If the EU were a company

It’s hard not to write about Greece these days. Over the past 5 years, Greece has not been out of the news. I will not bore you with another political or economic analysis. As one COO always used to say: we are where we are, so let’s move on.

As a Europhile, I can’t really say I’m happy with how the EU is handling the crisis. As an HR professional, let me make the following comparison:

If the EU were a company, shrinking a division’s revenue with 25% (Greece), accumulating losses while obstinately claiming that the non-working strategy will bring positive results in the long run, I’m convinced the Board of the company would have taken action. Removing the leadership team of the company, including the CEO, would have started sometime in year 2. The board would not have stopped there. The divisional leadership, its structure, processes, strategy and people would have been thoroughly reviewed and corrected. Any plan seeking board approval would need to show growth and perspective, no matter what.

I will leave it to you to draw any political or economic conclusions out of this metaphor.

There is however one important leadership lesson I want to draw your attention on.

Successful turnaround stories in companies all over the world share the implementation of a cultural shift. Failing companies need to address their corporate culture first and foremost. Innovation, a willingness to try different strategies and risk-taking are key elements of any positive cultural shift.

Like Greece, the EU needs a cultural shift. It needs to get the EU citizens to embrace adaptability, dialogue and tolerance as a cultural norm. Opposing viewpoints or country-cultures can no longer be a barrier to collaborative success. We need to stop thinking and acting on a national level, lift our head and start thinking on a European one.

Our leaders today sadly fall short on this front. But, unlike in a company, don’t we get the leaders we deserve? Have we not voted for them?

I hereby attach a cartoon by Ilias Makris I found on published on 10/07/2015


I’m a Europhile

I’m a Europhile. Not by sentiment or delusion but by conviction. I believe the European countries to be a 19th century invention with no value-add on the political and economic front in the 21st. I fear Europe is slowly turning into a museum against the background of a desolate economic landscape. Europeans need to stop wishing the world would go back to like it was fifty years ago. I have to agree with Larry Page of Google that it is hard to build a company of global import in Europe, just like decisions contrary to the global system of capital need to be taken consciously. I’m also convinced Europe can build its own future if it stops looking back into the mirror. The only future for European countries is to fade out into a bigger, stronger, more diverse but definitely more agile political, social, cultural and economic democratic powerhouse.

Does that mean we need to lose our identity, history, culture, values, languages, and ways of life or anything that truly defines us? I would think not. Our heritage is our richness and strength. It is an incomparable pool of resources, personified in the millions who live the European identity today. Education, creativity, knowledge are plenty. Nor on critical mass: we’re hundreds of millions. In short, we have probably one of the richest bases to build upon.

Does that mean we need to open our minds to a new reality? I would think yes. The rest of the world is moving at a pace we’re oblivious to. We need to put our education, creativity and knowledge to work in a new and resourceful way. Europe cannot globally compete in a straightjacket, which is the obsolete industrial model imprisoning employers and employees in antique legislation and labour practices. We need a 21st century model. This will be a recurring topic in future blogs.

Another illusion is that you cannot be a Europhile and still criticize the Brussels’ moloch for grabbing decision power without involving its citizens. The current democratic deficit in Europe is huge and needs addressing before we lose the hearts and minds of its inhabitants. The lack of transparency in decision making of this undemocratic giant, with its labyrinth of institutions and lobbyists, makes it suspect and misunderstood. Again here, we need a 21st century model its citizens will support to govern and legislate the EU. We definitely do no longer need 28 constitutions with 28 national flavours and as many holy cows.

I also understand that questions that really matter in life are slow questions and that debate, dialogue and due process have their place. But resistance for resistance’s sake or for some misguided romantic notion of a 19th century construct of a country is unhelpful, counterproductive and not bettering anybody’s life. European countries cannot continue to ignore the world has become a village and continue to play silly games. A unified market needs unified rules. A house divided cannot stand.

I’ll be blogging about anything and everything related to working in the EU. Most countries face massive unemployment, slow growing economies, lack of foreign investment with no improvement in sight. In the EU, we have an army of graduates struggling to find a job like we have millions of experienced men and women sitting idle whenever they turn 55. It’s high time we mobilize these resources and offer them a perspective of a full life, including work in some shape or format.