Carlos Ghosn on the difference of cultures between Renault and Nissan: same kind of differences as between Waterfall and Agile
Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan, gave an interesting interview in June 2008. He says (go to 4:38 minutes timeline on the youtube video):
“Between Nissan and Renault the differences are very big, very big.
In Nissan, people usually pay a lot of attention to processes, they pay a lot of attention to execution, they pay a lot of attention to deployment, they pay a lot attention to the product itself, to the service itself.
Well the French system is completely different. I mean the French system is you know they’re going to spend a lot of time discussing concepts at the beginning and reaching strategies I’m gonna do different scenarios, I’m gonna do a lot of what if etc., and then when I select a one particular scenario, after a long debate, I just try to hand it to somebody else who’s gonna execute, ok? [audience laughs]
It’s completely different. So obviously when you put the cultures together everybody is going to pinpoint to the weakness of the others. …
But the strength of the lines is how can you get people to say he’s doing things differently from me what can I learn from him ?”
Renault’s culture is the reflect of Occidental general culture where education is based a lot on abstractions. Scientific Engineering Schools – I attended 2 of them for 4 years in total + 2 years of so called classes préparatoires in France – don’t teach so much Physics as abstract Mathematics which has become predominant even outside Engineering schools like in Business Schools. Students at the end of their scholarship don’t have any practical knowledge and so would prefer to take refuge in concepts when in professional life rather than think a little and tackle a little the concrete reality because … they just don’t know how they would handle it. All the more so that I have observed in latest years that Managers are younger and younger (and paid much lesser) so that they didn’t have the opportunity to get experiences – I also remember a report from HEC Business School which did even make the hypothesis that this may explain why many of them seem to compensate with some agressive management style because they cannot base their legitimity on real experiences.
This culture may explain a lot about why in IT Waterfall is deeply inside the culture … except when some crisis force people to really deliver concrete artefacts that is the software which would suit Business needs and not only promises on paper or documentations but bad quality softwares. As Agile is now upraised It can be expected that once the crisis would have passed, Waterfall at least in spirit – hiding behind agile – would come back.
Is there really something to learn from Waterfall ? Well I consider that Waterfall is the IDEAL towards which one should tend like one should try to tend towards zero defect. But in no way you should DO zero defect at any price as Deming – the Founding Father of Modern Quality – did warn himself because that would be contrary to the spirit of CONTINUOUS PROGRESS. As I will tell in another story the “zero defects” slogan have been misinterpreted by the mass of quality engineers who did just look at the mathematical tools of statistical process control or the procedures without taking into account the very important background philosophy behind it. Waterfall is about POST-CONTROL – that is too late – Agile is about fast-control-feedback which is in the spirit of Deming’s PDCA spiral (Plan-Do-Check-Action).