Most senior management in most French companies were educated at the Grandes Ecoles which are the elite schools of France.
These colleges champion an intellectual rigour in their students, which is rarely matched elsewhere in the world. This produces a highly educated management population, which approaches leadership with an unusual degree of academic precision. Intellectualism is something to be cherished rather than sneered at and a comment once attributed a French manager sums this up well – ‘that idea seems alright in practice but will it work in theory?’
Thus management becomes an intellectual challenge to be mastered and thought about in terms of detailed analysis, the complete mastery of complex concepts and the eventual application of rational decisions. More pragmatic issues of buy-in, motivating staff etc. (in the Anglo-Saxon understanding of these terms) are not as prominent in French management thinking.
Decisions, once taken at senior levels, will be passed down the chain to lower management for implementation. This directive approach can be seen, especially by those from a consensus oriented, non-hierarchical background, as being overly authoritative and lacking in the necessary team-building elements.
Written and Produced by Keith Warburton
This country profile has been produced to give a short overview of some of the key concepts to bear in mind when doing business with contacts in France. It is intended to be an aid to business people who have commercial dealings with counterparties in the country but should not be seen as an exhaustive guide to this topic or as a substitute for more substantial research should there be a need.
With this in mind, we have covered the areas which are key to a better understanding of the cultural mindset underpinning business dealings in France and which are, quite often, extremely different from the approach and thought processes associated with business in other parts of the world.
Therefore this briefing note is broken into short, bite-sized sections on the following topics: