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Published on 2022-01-30 08:05:00 | words: 4058
This article is really focused on the Italian Presidential elections but in terms of continuity- i.e. what happens after the election.
As I do not have a crystal ball, as I did long ago when listed two options (continuity of President Mattarella for a while, and potentially former President of the Camera dei Deputati Casini), will just share why I am thinking at some options for the post-election actions.
In my previous "why", started months ago, and latest earlier this week, I had listed, after President Mattarella repeatedly declined the invitation to a second mandate, why former President Casini could be a transition candidate.
As I am writing, the consensus is converging on a petition from the leaders of all the parties that are supporting the current Italian Government.
The aim? Beg President Mattarella to stay for a second mandate- or, as it happened almost a decade ago, back then with President Napolitano, a "second writ large shorter" mandate.
But, before digging into Italian potential future, a digression on what is happening that should affect decision-making in Italy (albeit, sometimes, we seem to live in another planet).
In this article:
_meanwhile, in the neighborhood...
_then, in Europe...
_finally, in Italy now...
_a shopping list
Meanwhile, in the neighborhood...
So, here we are again.
A weakened USA President plays the foreign affairs way, sabre-rattling anyway as far away as possible from homeland, but way too close to the European shores.
I do not know if the Ukrainian President and the USA President are playing "bad cop, good cop", one shuttling troops into Eastern Europe, the other asking sanctions on what our American allies (I still hold a European Union passport) had been asking for a while, going as far as offering to replace energy imports from Russia with energy imports from USA.
My angle? I would like to avoid yet another war in the neighborhood- our American friends, in this century, have been good at starting, dragging in a coalition of the willing, and then pulling out: look at Afghanistan, from Talibans to war and... back to Talibans.
While reading today about the (re)newed opium production, I remembered an old UK TV show of decades ago about how that "crop" what much more productive and more resistant to price fluctuations than, say, corn.
To say nothing about the other wars in the neighborhood, whose results still deliver daily sad news items and a continuing crisis.
The point of this preamble is: post-Brexit, the European Union will be outside the Five Eyes Alliance, which includes Australia, Canada, New Zealand, UK, USA.
It might seem a minor detail, but it has other implications on access to information- do not forget why, after the Balkan Wars, European Union went the Galileo.
It might be less than perfect to have as energy sources potential stategic competitors, i.e. Russia but increasingly also USA.
Nonetheless, that is the reality: do not forget that has been at least a couple of centuries since European powers went around looking for raw materials and energy sources to support the first industrial revolution.
The strategic game now is to support the fourth industrial revolution, which requires a completely different set of resources.
Then, in Europe...
We are living the two transitions- green and digital.
COVID19, for all the misery that generated (and, looking at some research, might generate in the future, due to potential chronic side-effects), was a catalyst to push forward what had been on the drawing table (actually, in different combinations of details, on many drawing tables) in Europe.
Since at least the late 1990s, when OECD pushed for the use of Internet by Member States, under the nickname e-government.
Until 2020, we still had a patchwork of national interests pretending to deliver both transitions, but Brexit helped to streamline some in-house strategic competition, albeit still some contries, e.g. Visegrad group members sometimes sound as they are asking the others to subsidize their own strategic aims, aims that are set elsewhere.
The 2021 "Quirinale Treaty" extended to Italy a "special relationship" with France similar to the one set up by the 1963 Elysée Treaty between France and Germany.
While Italy was busy in playing kingmaking and settling inter- and intra-political party scores in preparation of the next elections, Germany and France interacted on the Ukraine crisis.
Also because there is always a lingering doubt about the actual interests underlying this crisis, e.g. the much displeased (across The Pond) pipelines.
I will not comment about the call between President Macron and President Putin- but my first reaction was to remind something that if I am not wrong I read in 1983 in my first visit in London, within a book on and by former Secretary Kissinger years at the White House, about the phone number to call in Europe when something happen.
My view on President Macron is still the same- would be easier after a second mandate as President of the French Republic, but since the first debates in his previous election he sounded to me as if the aim was to start with France, aggregate others toward further integration and then, maybe, become the first directly elected President of the European Union.
I know that there as a thousand "ifs" within the previous paragraph, but the exit of UK simplified a bit the task, again in my view- but more about this later.
