The TFW virus, the slow killer of companies?

The TFW virus, the slow killer of companies?

The good news is: it can be treated!

An insidious virus is crippling many businesses and keeping them from achieving their potential performance and growth. Its name? The TFW virus.

It chronically saps companies of their human, material, and financial energy. Forty years of management research has enabled the economic cost of this destructive virus to be quantified. It is somewhere between € 30,000 and € 60,000 per full-time equivalent per year.

This represents a wealth of human energy and economic added value that companies could be mobilizing to boost competitiveness, improve flexibility, innovate more effectively, accelerate sales, and drive growth and profitability…

It all started with a revolution

In the course of the 19th century, the predominantly agricultural and artisanal society was catapulted into a new world with the Industrial Revolution.

This era marked the beginning of the quest for efficiency and effectiveness. The question on everybody’s mind was: How to best organize production?

At the time, the discourse on business organization was dominated by three great thinkers.

The first thinker, the American Frederick Winslow Taylor, the father of Taylorism, advocated a scientific approach to the organization of work. He proposed breaking work down into highly specialized tasks so that everyone could be as efficient as possible. He introduced hyper specialization to companies.
He also split every organization into two categories of people: those who 'think' and those who 'execute'.

The second major personality of the era, the Frenchman Henri Fayol, was one of the first to attempt to rationalize and formalize management concepts within companies. He sorted administrative tasks into 'operation groups' such as technical, commercial, financial, administrative, etc. He described the content of each function but did not consider the human aspects that are relevant to a function. For Fayol, a function exists once it is described on paper. His approach entails the depersonalization of the function. Fayol assigns little importance to the human factor, to the person who occupies the position.

The third personality that dominated the discourse at the time was a German. His name was Max Weber. He was both an economist and a sociologist. His version of the ideal business boils down to what would later be known as a 'bureaucracy'. For Weber, work must be organized according to strict rules that everyone must stick to. It was all about “command and control”. The key principle of this approach is subordination. Everyone knows his place and awaits his 'orders' from above.

Birth of a virus

In our world that is characterized by technological progress, the explosion of information, and advances in education, one could expect that concepts dating back to the 19th century would have been left behind or at least have evolved...

Well, think again. They are still very much alive in our so-called 'modern' management methods. But they have now morphed into a virus. The TFW virus.

Infected organizations

The TFW virus generates dysfunctions that cause recurrent losses in human, material and financial energy.  

Many companies have departments that function basically as separate silos. The lack of consultation and transversal cooperation leads to paralysis.

Fayol’s depersonalization of the function leads to the creation of workstations that offer little value in professional and human terms. This encourages absenteeism and leads to increasingly worrying numbers of cases of burn-out and higher than average staff turnover.

Weber's subordination with ‘command and control mechanisms’ is still very much present in sometimes insidious forms. It is detrimental to the employees' commitment to implementing improvements.

Aside from the impact on economic results, the TFW virus also has a social cost. Loss of commitment, demotivation, stress, burnout, absenteeism, resistance to change and difficulty filling jobs are just a few examples.

But treatment is available. It is within the reach of any company, whatever its size

The first requirement is knowing who has the power in an organization. The formal power is certainly in the hands of management. They can issue rules and fire employees.
But the real power is in the hands of the employees. They are the ones who will ultimately decide the fate of the company. And this power often goes undetected by management.

It is, therefore, necessary to empower each employee and to make them responsible in the use of their own talents and knowledge.

The second requirement is to reinvent the 'modern' definition of the manager. It's quite simple, actually: take care of your employees and they will take care of the products, services, and customers. But many managers do not apply this.

The third requirement is to systematically track the dysfunctions caused by the TFW virus by involving the employees. Through listening sessions, they can bring these dysfunctions to light and propose solutions for improvement. The goal here is to reconcile the human aspect with economic performance.

By targeting the TFW virus, any organization can build stronger tissues, improve blood circulation and increase muscle tone, turning it into an athlete that will be able to face the challenges of a fast-changing world like no other.

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