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środa, 11 czerwca 2014

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Is Poland Christ of nations?

I have recently came across a very interesting article about pitfalls of Polish style of management and its historical roots. It is more generic than just IT but it includes so called participatory management (eg. Agile). If you understand Polish language you can read an article here,kapitalizm-po-polsku-folwark-ma-sie-dobrze.html

For other guys here are the main points from article (just a few):
  • Current polish mentality comes from historical circumstances - starting from XVI century Poland was mostly a food supporter for countries in western parts of Europe and it had a great impact on internal relashionship between layers of Polish society (master - slave relationship between "big" owners and single farmers (villein?))
  • A farm mentality was focused mostly on surviving what wasn't enough when capitalism became a mainstream where the profit is the most important goal of the organization.
  • The master - slave relationship leads to compliance but sacrifice creativity which is crucial in capitalism.
  • Most polish companies even international corporations locally fall into this schema. In western divisions vision, mission, people and values are respected but in Poland it goes down to that master slave mentality. Top managers are masters and all guys "below" have to be obedient otherwise they are punished. No chance for participatory management (me: Agile for example). People in such an environment don't take full responsibility for their work. The opposite is Scandinavia for example.

I find similarities in such master-slave mentality also in other  Central European countries (Czech Rep., Hungary, Ukraine, Lithuania etc.).

I love such articles because they always broaden my perspective and understanding of a surrounding reality. But I am also very cautions because it is very easy to abuse the history, consequences of different historical circumstances because it is more complex than simple or complicated. So here is my point of view that comes from my personal experience (and dealing with different, mostly Polish companies).

Based on the article we could draw the conclusion that Agile mentality is not much compatible with Polish master-slave mentality. And this is what I can see quite common especially in big companies (corporations) that their flavour of agile is not so agile. But also smaller companies are no better in this case. I have seen just a few companies that fully employed Agile mentality.

But on the other hand I wonder whether it is only Polish problem. Our industry is very international, it is almost global industry and we know that the master-slave mentality is quite common also in other countries (called command-and-control way of management) and it is also very difficult to transform that mentality to Agile. So it is difficult also in US, UK, France and other countries. What differs these countries from Poland is that it may be a little bit easier to do Agile transformation (what doesn't mean it is simple). There is a little more openness and trust in people in Scandinavia, France, UK than in Poland.

What also comes to my mind is Nonviolent Communication movement that tries to provide an alternative to so called violent communication (when there is an assumption that somebody is right and the other is not correlated with master-slave mentality and that we were trained to be correct in social terms but not authentical and it is source of violence) and it was invented in US not in Poland.

Therefore I wouldn't overvalue the hypothesis that this specific Polish historical background is crucial because described problems are not only Polish after all. I believe that it had an important influence on our  (Polish) mentality but there are many more social, historical, financial, anthropological processes that influenced the current situation. Maybe it makes a little bit more difficult to employ participatory management practices (like Agile) in Poland than is some western countries but we are not so special as it was described in the article.

I can see it in a different way. The XX century was the time when humanism started to grow (thinking that people are important) and it is one of the root causes of the movement from command-and-control to self-organizing management. Every country has its own history and background that strengthened the command-and-control thinking (force based). The story in the article might be a Polish story. Other countries have theirs. Some of them had stronger or weaker influence. And that's all about it.

On the other hand  in order to employ participatory management (ie. Agile) it really requires supporting mentality (like Japan Samurai mentality or  Scandinavian openness and trust) to make it easier.

(Poland As Christ of nations is a Polish cultural concept from XIX century that Poland is the chosen country to suffer for other nations; you can find more here
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