By KL Chng
The day started with a number of us experiencing ‘very mild’ hangover – recovering from marathon shots of Vodka the day before during the apero session at the Swiss Embassy which was tightly followed with a continuation at the hotel bar. The day was also spiced with light jokes, recollecting from the interesting roadtrip we had on the evening the day before when we were rushing frantically to meet the Swiss standard departure time of the chartered bus to the embassy, only to make a small loop and ended up at the same spot 30mins later due to severe traffic jam.
Leadership in Russia
Settling in back to the conference room at ICSS like days before, Dr. Alexander Lazutkin kicked start the day with the topic ‘Leadership in Russia’.
We started exchanging our perception of what we think are the qualities of typical Russian leaders. We were then explained how some of these characteristics developed and their linkages to socio-cultural and political background. During the presentation also, Hofstede model was used to contrast the leadership styles across different nations using 5 key dimensions – power distance, individualism, masculinity, uncertainty avoidance and long-term orientation. Using the model, relations and comparisons were built against Russian vs. West European cultures. Of particular interesting point was the 5 characteristics drawn as the styles of successful Russian leaders – modest and fair positioning, impeccable politeness, creation of core loyal supporter, punctuality and strong expertise. I find some of the traits described thought-provoking and in fact, quite contradictory to intuition (Just to name an example, both Kremlin and Bolshoi theatre are screaming ‘modesty’ – relations?! )
Visit to Japan Tabacco International and Kaizen in Russia
The day is followed by a journey to visit to Japan Tobacco International, a manufacturing facility producing tobacco goods.
Coming from a manufacturing environment myself, it was an exciting experience especially when it is in a high volume and fast turnover industry. It was striking to me also how Japanese Kaizen (continuous improvement) concepts penetrate through the operations – from key metrics clearly displayed on the shop floor with benchmark against other sites, tight housekeeping with application of 5S, to even calling the production floor ‘Gemba’.
While this was not surprising knowing that the company is of Japanese origin, it was very impressive to see how the various elements got integrated and meshed in the Russian culture. Being in a controversial industry, the company presented also the various philanthropy activities adopted and the strong emphasis being environmentally friendly.
Sushi and Pekin Duck in Moscow
It was free and easy evening. Some were in Pushkin restaurant – a luxurious and classy dining place, touted to be the best in Moscow. The food, as I gathered unanimously from the peers, was splendid. The ‘Asian population’ of the class (myself included) went on to hunt for some Asian food (I craved for chicken fried rice being away from it for a while :)). After some random but persevered searches, we ended up in Japanese cum Chinese restaurant which turned out to be superb with very nice Sushi and Peking duck. Ordering the food without anyone in the restaurant speaking English and with no English menu remained our laughing material for the rest of the night…