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A study on the hidden virtues of being late: A sociological view of the strategic use of time pressures in organizations [An English translation]

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Are delays regularly experimented by major state programmes synonymous with failure or, paradoxically, would they be a strategy for success? Through the appearance of delays in the context of a programme of drones, this article puts forward the
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   An English translation of:  JEAMBRUN Denis, " Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : une vision sociologique de l’utilisatio statégiue de la cotaite tepoelle das les ogaisatios"  , Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre, vol. 130, no. 4, Décembre 2017, pp. 47-57. (http://www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf )  1    A study on the hidden virtues of being late:  A sociological view of the strategic use of time pressures in organizations  An English translation of : Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : U ne vision sociologique de l’utilisation stratégique de la contrainte temporelle dans les organisations Denis JEAMBRUN This paper was srcinally published in French in the journal:  Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre , Vol. 130, no. 4, December 2017, pp. 47-57. Original version can be downloaded from: www.annales.org  ; pdf file on www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf     or hal.archives-ouvertes.fr  ; pdf file on hal.archives-ouvertes.fr/hal-01661688/document   Remark: This translation has not been reviewing. So, do not hesitate to let me know your   corrections and improvements at  denis.jeambrun@yahoo.fr . Thanks per advance     EV00.01   An English translation of:  JEAMBRUN Denis, " Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : une vision sociologique de l’utilisatio statégiue de la cotaite tepoelle das les ogaisatios"  , Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre, vol. 130, no. 4, Décembre 2017, pp. 47-57. (http://www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf )  2   A study on the hidden virtues of being late: A sociological view of the strategic use of time pressures in organizations   Denis JEAMBRUN   Are delays regularly experimented by major state programmes synonymous with failure or, paradoxically, would they be a strategy for success? Through the appearance of delays in the context of a programme of drones, this article puts forward the emergence of a strategy using these delays. The constraints and   interests of the players push them to tolerate, accept and even implement this strategy despite the disadvantages associated with the situation. Purpose   and Methodology   of the Study   Newspapers regularly find "(delivery) delays" in such or such a major industrial program often purchase by national based organizations. There is a common understanding that evokes the great " technical complexity  " of the program or blame the gross " incompetence " of one or the other. However, engineers and scientists are experimented with complexity and technological innovations. Multiple methods of program management exist and the managers who implement them are often highly skilled. Nevertheless, the problems persist. Even more surprising, despite the severity of the conflicts, these programs are seldom interrupted. However, the procurement agency could withdraw its contract for reason of supplier  s’  failures. A priori, through the indemnities due, the customer would not suffer financial losses. This paradox is illustrated by the case studied here : the timeframe was multiplied by four, without the national state procurement agency having cancelled the contract. From these paradoxes, we formulate the hypothesis that these delays are not just the consequence of errors or dysfunctions. They would also be the key to a potential solution, in a context under heavy constraints. Through a concrete case, we will focus on contexts and issues analysis, to determine why these players manage to cope with delays. It becomes possible to determine a typology of benefits that each player gathers from this blocking situation. More than schedule control, this is the mastering of delays which would be strategic.   An English translation of:  JEAMBRUN Denis, " Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : une vision sociologique de l’utilisatio statégiue de la cotaite tepoelle das les ogaisatios"  , Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre, vol. 130, no. 4, Décembre 2017, pp. 47-57. (http://www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf )  3 For this study, we mainly used the strategic analysis in the filed of sociology of organizations (CROZIER & FRIEDBERG, 1977). The study focuses on a UAV (Unmanned  Aerial Vehicle)   program for the French Air Force. The information was collected in 2009. The machines were delivered at the beginning of the same year. Hence, the players were still present in the different organizations, and their memories were recent. However, the confidential (military) nature of the program made the investigation difficult. The players were not inclined