Leadership: Russia Has A Management Recruiting Problem

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November 21, 2014:   Russia continues to have problems with tech and leadership that can handle it. For example, on October 20th the private jet of a French oil company was destroyed when it was taking off from Moscow because air controllers got confused and allowed a snowplow to enter the runway the French jet was using. The snowplow driver, who turned out to be drunk, survived while the three people on the French jet (including the president of a French oil company doing business with Russia) were killed.

This incident was very embarrassing for the Russian government, which was getting some cooperation from French officials and executives despite the international economic sanctions (over Ukraine). The death of a senior French executive in a stupid accident like this does not help. Not does the worldwide publicity the incident is receiving. The snowplow operator and the new controller who coordinated the disaster were arrested along with at least three supervisors. Some of these people will go to jail, and several really senior people will lose their jobs.

The prompt dismissal of so many senior managers is actually pretty typical. Russia has a long tradition of the "vertical chop," where several senior leaders in the same chain of command are dismissed (or even executed, at least in the old days) when there was a screw up in their area of responsibility. This approach has fallen out of favor in the West, where the tendency is to fire as few people as possible when there is a major failure. After September 11, 2001, for example, no one got fired. In Russia the vertical chop was never a magic bullet because even during the Soviet period corruption and poor leadership (especially when technology was involved) was a big problem and a major reason for the collapse of the communist Soviet Union in 1991.

Despite the presence of the vertical chop and threat of jail too many workers are irresponsible and management is usually unable or unwilling to cope. Thus there is a constant stream of disasters that would have been prevented by more worker discipline and sense of responsibility as well as more active and attentive management. That solution is now being taught in Russia, and that has been the case since the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, but these alien customs have not caught on in a big way, not yet. Further complicating this is the rebuilding of the Soviet era police state by politicians who don’t want to be bothered by shifts in voter mood. This has led to political loyalty counting for more than competence when it comes to management jobs.

 

 


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