What matters within the context of this article is: yes, the implementation of the Quirinale Treaty requires a cultural change- read those few pages, and, if you worked in both France and Italy, and interacted or exchanged ideas with those working within either "state machinery", you can see something really more complex than what most newspapers discussed when it was announced.
It will take time- but, in this case, in Italy, our internal gaming and scheming resulted in being de facto sidelined.
No wonder: until the current "diarchy" that emerged (Mattarella-Draghi) in Italy was either confirmed or evolved into something else, any serious discussion would have been dragged into our internal political bickering: we Italian love to read "relational tea leaves", and often sound as a country of 1960s Kremlinologists reborn.
When I was working in supporting other companies in Italy and abroad, in any negotiation, account management, project/programme management generally looked to have a single communication point, a kind of President Truman's "the buck stops here".
Actually, as an account manager, before taking over the management and negotiation of any account, beside an initial more or less formal audit, I also at the first chance did introduce such a structure, i.e. a local "antenna" full-time on the relationship, working on the day-by-day within the agreed framework but reporting any trends/risks/incidents that might affect the relationship, plus (myself) as the communication line at the decision-making level, to avoid any overlapping, misunderstandings, or confusion.
And I did the same also when I was called once in France to improve sales negotiation activities, or working on individual negotiations.
Let's be frank: our approach that whenever we have to negotiate with have three Presidents (Council, Commission, Parliament) with varying degrees of power, plus somebody in charge of foreign affairs but playing often second fiddle is at best unmanageable in a crisis- it takes too long.
We need something more structured, a better delegation of powers and definition of boundaries- like it or not: look at how well worked the Triumvirate in Ancient Rome, at the end of the Roman Republic...
Finally, in Italy now...
And now, the diarchy in Italy.
In previous, recent articles shared my doubts about having President of the Council of Ministers Draghi transition to the Quirinale right now.
It is the perfect storm of managing the COVID19 crisis, the Italian side of the new European Union initiative to recover and reposition the EU, both on the economic and social side, and carrying out some reforms that have been lingering for a while.
Yes, economic and social side- as that is what really the dual green and digital transition, as shown in books that I reviewed and shared in the past (e.g. Keese - Silicon Germany - ISBN 9783328101925 - 4/5 and Di Martino - Ricchi per caso: la parabola dello sviluppo economico italiano - ISBN 9788815271440 - 3.5/5).
In Italy, the last quarter of 2021 saw an increase in the number of announces about companies cutting down their production or even relocating elsewhere- but way too often newspapers associated that just to competitiveness or even just COVID19-stagnation (soon stagflation, according to some), despite statistics showing a bounce-back of production and exports.
If you were to actually read those two books together, you would see that both green and digital transformation imply a massive shift in business patterns, while COVID19, at least in Italy, pushed toward different social structures- e.g. working remotely as an ordinary event, instead than just an exception (I worked routinely remotely or travelling since the late 1980s, but I was unusual).
In other countries, where e.g. millions on daily basis commuted, this has created certainly some economic impacts.
In Italy, it was routine to extend to private life the social element of business life, something that abroad was common in "closed communities" (e.g. military), and this new set of patterns are actually starting to affect also ordinary social life.
In 2020, when the COVID19 crisis started officially, reported on the economic side and indirect social costs, e.g. shops in towns used to "office dwellers" shopping there- from lunch, to the early morning breakfast, to routine coffee breaks, up to clothing shops in office areas or even shopping malls around major office buildings.
I have always been quite unusual in Italy, as few people from my business were ever invited to my home.
Abroad, as I wrote above, I found this quite common, e.g. in UK exchanged visits or was introduced to the families and friends of few colleagues.
In Italy, it is much more common to have the "tribal" element- since the 1980s, I worked mainly on missions, even when I was a "resident" for few years, but here it is customary to spend a lifetime in the same company, and even after just few months is not out of the ordinary to invite colleagues in your spare time, e.g. outings blending families.
The "new" way of working is taking its toll on the social element within Italian business, what made a continuum between business and private life sustainable, and turning into something similar to what I observed in the early 1990s while working as "resident" on a cultural and organizational change programme.
The issue was: the company had been build in a specific area, with people from that area or surrounding areas, and, as many companies, employees felt as if "member of a family", also when the company started having hundreds of employees.