to express themselves on the subject, even if, of course, no classified information was asked. The crises were recent and tensions remained high. Although not involved in this program, the author was a manager in the main industrial supplier for more than a decade and pursued, at the same time, university studies with a group from the national state procurement agency. This immersive configuration enabled to carry out a field study (PERETZ, 2007). The information also comes from formal sources, such as parliamentary reports, specialized press, internal newspapers and proceedings of works councils (BOURDON & FILLIEULE, 2004). A memoir was written this same year (2009) under the auspices of the Center for Sociology of Organizations in Paris (under the direction of the sociologist Henri Bergeron).   To explain the program difficulties, interviewees often talk about " casting errors ". Such assumption has the merit of simplicity, or even popularity, at least among those who are not targeted by criticisms. However, the "crosian" approach, used for the study, involved observing three postulates. First, the players are responding rationally, even if this rationality is limited by their disposal means and the environment in which they operate (CUIN, 2005). So, the players are not stupid. Second, the players (individuals or groups) pursue their own goals, first and foremost the goals where they find some kind of interest for themselves or their belonging groups. Thus, these goals are not necessarily set by the organization. Finally, thirdly, the organizations typically keep a certain "freedom of action" where the players develop and implement their strategies. These "areas of uncertainty" are poorly controlled by some, but well controlled by others. Inside this "area of action", the player will exchange (negotiate) his mastery of such areas versus help in some other areas (mastering by other players) which he needs. This ability to mutually influence constitutes the "power" within the social game. This power is more or less substantial and usually imbalance between players (Friedberg, 1997).  After a description of the studied program, we will look briefly at the context in which the players evolve, in order to glimpse the observed roughness at the interfaces. Then, from elements of the strategic analysis, it will be shown how, paradoxically, the players have succeeded to accommodate with delays and even find a common implicit strategy to solve an a priori insoluble problem. It should also be noted that all organizations studied here hold especially complex structures. The analysis will focus on the purchaser/supplier interfaces through those of the two main players. Other players will be mentioned only when their actions seem to be critical or essential to the understanding of the action.   An English translation of:  JEAMBRUN Denis, " Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : une vision sociologique de l’utilisatio statégiue de la cotaite tepoelle das les ogaisatios"  , Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre, vol. 130, no. 4, Décembre 2017, pp. 47-57. (http://www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf )  4 Description     of the   Program   The case studied deals with a program of "large" drones intended for the French defence. It carries the acronym SIDM for [in French]: Interim Drones System of Medium altitude long endurance. The program was launched in the 1990s, a period marked by sharp budget cuts. It was notified in 2001, with system delivery in May 2003. In this way, the Air Force expected to replace its previous drones called "Hunters". But the official delivery will not occur until the beginning of the year 2009. In the 1990s, the effectiveness of drones for military purposes was still questioned. Before assenting heavy investments, the Army wants to experience the capabilities of this new generation of intelligence tools. The purchasing agency for French Army (called the "Agency" in the following) is in charge. The procurement process is strictly regulated under French public law, by the " Code des Marchés Publics " [Public Procurement Code] and the " Instruction Générale n°1514 ". At the time, the Agency has undergone a profound reform which has deprived itself of major parts of its expertise and prohibits creation of new departments. Thus, although the technologies are noticeably different, the service of tactical missile programs has been entrusted with the project management of this UAV program. If the system is described as "interim" (temporary) in its acronym, it is because it should be followed by a "real" system srcinally planned for 2008-2009. In the manufacturers' understanding, this term implicitly described a product maturity at midway between experimental (prototype) and operational (final "real" system).  