Jean Francois Zobrist, a metallurgical engineer and former paratrooper, became managing director of FAVI, a metalworking company in Hallencourt, northern France, in 1983. Zobrist found the way the company treated employees to be demeaning. He opted for a radically different approach with massive success: the company grew from 250 to 700 employees, they invented the first method for molding 100% pure copper and a new antispectic copper alloy for hospitals.


Before we lay-out the 4 simple steps that JF Zorbist took to transform FAVI in 1 year and resulting in a 30-year winning streak, we start with the tragic end of the story. After his retirement in 2014, the board opted from a more traditional CEO. Someone who actually studied management. This new CEO installed more structure, more control, more reporting. The result? In 7 years time the revenues have dropped drastically and the company went from 750 to 250 employees.

Everything starts with the leader. She or he has to embody “common sense” rather than “predict-and-control”.


Principle 1:
Employees do not work by the hour, nor for a salary. They work for the love of the customer. The customer values the love and the money paid is oxygen to develop our community. What is love for the customer in the business of FAVI? No delay on the delivery of our products and a competitive price in the market.

CONSEQUENCE: No time registration. Teams still work in shifts and organize themselves. All meetings are cancelled, except those that contribute to the love for the customer. The team that coordinated all the request for orders stopped existing. Factory teams themselves responded the RFO to the customer which was much faster.

If want people to cross the river, to tell them what they should do, but make them dream of the other side – Jean-François Zorbist

Principle 2:
Switch from forecast and control to trust. France has hundreds of weather stations across the country. The technology to forecast the weather continues to evolve. And still we are not capable of predicting the weather for longer than 2 weeks.

CONSEQUENCE: Eliminated Quality Control Functions in the factory. In stead, asked the machine operators to be responsible for control. Never had a single quality problem in 30 years.

Principle 3:
Structure the organization into micro-enterprises. The 700 employees were restructured in 15 micro-enterprises of 30 to 35 workers. Every micro-enterprise was responsible for loving one specific customer. Every employee is trained to able to operate at least one machine. Coordination between micro-enterprises happens organically.

CONSEQUENCE: All overhead functions cease to exist. For an organization of 700 employees, FAVI had 9 administrative employees and two IT-employees. The workers in a micro-enterprises choose their team leader. Every micro-enterprise had one commercial role responsible for the entire sales process and one “agent of quality”.

Principle 4:
Relative objectives at micro-enterprise level. Inspired by the military, JF replaced individual bonus systems with reward systems at Team Level.

CONSEQUENCE: No sales targets. No financial targets. Their motivation is to serve their clients well and, in the face of Chinese competition, to maintain and when possible increase the number of jobs the factory can provide. 


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