At the time, due to the lack of enough local talent as requested by a fast growing company, the company offered new employees from across the country various benefits to relocate- from temporary housing, to shared vacation houses, to tickets to music events, various discounts, etc.
The issue? I was training project managers in a new approach, and during Q&A sessions many reported that motivating people was becoming harder and harder.
In reality, when they described what "motivating" meant to them, and observed/listened to new employees relocated from elsewhere, the issue was a cultural difference: expanding fast, the company was unable to "bring into the cultural bubble" as fast as was hiring new people, and many of the new hired relocated (both from North and South) to have a job, work, not to join a "company family".
I saw them some of the new hired integrating, but after three years I was there only on missions for the CEO, and therefore did not have again the daily contact on the operational side, to see how the culture had evolved.
Anyway, as I was living abroad and working in few countries, was routinely comparing countries and behaviors in companies, both vertically (e.g. in some companies, small as well as large, in different countries, if the boss was not there, people was not working as hard as when the boss was there), and horizontally (e.g. in the same conditions, the informal "horizontal collaboration networks" sometimes were stronger than any "organizational silos").
Since returning in Italy full-time in 2012, I had a chance to keep comparing social behaviors in few locations around the country (albeit most of the time in Turin, where I work now).
The first lockdown in Italy, I was really locked down: as I was in a different location, simply yellow, orange, red were all the same to me.
It was therefore interesting to read/listen about how ordinary life changed for others around Italy, and then go around town and observe small changes that eventually piled up.
Italy right now needs both a healer and a manager, and less melodrama than usual.
So, probably President of the Republic Mattarella is the healer, and President of the Council of Minister Draghi is the manager.
A shopping list
And this is, at last, my shopping/wish list for the next round of the diarchy, not just the next term of the President of the Republic.
I know that in Italy many play the "cui prodest" (who benefits) game, as I wrote often in the past talking about "tribal Italy".
But, frankly, the idea should be that, in the current situation, beside the initial joke about having at least both President Mattarella and President Draghi where they are until the next elections (2023), what do we really need?
To pave the way for the initial healing and management phase (both part of the "piano nazionale di ripresa e resilienza", a.k.a. PNRR, a.k.a. national plan of recovery and resilience, part of the EU Recovery and Resilience Facility, a.k.a. RRF, part of the NextGenerationEU initiative).
If had had now President of the Republic Draghi and anybody else at Palazzo Chigi (as President of the Council of Ministers), the main risk would have been of having two Presidents second guessing each other, at a time when, as discussed in the first two sections, beside internal socio-economic issues in Italy, the overall European and global context requires something more than gossip about the menu served at this or that summit.
Yes, the latter is a tradition of Italian newspapers.
Maybe this would be also the right time to start preparing for what's next.
So, we need to have in place both the healing and oversight associated with the President of the Republic, and the management and implementation associated with Government action, coordinated by President of the Council of Ministers.
I will not write about the other candidates, you can see my commentary on my facebook profile since Monday January 24th.
We are not in Kansas anymore, to quote the Wizard of Oz, and there is no pot filled of gold coins somewhere over the rainbow.
Just: plenty of work to do- and plenty of healing and fixing, while also trying to improve and converge a bit more with other countries.
The journey to the completion of the PNRR and associated measures, from an Italian perspective, will be a "via Crucis" full of stations (the missions and objectives implementation "en route" checkpoints).
But we will not have the chance to focus just on that- also if being able to follow such a detailed roadmap would already be quite a feat, considering the organizational culture and history of the Italian State (and local) bureaucracies.
At the same time, we will need also to synchronize with what is going on along with other EU Member States.
Why? Because Italy has been falling behind since at least the beginning of the XXI century- we entered the Euro, and in January 2002, while I was living in London, I decided anyway to spend my New Year Eve in Turin to be able to withdraw Euro banknotes as soon as possible.
Still, we, as a country and socio-economic system, entered the Euro exhausted, as we had already some unsolved issues at least since the 1990s- and the 2008 crisis did not help, and neither did the 2020 crisis.
I doubt that 2022-2023 would be enough to build the foundations of the "new ordinary" in Italy, and not even if it would be enough to build just a roadmap that is workable, achieves enough tribal consensus to get a fair chance to be implemented, etc.
