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So, is Poland bureaucratic?

Ever since I've moved to Poland, since 2008, the one question most asked to me by my friends & colleagues was - "is Poland bureaucratic?" Poland, having joined the European Union since more than 3 years now, ideally, should not be bureaucratic, however, looking into some of the examples gathered during these years, at times, situations and matters does give a feeling of her being bureaucratic.

Poland was once under the communist regime. There was no freedom speech let alone freedom of life & expressions. There wasn't any un-employment either, since all working hands worked for the state, mostly in factories who produced most of the goods for markets in the East. The workers were offered fixed salary. Their package was designed with a fixed salary - no commissions offered on performances, and no incentives on achievements either! Hence, this attitude may have made some or most of the people un-ambitious, lazy and probably even demotivated. This maybe one reason, we might see some similar attitudes in some of the working class even today. With Poland joining the EU, many poles have moved out of Poland to pick up jobs in West Europe and, have gained themselves a badge of both hard working & reliable category of immigrants from East Europe. Thats because, back home, they were neither offered incentives nor a salary package with bonus, incentives upon achievements etc. where they could work hard to achieve their goals and targets and make more money. Thus be able to save and invest money to develop their lifestyles. Many Poles who work out of Poland, often take the easiest jobs available and often with minimum salaries to start with. They live a simple life abroad but back home invest their incomes and savings into developing their homes and families. Which goes to show that, unlike many, if these Poles are offered a motivating package, performance can be designed to benefit.

Similarly, while a percentage of Poles moved out of Poland, immigrants from other countries have moved into Poland. If we were to study their perceptions, we may find that, Poland is both bureaucratic and probably even racist.

An English speaking businessman who moved to Poland, started with his business and got in touch with Canon Poland. Having his registered business in Poland, he wanted to re-sell Canon cameras and consumables, especially since he has been carrying the Canon brand since almost more than 2 decades. Upon calling Canon Poland to their Warsaw office, he was asked to send an email and the responsible manager shall get back to him. After having sent few emails he called back again and was told that, maybe the manager was busy, and therefore, he should wait. After a week, he called again and requested the lady at the phone to give him the name of the manager for retail and his contact details. First, she refused, but later on, upon requesting and making her realize that, it was more than a week since he did not hear from the manager, and hence, wanted to email him directly - he did get his name, Michal Jankowski and his email and phone number. Emails were sent to Michal Jankowski and calls were made but there was no reply. After 2-3 days, of follow up, he called Canon Poland again. And this time, asked the woman "are my emails and calls being ignored because I speak English. Do you realize that its been more than 2 weeks since I am emailing and calling and there has been no follow up from Michal Jankowski?" He could feel the lady did realize the point and hence she gave him the mobile number of Michal Jankowski. Calls were made to Michal's mobile number and his work phone number and emails were sent asking to at least reply with the contacts of the distributors for Canon in Poland and the service centers in Poland but there was still no reply. Once again a follow up phone call was made to Canon Poland and the lady was indeed surprised too, to hear that, there was no call or reply from Michal Jankowski. After 2 days, Michal replied detailing the website address of the distributors, not sounding apologetic at all!

Now would anyone believe that, Canon, being an multinational company and a customer service oriented brand, whose quality products followed by quality customer service counts towards its brand image and customer loyalty - would take that long to reply to its prospects? Canon Poland, may have someone, who might not like the idea of catering quality services to immigrants, but, if we narrow the talks down, we see that, it is Canon Poland who is highlighted into these talks! What perception do we get from this?

Another example to share would be that from a company Regis from Krakow in Poland. It is said that the president of the company was a former professor in Music in the University and, with funds received from banks and or other sources for e.g. EU funds for development etc. started with his company manufacturing and marketing sports nutrition and supplements. The president believes that, since during his childhood days, his grandmother would spend a lot of time cooking soup for the family, hence designs a soup based product with high protein and no fat - targeting the sports active and body builders segment. Ideally, any company would first do a market survey to fist study the potentials of such product, but at Regis, probably such market research does not mean of any use, instead, the feel of the president is what matters most. When the protein based soup was launched, the results were drastic, of course. The result, very low sales of the product. Similarly, another product was designed a BCAA ready to drink in cans. Ideally, BCAA is available in powder and or capsule or tablet form for sports active and body builders. Having a ready to drink category was something absolutely new. Once again probably no market research was conducted before the launch of the product category, however, it was designed and premium priced (with a belief that, Red Bull energy drink was the first in its category and was premium priced, hence, the BCAA ready to drink in cans is also the first in its category, hence it will also be premium priced - not knowing that Red Bull has a huge advertising budget globally whereas the BCAA ready to drink in cans had no budget at all) because, the president said so and since there was no other product similar to it. The president wishes to have his brand sold in the markets of USA, since its the most prestigious markets in the world. Experienced and skilled sales force was hired. During the hiring phase, the company makes an offer with salary and the usual benefits for e.g. medical etc. together with a bonus on achieving the sales targets. But after the probation period, the company straight away sets a condition - if you want to continue, you will not get the bonus? Further, the president designs a strategy where he wants his brand to be sold only in the markets of Europe and USA. The sales force do achieve their targets by developing markets in Europe, much within the time frame. Further, possible retail prospects in USA was also contacted but, the fact that, the brand is un-known, there is no advertising budget and the price is set too high add to that, the product is not made from natural ingredients and few more factors clearly state that the brand is not yet ready for the US markets. Instead, the sales force try and carry the brand to other developing markets, to countries where possible, to develop new markets for e.g. in Asia and middle east. And the results were indeed great. Surprisingly, since this was not part of the company strategy, as the company visions to be market their products only in Europe and USA, hence, the president decides to discontinue services from the sales force.

Strategically, this would be a clear example of bureaucracy than management decision or strategy designing. Ideally, individuals who work with emotions than market knowledge should be the ones who should be asked to leave, but in this situation, because the president is the owner of the company, therefore, it is he who designs the products, hires a team to make it and sell it and when things do not work, the team is asked to leave, while he continues to stay at his seat. The question is; how long can he continue with this attitude?

Poland is a beautiful country, with strong cultural heritage. Poles are lovely people, who may have lived under hard times during the communist regime, but with changing times now, Poland is one of the fastest developing economies in East Europe and soon, a new generation of Poles will set new examples for the world. Let not the perceptions of handful decide the performance of the whole.

Contributed by: Mohinder Pal Singh
City: Warsaw
Country: Poland
Date: December 27, 2011