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We CAN (if we really want to)

Published on July 19, 2012 by: in: Thought

How is it that when we truly desire something, we will climb mountains to achieve our goal and succeed, but if we tackle things with even just a little less determination, we get the same tired old results?

Let me go back to the fall of communism and its replacement with the free market model. What we managed to achieve in 1989 and 1990 will remain forever engraved in our collective memory as the perfect transition from a totalitarian system to democracy, followed by a perfect transition from a centrally planned to a free market economy. We don’t feel particularly proud of this, mainly because most of us consider the transition as a given but which still needs work. But back then nothing was a given – you only have to look to Ukraine for an example of an irresponsibly managed introduction of a democratic system and free market. The reason that the move succeeded was the iron clad determination of the ruling elite, an awareness that this was a huge opportunity with laser-like focus on the task at hand. The calibre of the decision makers was important.

picture: Darek214

While keeping a sense of proportion, we can say we have succeeded in doing that which a few years’ ago we would have feared would fail. Firstly there was the Polish presidency of the EU which was particularly successful. The presidency is not in itself a global scale event, but the ability to smoothly lead european affairs for six months is proof that when we want to, we can. Things did not go so smoothly for the Czechs or for the Hungarians. Another example is the European Football Championship. A wise man once said that one shouldn’t count chickens before they are hatched but it is already obvious that we are capable of organizing a massive event with decent infrastructure. Basically each of the founding EU members would consider the organizing of such an effect as almost routine whereas we still have to prove to the world and to ourselves that we are capable of doing that which passes for the norm in richer countries. The question is why can we not do something purely for ourselves, applying the same commitment and precision as we do in the case of any undertaking which will be judged by the outside world. I’m referring to such basic undertakings as a radical reform of the judiciary or of the state railway system. The kind of commitment we applied to Euro 2012 could be usefully reapplied for the introduction of all new solutions in the health sector where it’s not so much that the intended changes were bad but that their implementation was sloppy and not properly thought through.

In business, before any crucial decisions are taken, all the alternatives and possible outcomes should be carefully studied in order to preempt problems – still no guarantee of success – which is why risk should be kept to a minimum. This approach is sadly far too rare in the Polish public sector. The same can be said of the way laws transit through the Polish parliament. Frequently, when a proposed law gets to the parliamentary committee stage, that is when the proponent will start tabling amendments because he or she suddenly becomes aware of all the inaccuracies. It doesn’t have to be like that – this has been proved by the way Euro 2012 has been organised. The proposed organization of any undertaking, be it a football tournament or the Polish presidency should be sufficiently detailed and accurate and contain all the necessary checks and balances. In Poland, too frequently we concentrate on projects which lack an overarching conceptual strategy. The result is not just poor preparation but the necessity to adjust and amend in the final stages. This is all pretty obvious. Obvious, but frequently overlooked. We should remember that if necessary, we are capable of stepping up to the plate.

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About Ryszard Petru

Economist, until recently director concerning strategy in BRE Bank. He was also an advisory to Leszek Balcerowicz and a specialist of the World Bank.

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