On the difficult art of reform…

The immediate flood of reactions and comments following the French Education Minister, Vincent Peillon’s declarations about summer holidays, proves once again how tricky it can be to bring reform to this country.

Not that public consultation is a waste of time. But in this instance, as in many others, immediate reactions in the name of conserving the status quo, can often drown out considered suggestions for change. The French are very skilful at mustering impassioned arguments against anything which could be seen as a regression.
And yet in so many areas, our country is in dire need of reforms and evolutions, whether it be the economy, education, public finance or social provision.
So how can these reforms be brought to fruition ? This is the question every leader asks him or her self, when faced with the overriding necessity to push through changes made necessary by an evolving context. Political will comes into its own in these situations. Courageous reforms are not evaluated by how popular they make you. And genuine reforms often leave little room for appeasement, becoming meaningless if they concede here and there to the lobbies of the moment.
This is the case for the Education Minister, as it is for any leader : the delicate art of reform requires above all a precise political plan, with clear objectives, enabling each party to find the right position in relation to it. Beyond differences of opinion and the scope of public consultation, it will be up to him to make the final decision, with full knowledge of the facts.
And this is also what is going on in our sector of activity, where yet again stuctural reforms presuppose an inventive approach, within a domain which is resolutely turning its back on its historical foundations. It would be pointless to elevate these historical foundations to some kind of mythical ideal, although it is obviously not about negating history and a sense of identity. We all know that a clearly understood reform has to first of all be based on a principle of explanation. But when the time for decision comes, it cannot be based on unanimous agreement. So the leader alone must take responsibilty for the decision, and remain accountable for it before his or her citizens.
For both government ministers and managers or directors, spearheading reform is above all a matter of political courage, with no room for petty compromises, how ever challenging this may be !
The President
Francis BOUTEN