Sébastien Dérieux – Thesis on the transmission of the concept of work well-done in companies

Doctoral dissertation in management of Sébastien Dérieux, at Université Jean Moulin Lyon 3 under the supervision of Pierre-Yves Gomez, professor at EMLYON Business School and director of IFGE. The PhD defense took place on August 29, 2016.

The transmission of the concept of work well-done in companies. An inquiry into the role of working communities’ memory at ENEDIS (formerly ERDF).

The objective of this doctoral research is to show how a common knowledge of the concept of work well-done is transmitted within companies. In modern economies, knowledge is one of the most essential yet also one of the most complex issues for organizations to manage. A defining feature of companies is to ensure the continued quality of the products or services in which it specializes. In order to do so, work must be assessed and valued at different levels, allowing to tackle the question of work well-done. This thesis focuses on the formation and on the learning process of a common notion of work well-done. This approach departs from a conceptual understanding of knowledge and moves towards considering the subjective, objective and collective reality of work in companies.

The empirical research is based on an in-depth qualitative study of work led in different sites at ENEDIS (formerly ERDF), a large company which manages and operates the French electric grid. The analysis of data from the observation of work and interviews shows that the concept of well-done work can only be transmitted because it is applied, justified, embodied, proven by a working community. It is less management and organizing principles than the memory of these communities which explain the transmission of the concept well-done work.

The theoretical model that emerges from the empirical data indicates that the memory of the working communities consists of four types of common knowledge: the conventional recipes of well-done work, the memory of founding principles, the memory of common tests, the memory of work figures. The detailed description of each component of this community memory offers a general but precise and concrete view of transmission relations. It also highlights the necessary structure for a working community to develop and to convey a notion of well-done work. The thesis specifies the conditions in which less experienced workers can learn and develop an ability for well-done work. Finally, it becomes apparent that without lively working communities, a common level of quality cannot be maintained in the company.

Key words

Community, memory, knowledge sharing, knowledge transfer, work, quality, transmission, learning, common, conventions, collective, evaluation, knowledge