Travel Report - Paris, France

July 31, 2010

I love Paris. It has a rich history and culture, restaurants, and exciting people; who wouldn’t want to live there?One of my former students from UCLA, who is now a top entrepreneur in France, nevertheless wants to sell his company and move to the United States. When we met for lunch, I asked him, “Why do you want to leave Paris?” Here is his answer:“Paris is a great city to visit, but to live and work in … the French people make life difficult.“The French do not know what service is. They charge a fortune for lousy service, which really becomes bothersome.“But that’s not all. They expect a high standard of living, but without working for it. Apparently, they think the world should pay them royalties for the beautiful France they’ve built.“Additionally, as a businessman, I am bothered that they exhibit such disrespect for order and rules. Everyone bends them, and the government does not enforce them. Since without order it is tough to create order, the government then is forced to issue more rules, which are in turn ignored and violated.“To operate in a climate like this, it becomes necessary to violate some rules, and violating the rules becomes the norm. The end result is that, as a businessman, you operate knowing the government always has a case against you. The government probably won’t do anything about it—unless you get some powerful person upset, and then they might pull the trigger. So you live on borrowed time, or at least that is how it feels. And I am simply tired of it.”My friend, by the way, is French.His answer reminded me of the fact that although I consider Charles de Gaulle airport, in Paris, one of the most user-friendly airports in Europe (it’s designed to be easy to change gates, get in and out, or change planes), I still try to avoid it as my gateway to Europe. Instead, I use the airport I most dislike: Frankfurt, where it takes miles of walking to change planes.Why not use Charles de Gaulle? Because you never know when the French might strike, making it impossible for you to land or take off. So far, the Germans are more reliable.I reported to you in another Travel Report that in Moscow, every two hundred yards or so there is a flower shop, open twenty-four hours a day. Who, I wondered, buys flowers at midnight?Paris has its uniqueness, too. Every hundred or so yards, you’ll find a pastry and bread shop. But to find a computer, audio, or telecommunications store, I had to walk for miles—only to find that it was understocked.The secret of consulting success in France is not how much you know, but whom you know—a variable that points to the aging of the system.My next step is Moscow.AnnouncementSome of my blogs are personal reflections, unrelated to management. I have decided to create a personal website where I will publish those insights that have nothing to do with my profession or the science and art of management. I will provide a link to this new blog shortly.So there will now be two blogs by me: this one, which will deal exclusively with management-related topics; and the new one, where I will publish my personal observations about anything and everything—such as this travel report.NoteI have been asked why I started using my middle name, Kalderon, in my signature.It is my mother’s maiden name. Everyone on that side of my family perished in Treblinka, and there is no one left to carry on the name, which was hundreds of years old and originated in Spain. In 1492, the Inquisitors expelled my family from Spain because they refused to abandon the Jewish religion. I feel a deep need to keep my mother’s family name alive.Wishing you all well,Ichak Kalderon Adizes

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Dr. Ichak Adizes