But I do know, and observed in each project or start-up I was involved in or meeting I had in (as well as discussion and data collection about) Italy since the late 1990s that we are far, far away from being in a "steady state", or even "an ordinary country".
Italy has been walking a rope for decades, and since then all the different dimensions of the social fabric, from labour market structure up to national debt have been not really showing a good trend.
So, I think that we will have at least three layers to work on: _the healing side: social recovery from the COVID19 but also paving the way for the needed cultural change
_the managing side: economic recovery and using the funding for the PNRR to seed also the transition
_the restructuring side: transitioning the overall socio-economic fabric of the country while integrating with the future.
Therefore, the "green and digital transitions" are good for newspaper titles, but a convergence toward a couple of "minimal expectations" (the percentages of national recovery and resilience plan requests aimed at those two transitions) is but the surface element, requiring something deeper to make it sustainable, i.e. structural, i.e. long-term.
You can have a look at a dataset on UN SDGs across the EU 27 that uploaded 2 years ago on Kaggle: UN SDG - EU 27 sample datamart (subset for 7 KPIs).
No, I do not plan to update it- I had extracted the data on 2019-11-11, i.e. pre-COVID19, and that shows how Italy was already out-of-tune back then.
Reason: whenever there is a global crisis, from 9/11, to 2008, to COVID19, we Italians seem to forget our starting point, and dump on that crisis the source of our current status- quite a good way for our leaders to claim that they are neither guilty nor responsible.
In a tribal socio-economic structure, where the balance of powers is constantly changing, the scapegoats have to be searched elsewhere, as no tribe can be a scapegoat, considering that eventually could be a party in a new alliance.
You probably know that, whenever talking or thinking about "roadmaps" and "plans" I focus on constantly assessing their cultural and organizational feasibilities, which, of course, includes assessing and monitoring continuously the capabilities to execute.
Somebody else said/wrote that few plans survive a contact with reality, but that is the reason why, while being an unreformed optimist always looking for solutions, leaving others to mount yet another inquisition to look for scapegoats, I think that no roadmap and no plan or political platform are worth the paper they are written on unless you consider two elements: _degrees of freedom available
_identifying the weakest links.
The two bullet lists above have one point in common: neither is static.
What today is part of healing (i.e. an asset), tomorrow could become a way to perpetuate what already failed times and again (i.e. a liability).
Ditto for managing.
Ditto for restructuring.
And also the degrees of freedom and weakest links are to be assessed dynamically.
There is, anyway, in any cultural and organizational intervention I experience directly or indirectly, a starting point that helps.
First, of course, is considering the current and expected capabilities- as an example, look e.g. at the timeframe overview I did in 2020 for an Italian law: you cannot expect to implement using infinite resources (or no resources at all).
Then, having a clear assessment of where you are- you can have a look at few examples that I shared on GitHub around the PNRR theme.
Yes, many of the "position papers" presented while the PNRR was designed were at least biased.
Still, represented a caleidoscopic perspective on the same reality, and could help to identify both degrees of freedom and weakest links.
I know that this could sound as an oversimplification, but I like to start with pigeonholing tentatively roadmaps along time, and then amend as needed (or as information comes through).
Going back to the three layers, I would say that could be reasonable to consider: _the healing side- on 2-3 years, as anything longer would allow temporary solutions to turn into habits that would require a further set of cultural change initiatives, and three years is the least time that I saw workable for any cultural change, no matter how small
_the managing side- in this case, the timeframe is the one defined by NextGenerationEU and Brussels (i.e. say at least 2027)
_the restructuring side- is probably the less politically appealing but much needed element, and the one that will gain anybody involved into it more enemies.
So, my shopping list would be the healing and managing sides (plus the associated oversight: call "healing" and "managing" yin and yang, if you prefer).
But would hope to see some small actions and continuous debate- having multiple tribes could, this time, become an asset in trying to understand all the angles and their evolution across time, while trying to implement a new Italy.
As for the "restructuring" element: I am afraid that, unless we get back into our decision making and action plans the integration of the overall context, as hinted at in the first two sections of this article, we will just pave the way for yet another crisis.
Italy is rich enough to keep drifting for decades- but eventually drifting would result in going into a tipping point, where it would not be a matter of 3,000 or 3,500bln EUR in national debt, but the underlying failure of the socio-economic structure to hold together.
For now, let's see what the next week will bring- stay tuned.