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Introducing radical changes for TPO’s in an unstable political climate and turbulent tutorship pattern

Mr Ivan Jukl, Director of the Economic Section, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Czech Republic

I drafted this "very personal pulse" couple of hours ago when sitting with my trusted mentors and colleagues Martin and Erik in a pub. We were quite sceptic about the future of the modern approach (business development services) when provided by the Czech institutions, notably MFA.  However we were quite far from being down. Specially in my personal case, there is a bit of déja vu: our current minister of foreign affairs bought completely our philosophy of modernizing our services and even the third week in his new function he signed an MOU with the "Czech TEKEZ" which is based on our ideas of foresight! We also were encouraged to prepare some systemic changes in my (economic) section to get rid of "traditional desk officers by geography". We were expected to replace them by industry sector specialists (just the sectors where G2G role of MFA is without any discussion - water, energy, health, defense, food security,...). It rings me bell from the time some years ago when we brainstormed about this approach in Prague, then under the umbrella of the Ministry of Industry and Trade. Minister himself gave his full confidence to our CzechTrade team. It also rang Martins bell who memorized his start as the CzechTrade CEO (and founding father), crushing the walls in the organization by joining the 2nd and 3rd floors in their building explaining to young and eager colleagues that we should provide services from the point of view of the client, not just pretending to be expert for Sweden or UK but for manufacturing or design.

That "urzeit" period was about dreaming and excitement of change. A crucial aspect was the commitment and political backing of the minister himself, as the owner of the new policy. In my mind, these words are the key ones. Unfortunately, the experience tells that the owners are often followed by non-owners (not saying the word "pirates"). A long term success in driving through radical reforms in the public administration will always depend on our strength and tenacity in fighting with the short term political turbulences, trying to be tactical players and missionaries at the same time.

What we cannot control of is the time. Once you admit to spend your best years fighting with old and somehow immortal  apparatchnicks they might feel you start to loose. The best medicine is to imagine the list of people around you who belong to the same team, people who believe the same thing, people that you found and "foolished" for professional service to firms - and simultaneously building and intelligent and client friendly state. My boss Martin actually foolished me to be honest.

Tomorrow, the political drama might create other basket ball throws that make the good and evil spread into baskets within different ministries or agencies. We know, though, that it is possible to produce juicy pizza like one US corner shop in the Jack Welsh’s book. This makes me to believe that even in an appearingly hazardous, if not crazy political environment, a committed TPO community with good and professional leaders can do irreversible and unique things, creating a belief that one day small isolated victories may turn into chain of legendary winning battles.  

Every day I understand more and more the questions made by some European colleagues whether the Czech Republic is ready for the pain of moving towards radical modernization and enter in intellectually demanding new areas such as foresight exercise. I understand that every stone of a new ecosystem must fit and, of course, probably some of them are still missing. The issue of competitiveness and position of the Czech republic is however (and irrevocably) on the table and our elections may bring a brand new leaders to it.

Hopefully we will find some new TPO-CEO talents and progressive dynamism during the ETPO conference in Vienna - I wish them having eyes end ears open, there is always a lot of space for surprises to bring back home!