Dealing with the New Russia – Management Cultures in Collision

Philip R. Harris , PhD (President of Harris International Ltd. in LaJolla, California; management psychologist and author, including Managing Cultural Differences; member EBR Editorial Advisory Board.)

European Business Review

ISSN: 0955-534X

Article publication date: 1 June 2000




Harris, P.R. and PhD (2000), "Dealing with the New Russia – Management Cultures in Collision", European Business Review, Vol. 12 No. 3, pp. 174-176.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

For managers and professionals hoping to do business within the former USSR or with Russians, this is a most pragmatic and useful guide. In fact, the authors intended dealing with the new Russia for “business adventurers” seeking to understand, deal with, and cope within the post‐Soviet “Second World”. The subtitle offers a telling insight, “Management Cultures in Collision”. For the practice of “management” globally is a worldwide microculture influenced by Western thinking, values, and practices. Its free market enterprise orientation contrasts dramatically with the totalitarian, bureaucratic, central planning approach that has dominated the former Eastern European Bloc of nations under Soviet influence for up to seven decades. Indeed the two management systems are likely to collide, so that authors rightly argue for a transformation of Russian business and management.

This volume is well written and organized. Its ten chapters are packed with useful information and helpful insights. Throughout are gray half tone boxes of practical observations on wide‐ranging topics from Five‐year Plans to Climate and Geography. The glossary alone is worth the price for it is filled with 17 pages of definitions about essential terminology for doing business in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). Further, there is a comprehensive listing of recent resources and references. The contents should prove valuable to global managers and consultants, as well as to students of cross‐cultural management.

Since Russia is a relationship‐oriented culture, much emphasis is placed here on building closer personal and professional ties with counterparts there. A special focus for this presentation is historical and cultural context so as to understand the present situation. Thus, much coverage is given to the “way it was” under the Soviets, and perhaps not enough on “the way it is” in the current state of profound transition in this former “superpower.” For example, if one goes to the index, the words “chaos”, “corruption”, “bribery”, or (Russian) “mafia” do not appear. Yet, we are all aware of the social instability, economic woes, influence‐peddling, political in‐fighting and power struggles under way as the old empire breaks up and even civil war threatens. Despite massive foreign aid and investment, Russia still lacks a business climate to assure outsiders. This treatise does not address the need for legal and economic reforms, new legislation and infrastructure, and other such contemporary requirements if Russia is to perform successfully in the global marketplace.

Yet this work has much to recommend it, such as material on the challenges facing Russian managers and their interface with Western partners. There are also unique discussions related to language deficiencies and communication breakdowns, even including the toasting with vodka as a form of business interaction. Russian sensitivities are well covered so as to facilitate exchanges with these Slavic peoples. The work was written with concern for the Russian presence in “vast tracts of Eastern Europe and Asia, which are under Russian political and cultural hegemony”. There are very valued sections on “how Russians see Western consultants”; “transforming Soviet management”; and “language barriers”. The concluding chapter offers a synopsis of the book’s principal themes under the heading of “relationship management”. As an increasing number of policy makers, practitioners, and educators engage in dialogue with Russian business leaders, they will find Dealing with the New Russia not only a stimulating read, but a significant resource.

Unfortunately, there are no paragraphs on the authors’ background, though we do learn that Dr Nigel Holden is a professor at the Copenhagen Business School (he is also on the Editorial Advisory Board of European Business Review). Cary Cooper, a well‐known management writer, is also cited in conjunction with a role in the Manchester School of Management (UMIST). We learn in the Introduction that both Holden and Cooper were involved as management development consultants for the CIS under European Union Technical Assistance. Readers are left without a clue as to anything about the third author, Jennie Carr.

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