Thursday, October 4, 2012

Reflections on Greece - Part 2

By Pascal Dennis

Last time, I shared my thoughts on some roots causes of the Greek malaise - government, governance and special interests.

Each makes it impossible to do anything. In Lean terms, they impose intolerable waste on the simplest activities.

Forget about the primary purpose of business - creating value & prosperity for customers & society.

Here's another root cause -- an absence of skill in, and appreciation of, manufacturing.

Making things is good for the soul - and the economy.

A few years ago my family visited our ancestral home, the lovely Roman town, Kastoria.

Beneath the beauty, there was blight.

My dear old aunt Hariclea shook her head when I asked her about it.

"There are no factories here, my dear..."

A padlock on the entrance of an abandoned factory
in Komotini town in Northern Greece

It didn't have to be that way.

In the 1980's and 90's major international firms were looking to invest in the eastern Mediterranean.

Greece - with its well-educated, multi-lingual workforce, its deep water ports, and many ties to Eastern Europe, the Middle East and Asia -- was well-positioned to benefit.

But Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou, who'd been educated in America and had an American wife, was virulently "anti-imperialist".

Rather than beating a path to corporate headquarters in Toyoda City, Stuttgart, Munich, Detroit, Fairfield CT and so on, Papandreou forged alliances with - wait for it - Gaddafi, Arafat and the Soviets.

Toyota, GE, Audi and other major internationals ended up investing in Turkey.

A generation of young Turks learned how to cut & shape metal, how assemble & test complex machinery, how to form & manage teams, how to solve problems and so on.

And another generation of talented Greeks, seeing little future, emigrated.

We are now in the midst of another Greek brain drain.

Next blog - what to do?

Best,

Pascal

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