Cornell University

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Visiting Fellow Profile

Jean-François Delplancke, France

Jean-François DelplanckeJean-François Delplancke is an Associate Professor at the European School of Management (ESCP-EAP), Paris. (ESCP-EAP is a global partner of the ILR School.) He teaches the human dimension of Management and Organizations and has a background in management, management education and clinical psychology. He was a psychoanalyst for 12 years. Jean-François Delplancke has also served as Mayor of Farges-Allichamps, France, and as an associate consultant at Harbridge House Consulting Group, London.

His current research focuses on organizational identity (OI) from the perspective of long standing companies facing strategic transformation during their development. Typically, OI researchers refer to a founding paper by S. Albert and D. Whetten (1985) in agreeing on definition of OI, i.e. “the identity of an organization consists in those elements (characteristics, beliefs, values…) collectively understood by its members as being central (essential), distinctive (differentiating) and enduring (long-lasting) about their organization.”

However, this often reduce the question of identity to a game of mirrors and the production of images without referring to the structures and context within which they are produced, i.e. What I think I am? What others think I am? What I think they think? What I would like them to think? They often sacrifice analytical depth for the need to quantify or measurement by comparison. They largely ignore the involvement of the researcher and what he/she represents to the organization. Specifically, when a person is speaking to determine primarily what one believes about his/her identity and that of the organization.

Jean-François has been interested in the concept of identity through a historian (Fernand Braudel) and his last, albeit unfinished, book about the Identity of France (1986). Paraphrasing Braudel, the identity of an organization could be understood as a sort of central problem, a fundamental and deep questioning that makes it move forward, as the living result of what the past has laid down in successive layers, the result of a process destined to perpetuate the organization, to invent and to reinvent itself.

Jean-François’s has done research at the French bank, Credit Agricole, often ranked among the top ten banks in the world (number 7 in terms of assets). In hindsight, Credit Agricole can be considered a hybrid organization since its origins. On the one hand by the mutualism that developed throughout Europe in the latter half of the 19th century, on the other hand by the centralism of a secular and anticlerical State that was seeking to assert itself.

More recently, over a period of 15 years, a renewed hybridization process has taken place. In 1988, Credit Agricole negotiated its independence from the French state and, in 2001, 45% of CASA shares (the Group central body) were listed on the Stock Exchange.

In terms of methodology, in contrast with what we can usually find in the field of OI, the approach is very qualitative, anthropological, and subjective. The investigation takes the form of an identity quest involving games and transactions between the organization and the researcher. The process of having access to data and to the identity of the organization is at the very center of the investigation which is based on the researcher’s involvement, immersion in the organizational life, and participation in the power structure. In this context, Jean-François was co-opted last year and elected as a board member of one of the Group key regional banks. As a result, it is stimulating and challenging to understand the identity of the organization. Not so much through the data analysis on the question of “Who we are as an organization” or “Who do they think we are,” but through key questions that the organization tries to address without ever finding definitive answers.

Jean-François will be at ILR through June, 2007. While he is at Cornell, his research objectives are to: justify, make more explicit and sharpen his methodology; make sense of the numerous field notes he’s been accumulating over the years; and discuss/question the advantages (and drawbacks) of his approach compared with those usually developed in the OI domain.

Curriculum Vitae
Faculty Sponsor: Professor Bill Sonnenstuhl
ILR Visit through June, 2007

- Jean-François Delplancke

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