Impressions from a train ride

Czech countryside from a train

I made the first of many coming train journeys between Prague and Brno this week.  Life in the Czech Republic for now is a series of first impressions.  And the first impressions you get from a train ride can be quite different than a car.  Maybe I was in a reflective mood, but the things I saw led to further reflection on what it means to be part of the global economy today.

So here goes….

The landscape

The Czech countryside is beautiful; full of rolling hills that are especially green as it’s now Spring.  Little villages and hamlets are tucked in valleys formed by larger hills or small rivers.  Pastures surround others.  You can imagine a simple, agrarian lifestyle here.

However, many villages have small factories within.

What has become of the factories?

Reflecting on the villages led me to think about those factories.

One can imagine the fate and prosperity of the village as being tied to the financial health of the factory.  Certainly this was the case in Massachusetts.  Across the state,  you see evidence of bygone prosperity in the mill towns that were once leading the Industrial Revolution but have since been left behind.

It could be worse for the Czech factories.  After all, under the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, production (“produktion”?) was determined by the State.  So, a factory in many respects had its life assured so long as the apparatchniks decided so.

Fast-forward to today, where these factories at a minimum have to compete with any others in the European Union.  And perhaps the world.  How would they survive?

Business literature is full of material on the need to specialize in the face of global competition.  Perhaps one narrows the products offered to create a very strong niche.  Or uses skills resident in the workforce but applies them to another type of product.  I’ll leave it to you to explore the topic.

Change and change management

The more I thought about those little factories, the more I realized the role that change management would play in their survival.  Imagine the upheaval of changing the products that a factory produces, and the skepticism in the workforce that it’s needed.  Or disbelief that it’s even feasible.

What might be necessary might not be what happens.  Such is our innate resistance to change.  I’m willing to bet lots of those factories are making it: the ones that embraced change.

I’ve come to believe that virtually every business challenge is about change.  More specifically, the immense difficulting of change.

I’m going to leave it at that for now.  Change management is a rich subject, and I’ll be writing about it more.  In my own company, change is afoot with the arrival of non-Czechs such as myself.  So I’m getting the experience first-hand.

Stay tuned.

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