ⟨NNT : 2013BOR30018⟩. ⟨tel-00960149⟩

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