Monday, March 16, 2015

Greece Again, part 2

By Pascal Dennis

Picking up on my earlier blog, here’s a personal story that may shed some light on Greece’s current condition.

My Aussie cousin, Chris, runs a department store in Melbourne. He’s a splendid bloke – three kids, fine wife, and a proud Aussie.

Our granddads, Stavros and Nikos, were brothers. One brother went west to North America, the other southeast through the Suez Canal to Oz.

“How did they decide which way to go?,” I asked Chris. “I think they just flipped coin, mate,” he replied. But for a coin toss, we often joke, I’d have grown up in Melbourne, and he in Toronto!

Anyhow, Chris has a big heart, and a few years back offered to help a young relative who was living in Kastoria, Greece in his parents’ basement. The kid unemployed, like 50% of Greek youth.

Chris offered him a job in his department store, and lodging in Chris’ home till he got established.

“How many hours do I have to work?” the kid asked.

“Six days a week, up to ten hours a day for the first few years, till you learn the business. It gets easier after that.”

Chris takes up the story. “Then the phone goes silent, mate. ‘Did you say six days a week, ten hours a day?’, the kid says. ‘I can’t do that!’ And his parents agreed! So the kid is still living in their basement.”

The story is a microcosm, and is made worse by Greek parents’ inexplicable desire to ‘make life easy’ for their babies - with predicable results.

By contrast, life was hard for the Greeks who joined the great immigration waves of the early 1900’s, and after WWII. There was no work they would not take on.

Their achievements and contribution speak louder than words. “The Greeks of Melbourne are different than Greeks in Athens”, says Chris. In my experience, the same is true of the Greeks in Toronto, Chicago, and New York City. (I have family in each town.)

Don’t want to be misunderstood. There are many smart, capable and ambitious young Greeks. But those that can read the chessboard are skedaddling, as they have for centuries.

In Lean terms, Greece is the land of waste and variation, run by corrupt special interests including unions, protected industries, and an enormous, indolent Civil Service.

As a result, foundation stones like value, ‘customer in’, standardized work, visual management and respect for people are missing. It’s a damned shame. Greece could be Denmark. (In fact, it’s a shame Greece can’t outsource governance to the Danes!)

Sometimes things fall apart, and there’s nothing you can do.

Best regards,


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