A first French manufacturer, already a supplier of smaller drones, puts forward a solution adapted from an American drone [the "Predator"]. This approach reduced costs and delivery times. Another French manufacturer (which has merged with other companies in the early 2000s to become a major European industry. We will call it the "main (European) Supplier") also wants to win this contract. It is already a supplier of a "dronized" missile for intelligence missions. The deadlines of two years are imposed by the obsolescence of the previous system. For the procurement agency, the budget constraints are strong. But its bidding mechanism and its national monopsony nature (single buyer) give the Agency a strong position. For its part, the European Supplier wants to win at any cost to conquer this new market segment. Therefore, it makes an offer "at zero margin" (so, at a particularly low price) and with a completion time of 21 months instead of the 24 requested. The European Supplier wins the contract as mandatory, with another non-European industrial (as co-contractor which we will call the "non-European Supplier"). It is one of the few aircraft manufacturers in the world which produces a key element of the system: the platform, which means the "aircraft" part of the system.  Although the required technical performances are high, they remain achievable. However, a large amount of equipment of this period does not have the sufficient performance level or the size, weight or strength required. Most equipment ought to be developed or adapted. They also have to be integrated into the system itself, test and validate all   An English translation of:  JEAMBRUN Denis, " Enquête sur les vertus cachées des retards : une vision sociologique de l’utilisatio statégiue de la cotaite tepoelle das les ogaisatios"  , Annales des Mines - Gérer & Comprendre, vol. 130, no. 4, Décembre 2017, pp. 47-57. (http://www.annales.org/gc/2017/gc130/2017-12-04.pdf )  5 together. De facto, neither deadlines nor cost objectives can be achieved. Furthermore, additional features are required by the User. It seems that the Supplier did not foresee these functions because of a particular drafting of the technical specifications in the contract. These clauses, already complex, refer to multiple Military Standards (generally called STANAG for Standardization Agreement). So, it is difficult to really overview all the required operational performances. The engineers in charge of translation into technical solutions, who are civilians, do not always properly perceive the constraints of military operations. In addition, on the side of the main Supplier, the program was not entrusted to the division which was already in charge of an operational drone. This initial " casting error  " would be a consequence of terms of a shareholders' agreement leading to a separation of trades, through a specialization of each subsidiary, probably in order to avoid internal competition and duplication of similar structures. The contract is implemented in a new spirit (OUDOT, 2007). Previously, the Agency paid the amount (of hours) of work done. This may lead some to let programs drift to guarantee an annuity income. Now, the Agency pays the finished product at a price fixed in advance (fixed fees). A manufacturer is fully responsible for the respect of costs, schedules and performances. If it does not respect the terms of the contract, it has to pay any additional costs and indemnify its client. These compensations, proportional to the delivery delays, are also three times higher than usual in such contracts.   Moreover, they are not capped.  An Agency official justified this non-standard aspect with the need to " reflect the operational urgency that the system must supply  ". Thus, the Agency hoped to " motivate " industrial suppliers in order to meet deadlines. In the following, the Agency and the Army taken together will be called the "User". As for the manufacturers involved all together, we will refer to them as "Supplier(s)". Soon, the Suppliers identify the seriousness of the situation. At the end of 2002, a first internal audit was launched. It highlights " the absence of risk management  ". The delivery, which was srcinally scheduled for 2003, is postponed, without any significant reaction from the User. Indeed, following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the US government restricts the export of certain electronic components. This has implications for the program where it becomes necessary to develop other technical solutions. The Supplier and the  Agency reach an agreement on additional 8 months granted without penalty. Supplier leaders do not seek further arrangements to extend the timeframes until the formal end of the program in 2004. When a temporal extension is mentioned, it is already too late. The  Agency can no longer accept an amendment to a " completed  " agreement because it considers that " this contract no longer exists ". The Agency has not been delivered then, it is not proceeding to the final payments. Therefore, the agency has no other pressure means than the " dissuasive " aspect of the late fees included in the contract. The Supplier representatives maintain that they will deliver " within 6 months ". Time passes, but this estimated delivery time remains virtually invariable and the Agency notes that " the delivery date is shifted continuously  ". On the Army side, a team   of    forty people   is in expectation.   This team must remain mobilized for the training   of future users, as   well as for    the validation and commissioning of
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