Revolution by procedures in Cameroun

Henry, Alain in Successful Companies in the Developing World, In Iribarne (d’), Ph. (pub.), Managing in synergy with culture, Notes et documents de l’AFD, 2007

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The countries of Sub-Saharan Africa are among those that encounter the most difficulty in modernizing their management and raising the performance of their companies. A research conducted at the Cameroon Electricity Company aimed at gaining an understanding of the lack of staff empowerment that prevailed there. When we suggested to the Director of the Electricity Company that he have procedures drafted, he immediately embraced the idea. Several months later, an impressive manual, comprising a dozen large binders, was distributed. The detailed content of the manuals described in precise terms what everyone should do and how it should be done. Some foreign experts were puzzled: they considered that these procedures were equivalent to micro-management. As most executive staff and employees were highly skilled, the issue was not about individual capacities. However, the detailed manuals received strong support from the employees of the company.

These procedures manuals echo the formal rules that are used in traditional associations, the tontines. Their internal rules prescribe, with the same sense of minutia, the conduct to be observed for everything. Detailed procedures provide a comprehensive framework for actions within a large organization, similar to what can be produced by a case-by-case agreement from the superior in a small structure. In order to understand the success of this very strict framework for actions, it is interesting to have a deeper insight into the way in which employees interpret relationships in the company.

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