- Posted March 13, 2013 by
Prague, Czech Republic
This iReport is part of an assignment:
Europe's financial crisis
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Emerging from Crisis, Business Breakfast Discussion with Jane Gilson Microsoft DE COO, Hannu Kasi ABB and Josef Kotrba, Deloitte Czech Republic
University of Pittsburgh, Katz Graduate School of Business in Prague, Czech Republic
Tuesday morning brought with it a business breakfast discussion at the Hotel Boscolo Carlo IV on Senovazne namesti near the Powder Tower that looms near the Main Post Office. The topic and guest speakers were intriguing with a tinge of optimism that perhaps the world had weathered the worst of the financial crisis and financial stability and regeneration budding with the delayed spring.
Guest speakers were:
With Jane Gilson, COO of Microsoft Germany
Hannu Kasi is ABB’s Country Manager for the Czech Republic
Josef Kotrba, Financial Advisory at Deloitte Czech Republic
Facilitated by Cristina Muntean, communications advisor and media trainer with strong background in journalism. It proved to be interesting.
Large corporations such as Microsoft can be plagued with image problems. Known for planting a computer on every desk, often the company seems totally aloof of user needs or complaints. Microsoft faced anti-trust suits, lag time and disastrous product roll-outs. The long trumpeted Longhorn which became known as the hated and despised Vista, the endless frustrations of users as they try to re-adapt to inconsistent upgrades that are frequently not-quite compatible, the nagging pop-ups that harass you for not being Microsoft –approved when in fact you're legit. Microsoft has its headaches and in the financial crunch of 2008 was losing ground. The browser was widely reviled, company image not quite so fresh as a daisy, facing financial losses and layoffs. A company is faced with too many problems and not enough solutions that must be solved for stability and future development. Critical to the future is retaining bright young things and establishing trust and motivation within the company.
Jane Gilson put a face on Microsoft. There have to be changes for survival, for the competitive edge, but the core problem is creating team spirit, trust in the working environment and giving a sense of motivation to develop new products or keep the engine driving. The problems with mega-corps is that they lose touch with employees within and their market without. Large corporations do not have the same flexibility and chameleon capacity to change quickly.
I didn't intend to listen, but I found the discussion lively and enlightening. It reflected the changes ongoing in Microsoft. Sometimes the boss brings chocolate chip cookies to work on Mondays to cut the Monday blues and gloom. It's human and breaks barriers at work.
Hannu Kasi is ABB Country Manager for the Czech Republic. ABB is a technological giant in electrical engineering. We all use electricity and energy in daily uses, but most of us probably never heard of or recognize ABB. Companies to survive think more carefully about investment in staff: their training and abilities; but they also think lean in terms of expenses and overall costs. ABB developed a Azipod propulsion system in 1990 which decreases energy consumption by bout 10-15 % on sailing vessels while increasing maneuverability and reducing vibration on board. Cutting vibration on a ship is significant to overall efficiency because ships age by stress and are known to split apart. Reducing vibration also reduces stress on the sea environment. By improvement in technology and energy consumption, ABB improves the overall financial well-being of its clients, making icebreakers more reliable in North Sea or reducing waste in shipping industry. To go to the future, sometimes you have to go back to the past, so although Edison lost the AC/DC Wars, ideas of Tesla and DC are implemented in contemporary daily lives, cutting waste in energy conversion or unnecessary loss.
Hannu Kasi emphasized the importance of intellectual value. A company can invest a lot in R&D, in expansion, but the critical core of company survival is developing and utilizing human intelligence and looking for means to cut unnecessary waste. "Don't print in color, use black and white or don't print at all." Look to the local environment for the market. Find a problem, solve it, but without the brains of your staff, you have no future. Certainly you have to pay them, but motivation and satisfaction are key components to surviving financial crisis because training staff and orienting them, acclimatizing them into the work environment costs a company in time. Staff retention is important to survival.
Josef Kotrba, Financial Advisory at Deloitte Czech Republic. Expect the boring number crunch, the arguments of X employees divided by Y hours to find the lowest mean wage payable? No. Financial crisis cause insecurity and turmoil in a company when values and loyalty are critical. Money is only one factor because talented people can find work elsewhere and those who don't care about their work or jobs, do not add value to the company. The problems of thrift involve evaluation of human resources—can we cut jobs? Nobody wants to be booted out the door. Financial resources—nobody wants their income halved or other? How does a manager make tough decisions. What are the guidelines, priorities? If you cut your employees, can you survive?
I'd expect someone from Deloitte to be spewing numbers and running out statistical projections and boring me to death with endless financial digital details, but not so. It's not possible to maintain a company if the environment is a dusty calculating machine. Deloitte employs 500-1000 and was chosen as most attractive employer in the 2nd Annual TOP Employers 2012/2013 survey by Czech Union of Students (CUS) in February 2013. Young minds hate boredom and stale environments.
The speakers brought their experience and insights into the discussion, most of which could be applied to any business situation. It was not the self-lauding, mutual-admiration that could be construed as shameless marketing and fishing for prospective employees. Questions were solicited from the floor and answered spontaneously. The atmosphere was warm, but serious.
The organization by Katz Graduate School of Business was professional, well-executed and the hospitality genuine. Everything was done precisely and neatly, even my nametag which read "Mary Mary Legg". To be honest, it broke the ice and made me laugh because I felt pretty far out of place, not having an MBA or at least basic secretarial skill. The discussion was riveting and I was surprised to hear so much emphasis on developing and retaining corporate talent and on human value. I took from it a curiosity and interest in the business world that I did not have before. Suddenly Microsoft had a face and accounting houses were far more than numbers.
Jane Gilson, Microsoft COO DE
Josef Kotrba Deloitte
Deloitte Czeh Republic
Hannu Kasi ABB
Emerging from the Crisis: Transformation of Companies in Europe
Katz Graduate School of Business, University of Pittsburgh at Prague, Czech Republic