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Laurent Béduneau-Wang PhD defense

The Value of Water and Performance Indicators: Strategic and Organizational Tensions in Water Industry (1853-2017)

Thesis to be defended on the 8th of december at 2:00pm at École polytechnique, Room Curie.


This PhD thesis analyses the value of water through the evaluation of water management in Paris region in the long run (1853-2017). Starting point: in 2006, the Paris region’s Water Syndicate questioned the contractual continuity with Veolia since 1923. A call for tenders was launched. A new contract is signed between the two parties. It includes 168 performance indicators (PI). To what extent do PIs provide value and manage water?

This research is based on an action-research coupled with an analysis of public and private archives over 165 years. An ethnographic observation (2012-2017), 100 interviews and the genealogy of the performance indicator system (1853-2017) highlight the construction of an PI system and its effects. Surprisingly, from managers’ viewpoint, at each period, PI generate new actors, new practices, new knowledge.

Therefore, IP as management tools reveal three functions. They produce new knowledge (cognitive function). They play the intermediaries between different actors and make water management work visible (mediating). Because, they are constitutive and constituted by links between the various actors of water management, while integrating new knowledge, they define and constantly renew what is called the "good" management of water, its value and its values. They are creating organization continuously and, in the meantime, are the product of it (organizing).

Keywords: value of water, performance indicators, evaluation, performativity, genealogy, convention


Franck AGGERI Mines ParisTech Referee
Florence ALLARD-POESI Université Paris-Est Créteil Referee
Bernard BARRAQUE AgroParisTech Examinator
Denis CHANTEUR Veolia Eau D’Ile de France (VEDIF) Examinator
Jean-Philippe DENIS Université Paris-Sud Examinator
Ann LANGLEY HEC Montréal Examinator
Eric GODELIER Ecole Polytechnique PhD Director