Thursday, December 29, 2011

The unromantic Italian

"Premier Mario Monti outlined his austerity package to union leaders and a youth delegation at a cabinet meeting in Rome, after which he said “Italians are to blame for our public debt," reports WSJ, 5th Dec.

Leadership indeed demands 'selling' one's game plan if it is to get ‘buy-in.’ But it also is objective, calling a spade a spade so there is clarity on what the challenge is and its ownership, thus raising the probability of execution. [Execution is the acid test of competitiveness and thus while access to information is democratic, there is only one Apple, for example.] It takes a big person to admit to a big sin; and it takes true leadership to get the people take ownership of a nation’s failings.

But there is a positive dimension to accepting failures, and as Christians we know it as repentance and faith. Yet human as we are, it is not easy to accept half a century of mediocre performance. Should we then lift a page from the playbook of the private sector? Business managers have learned that accepting failure is the first step to redemption; and Europeans are quick to point out that the American bankruptcy law has proved to be an advantage for the US. But then again, redemption has been in the fabric of the American culture – and so to be holier-than-thou is ridiculed – though the hypocrisies coming from some quarters are growing.

How does the private sector do it? To reinvent an enterprise, they pursue the development of a ‘new culture’ that would sustain success. For example, A.T. Kearney, a consultancy, has identified five common culture dimensions world-class organizations possess: (1) achievement, (2) customer, (3) innovation, (4) people and (5) efficiency. They also recognize that the key is to focus on a couple while ensuring that they don’t turn their back on the others. Put another way, no organization can be tops in all dimensions.

Applying this set of dimensions to the Italian challenge, clearly they would want to reinvent themselves and be committed to ‘achievement.’ And that would mean lowering the national debt while investing in innovation in order for industry to be competitive, for example. (And Fiat-Chrysler is showing the way. Chrysler has had a dramatic turnaround from bankruptcy two years ago, accounting for two-thirds of Fiat’s latest quarter profit, with US auto sales up 25% this year, owing to a revamped product portfolio, Reuters, 6th Dec.) Italy could also address the issue of efficiency since many tradition-bound Italian businesses have yet to adopt 21st century practices. “A lot is at stake; we cannot permit ourselves to live the way we did before,” says Monti, [and] “he is facing a power battle — and a culture clash — with lawmakers.” [NY Times, 16th Dec.]

Clearly in the Philippines it is a must we demonstrate a culture of ‘achievement’, recognizing how dismal our economy has been for over half a century. And just like the Italians, we need to in short order pursue innovation to be globally competitive. And it follows we have to be more efficient, starting with the building blocks of power generation, basic infrastructure and strategic industries.

In the meantime the Italian premier is demonstrating that to be an unromantic Italian is in fact what patriotism or nationalism is about? In short, we need to become bigger men and women and admit to bigger failings? We could only reinvent ourselves to the extent that we admit our failures. As social psychology (c/o Kurt Lewin) tells us, we have to unlearn [or unfreeze] so we could provide room to relearn [or change and refreeze].

Our leadership could similarly fine-tune its ‘selling job.’ Beyond pushing ‘daang matuwid’ President Aquino would do the country a big favor if he is able to get ‘buy-in?' And which should give him the ability to lead us to reinvent ourselves by focusing on a couple of culture-like dimensions?

No comments:

Post a Comment