Russia’s Dilemma

July 16, 2021

When I lecture in Russia, my PowerPoints and I are translated into Russian, so I have learned that the words for “power” and “government” are the same: vlast. In other words, government and power are one and the same, presuming that the only power is with the government, and the people have no power. Ponder the political meaning of that.

Another point: In Russian, the translation of the word “efficient” is efektivno, which, to me, means “effective.” My interpretation is that, in Russia, being effective means to be efficient. I believe this derives from the legacy of the Soviet Union, which always enforced detailed and powerful central planning. (Many people were sent to Siberia because they did not produce according to the plans determined by Moscow’s central authorities.)

In the Soviet planning system, everything was strategized from the center: how many shoes should be produced, how much the harvest should be, etc. The goal was to efficiently produce whatever was planned, without regard for the needs or tastes of the consumers. Fashion was out of the question. Marketing research was practically nonexistent.

“Effectiveness” means to provide what the market wants, but the central planning model ignores that. Market needs are not taken into account. The focus is on production and efficiency.

At the Adizes Institute, whenever we organize a Russian company, we try to identify its profit centers. Even today, they usually point to the factory as the profit center, rather than the market segment or even the product.

The focus on efficiency rather than effectiveness gives precedent and priority to the (A) role. You can see the (A) in Soviet Union-era architecture, as well as in government operations.

This (A) orientation, however, is not natural to the Russian culture. Notice how the Russian people drive: They don’t keep in their lanes; they always try to find a hole in the traffic so they can advance. They don’t stand in line going through passport control; everybody’s trying to push ahead and reach the front of the line. Russian culture is not a genuine (A) culture, as it would be in England or in Germany, where people automatically and instinctively get in line and honor the system. Culturally, Russians are (E)s. You can see the (E) in their innovations. Some of the world’s major innovations were developed in Russia.. Even in the Russian language you can notice the (E) culture: They have multiple ways of saying “I love you” and they're all correct. For instance, you can say, “I love you,” “you I love,” or “you love I.” They're all legitimate ways of saying the same thing, reflecting, I believe, their (E)ntrepreneurial culture. Because the economic/political system is extremely (A)-oriented, an (A) orientation does not encourage widespread entrepreneurship. That is reserved only for the few well-connected oligarchs.

Imposing (A) started with Peter the Great, who was enchanted with the German culture and encouraged Germans to emigrate to Russia to stimulate some (A), or order. The Bolshevik revolution and the subsequent Communist system were very (A)-oriented: first, to bring the desired equality to the masses; and second, to maintain the power to enforce changes.  The (A) was imposed politically, forcibly.

Russia is now stuck between two kinds of cultural pressure: the natural one, which is (E), creativity and risk-taking; and (A), which is control and order. One of the outcomes of this dichotomy is corruption. Creative people do not follow the lines. They try to find holes in the system, between the lines, that they can capitalize on.

I continue to recommend in my speeches in Russia and in television interviews that Russia should appoint a Minister for De-Bureaucratization, as a means to review and eliminate  Russia’s obsolete administrative rules, policies, and systems. This is necessary in order to allow Russia’s natural entrepreneurial culture to flourish.

Russia is not going to move forward economically until it reduces its (A) and promotes a system advancing (E). Then the country will flourish, because the system will fit well with its natural culture.

Written by
Dr. Ichak Adizes