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Company - BOGI Examining Small Industries in Basse-Normandie

The first study on the relation between organization and innovation in small businesses in Basse-Normandie was published by the CTN and the GEMMA. This outstanding work is unique because information collecting was done in the field at the 80 selected enterprises. The work draws up an uncompromising report on the strengths as well as organizational weaknesses of the small industries.

What happens when an expert advisor at the Centre des Technologies Nouvelles (CTN, center for new technologies), i.e. Patrick Houzet an industrial organization and management specialist meets Olivier Gaussens, a professor at the University of Caen and member of GEMMA (Groupe d'Economie Mathématique et de Microéconomie Appliquée, the mathematical economy and applied microeconomy group) and they decide to work together? The answer is the first study on the relation between organization and innovation in small businesses in Basse-Normandie. This outstanding work is unique because information collecting was done in the field at the 80 selected enterprises. The work draws up an uncompromising report on the strengths as well as organizational weaknesses of the small industries. "Before starting the research, I considered researchers as people who needed to get published to get ahead so they sometimes used other people's ideas for their own purposes. However, in the course of the study, we actually shared ideas and addressed the issues in-depth," stated Patrick Houzet. "I was very surprised that a facility like the CTN could produce such an experimental approach," underscored Olivier Gaussens. Although from different backgrounds, both men, a field worker and an academic, seem to have really enjoyed their close collaboration during the study. One just has to listen to them talk to understand that they both are enthusiastic about their subject, i.e. business and business organization. "A business is just like a jazz band. There are soloists but not too many. The reactivity between musicians is vital. Tight flow sets the rhythm and leaves no room for dead time." The way Olivier Gaussens sees a business, it takes on a life of its own as if by magic and really comes into its own. However, Patrick Houzet and Olivier Gaussens gained their insight by first delving into the 'black box' of business. An Overview of Business Organization and Management Actually, the venture started at the CTN. "In 1996-97, we worked with our correspondents to address the opportunity of designing a tool to assess and evaluate the qualitative performance of businesses," recalled Patrick Houzet. The initiative prompted the setup of a group of some fifteen people in 1997; a group that continues to meet and work to this day. The question was to determine how to measure qualitative performance, and what criteria to use. The first questionnaire was drafted and then redrafted. After testing at four very different enterprises, the questionnaire underwent further alterations. The fourth version was tested at ten enterprises and was circulated to some fifty people. After integrating the last remarks on form and content, the final document was drafted. The BOGI (Baromètre, Organisation, Gestion Industrielle, barometer, organization, industrial organization) was born. BOGI with over three hundred questions on the industrial organization and innovation of small industries in Basse-Normandie is document where readers will find a range of factors on the bases of business organization and management. Eighty enterprises representing the industrial fabric of Basse-Normandie, i.e. with 6 to 250 employees all industries taken together, were assessed with the tool. Another original feature of the study is that many surveyed enterprises had less than twenty people. "With BOGI, the entrepreneur serves as a filter," explained Patrick Houzet. Actually, face-to-face interviews, lasting anywhere from three hours to three days, were organized with each entrepreneur individually. The object was to get an overview of the organization and management of the entire business. Some ten fact-finders mainly from the Chambres de Métiers (trade council) Adria-Normandie tackled this task. Once the survey was completed, a forty-page summary analysis of each enterprise was drawn up and submitted to each entrepreneur. "It's while I was designing these tools that I met Olivier Gaussens," said Patrick Houzet. At GEMMA, a joint research unit (CNRS/University of Caen) with some thirty people specializing in microeconomics, Olivier Gaussens' wanted to work on business organization and be in touch with the field. "We had already addressed these issues but in a very academic way. So, the CTN was the ideal partner for this kind of work," admitted the Caen native. The BOGI collected data were then statistically processed at GEMMA by Rafik Abdesselam, a CNRS statistician and third co-author of the study. The collected data were broken down into eight processes (human resources, design, flow, sales, purchases, technical skills, management and innovation) and one performance hub. The object was to draw up a comprehensive overview of Basse-Normandie enterprises and try to assess the new organizational form in terms of performance and innovation. 60% of the Enterprises Skilled at Cross-Departmental Wore The first study of fewer enterprises, co-funded by the CNRS, was published in 2002. Today, Patrick Houzet, Olivier Gaussens and Rafik Abdesselam are completing a new version of the study on all 80 enterprises. The public paper should be available within the next few months. It might be extended by the publication of a book. "The study showed that 60% of the enterprises in Basse-Normandie, with 6 to 25 employees, have a cross-departmental work structure," explained the CTN expert advisor. For 60% of the businesses, size was the factor that cross-departmental operations in organizations that were not as structured or as formalized as in other enterprises. On the other hand, the lack of cross-departmental work and communication within an enterprise is at the root of organizational malfunctions, in 40% of the region's businesses. "This particularly concerns companies with 50 to 100 employees, i.e. critical size. Industry-related aspects are also important. For instance, we found types of organizations that have aged. Consequently, they are not as well-equipped to deal with today's competition. In these businesses, there is reportedly less reactivity, innovation and flexibility, so the enterprises are less efficient," stated Olivier Gaussens. Another precious teaching of the study: innovation is very widely implemented in the surveyed enterprises. Actually, 70% of the businesses innovate. "Importantly, the organization is the springboard for innovation. For instance, an enterprise that designs its products will innovate sooner or later," explained the GEMMA economist. He then added, "It would undoubtedly be more useful to help enterprises improve their design by using more efficient design methods and by improving the way they integrate market needs." After the survey was finished, twenty-one of the eighty selected enterprises started hiring and some fifteen decided to invest. "Did we give that extra little push that was needed to get the entrepreneurs to make these decisions?" Patrick Houzet and Olivier Gaussens cannot say for sure. However, they are convinced they did help a bit to prompt the reported changes in some enterprises whose organization had not undergone any change for a while - evidence that BOGI is a very promising tool., ,Contacts -,CTN - Patrick Houzet - Phone: +33 (0)2.31.46.25.23 - Fax: +33 (0)2.31.46.25.27 -,E-mail: houzet@ctn.asso.fr,GEMMA - Olivier Gaussens - Phone: 33 (0)2.31.56.70.24 - E-mail: gaussens.gemma@iutcaen.unicaen.fr,More about BOGI : http://ogi.ctn.asso.fr ,http://www.unicaen.fr/unicaen/ufr/eco/3ecycle/gemma/gemmaindex.html

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