The Origins of Team Work at Renault

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Freyssenet M., The Origins of Team Work at Renault, in Sandberg A. (ed.), Enriching Production, Avebury, Aldershot, UK, 1995, pp. 293-305. Digital publication,, 2007, 200 Ko, ISSN 7116-0941.

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The chapter is a translation in English of a communication presented in French at the first international group “Employment relationships” of GERPISA, in Lower Slaughter (UK), 24-26 february 1994.

Approximatively, the same text was published twice the same year.

Freyssenet M., “The Origins of Team Work at Renault", in Boyer, R., Freyssenet, M. (dir.), Actes de la Troisième Rencontre In-ternationale du GERPISA, “Les nouveaux modèles industriels”, 15-16-17 juin 1995, Paris, Ministère de l’Enseignement Supérieur et de la Recherche, volume 4, pp 51-62.

Freyssenet M., "The origins of Team Work at Renault", in Boyer, R., Freyssenet, M. (dir.), "L'émergence de nouveaux modèles industriels, The Emergence of New Industrial Models", volume 3, "Le travail en équipe dans l'industrie automobile, Group Work in Car Industry", GERPISA, Évry, 1995, pp 72-83.


Team work emerged at Renault as an attempt to reform work, but it was opposed insofar as it threatened the basic industrial principles of decomposition of work into additive operations and continuous flow of production. The enrichment of work and the development of a professional career for unskilled workers have nevertheless remained significant themes. As a result of the type of automation selected, new problems have been posed: ensuring continuous functioning, organizing tasks which are heterogenous and do not occupy people full time, and rapid breakdown repair. Team work was seen as permitting the introduction of these new norms of work into the automated areas as well as offering an enriched type of work and a career path for workers. The success of some of the organizational forms adopted, the Japanese experience, the need to mobilize the personnel to improve results, and the need to form new alliances with the unions led to the decision to spread team work to all factory areas, whether or not they are automated. In this process, the definition and the application of team work have led to the disappearance of the more audacious formulas adopted at the start of the 1980s, as much regarding the function of the team motivator (animateur) as regarding relations with maintenance.

While for Japanese automobile producers team work was and remains a means of getting employees to participate in improving productivity, quality and flexibility, rather than a means of responding to disaffection with industrial work (which is more the case today), at Renault, the theme of enriching work and offering a career path to workers remains one of the essential factors behind the choice of this form of work organization, even if other considerations and imperatives have arisen to embed it, redefine it and justify it for all.

The organizational and social dynamic which the work teams are capable of engendering, and which some managers hope for, will nonetheless reach a limit. If it begins to threaten the basic industrial principles of additivity and linearity (and this ought to be the logical consequence of seeking the primary causes of the dysfunctionalities of sequential production), that will open up a difficult debate within the firm, just as happened in the 1970s.


1. The "crisis of work" in the 1960s and the first experiments with team work
2. The relaunch of team work in the automated areas
3. The homogenization of different forms of team work and its diffusion beginning in the second half of the 1980s

Key words

Automobile, Automobile industry, car makers, employment relationships, team working, team leaders, maintenance, automatized workshops, reform of work, social conflicts.

Concerned disciplines

Anthropology, Economics, Ergonomics, Management, History, History of Sciences and Technologies, Engineering, Cognitive sciences, Political Science, Psychology, Sociology.

Writing context

to personal questioning
to scientific reflexion of research laboratory or network
to national and international scientific debate
to diffusion of scientific results
to implementation of scientific results

References, commentaries, critics

Curent relevance

See also

Sandberg Å. (ed.), Enriching Production. Perspectives on Volvo’s Uddevalla plant as an alternative to lean production, Avebury, Aldershot (UK), 1995, 459 p. Digital edition, New Preface, Åke Sandberg, Stockholm, 2007. Digital publication,, 2007, 5,7 Mo, ISSN 7116-0941.

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2007.03.14, Freyssenet M., “The Origins of Team Work at Renault”, in Sandberg A. (ed.), Enriching Production, Avebury, Aldershot, UK, 1995, pp. 293-305. Digital publication,, 2007, 200 Ko.

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