Can a game change management? The French connection

- Change Management

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by Vasco Duarte

The French, they sure are a funny lot. They like to do things their own way. Heck, they even use a different word for computer just to annoy the rest of the world. At the same time they know how to live the good life. If wine hadn’t already been invented, the French would do it. And haute cuisine sounds French for a reason. So I often wondered if you could see that attitude in their work. Well, luckily I got to speak to my dear friend Pascal Sarrazin and he had a great story. It seems that the French are actually pretty much like the rest of us after all.

Keeping people motivated

Pascal told me about his work, he manages a team at a company that works on industrial printers. Recently top management was changed. And as is often the case, once you change the top: everything changes.

Quite uncertain times for all workers, Pascal’s job was to keep everybody motivated. The thing was, he wasn’t exactly sure about what he expected from his team. Or from himself. He and some other managers talked about it, and they tried to work as agile as possible. Basically, they were searching for something, they just weren’t sure where to look.

Delegation Poker

One day, after office hours, he and some colleagues went to a conference by Alexander Cuva. He talked, they listened. And after that they did some exercises, among them ‘Delegation Poker’. A game that creates a conversation about what you as an individual (or team) can decide.

Pascal had heard about it before, but didn’t quite know how to use it – he had been quite skeptical about it. It’s only a game, right? That night he came home at 2 AM. After only a couple of hours sleep he headed to work. You can imagine how he felt. Surprisingly energized!

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He immediately played Delegation Poker with his team, using some old cases as example. As it turned out, they agreed on some points, but on most other points they turned out not to be aligned. Pascal explicitly told me it hadn’t had anything to do with him trusting his team or the other way around. It just was about communication and expectation. Some interesting discussions followed and slowly they started to understand each other better.

Entering a phase of change

It brought new insights, so when people now ask him ‘what should I do?’ he asks, ‘What do you think I expect?’ Is everything perfect now? Of course not. But there are more and more indomitable Gauls that hold out against old fashioned management. For Pascal the results are great. His people have become more autonomous, but at the same time much more involved in the decision processes. His biggest win is that his management style is now in line with what he preaches. What they do doesn’t go unnoticed.

From every direction people are starting to ask questions. I think they’re getting somewhere. As Pascal puts it, ‘We are entering a phase of change, we can now see how that change will change us’. The French, they have a way with words, don’t they?

Photo by Steve-©-foto

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