Artyom Zdunov: ‘Centrifugal forces around Moscow, Petersburg attract the best specialists’
It was discussed at Gaidar Forum how regions should create new managerial teams during the pandemic and other emergencies
Staff for Russia’s regions or people whom the country needs in the era of rapid changes became one of the key themes at Gaidar Forum. It is noteworthy that a person from Tatarstan — ex-Premier of Dagestan and Acting Governor of Mordovia Artyom Zdunov — participated in the discussion. Our republic recently sent its best minds to different levels of power. This is why the choice of the expert is logical enough. Zdunov and his colleagues — Bashkortostan’s prime minister and head of Sevastopol — discussed how two once conservative areas — education and public administration — have to quickly change during the pandemic. The speakers shared their recipes to effectively create teams of managers: Zdunov prefers “physicists” to “lyricists”, while the Bashkir premier likes a mid of “old school” and “fresh blood”. Read more in Realnoe Vremya’s report.
Education and public administration had to change
At Gaidar Forum, acting head of Mordovia who comes from Tatarstan Artyom Zdunov (Dagestan’s ex-premier and Tatarstan’s former economy minister) together with his colleagues Bashkortostan’s prime minister and head of Sevastopol discussed how the pandemic changed the mode and style of public administration and how to prepare new staff for it now.
As moderator Alexey Komissarov, vice rector of RANEPA, director general of Russia — Land of Opportunity ANO, noted at the beginning of the discussion, education itself experienced significant changes in 2020, though it is one of the most conservative areas (it doesn’t change fast like others, always “falling a bit behind”). And these changes are still happening, since it is too early to talk about the end of the pandemic.
Mikhail Razvozhayev, governor of Sevastopol (he delivered a speech online) noted that it was impossible to address the challenges caused by the pandemic according to patterns (quick decisions were necessary), though public service like education is also a conservative environment, “strictly regulated”. Decisions had to be made quickly, and responsibility for them had to be assumed, moreover, at all levels of public administration: from federal to municipal. It turned out to be impossible to act in two previously existing management paradigms: either centralism when all responsibility stays in Moscow or shifting the responsibility only to lower levels.
What regions should do if Moscow and Petersburg get the best specialists
Artyom Zdunov, who is the acting head of the Republic of Mordovia, noted at the same time that even one very experienced manager is unable to rule effectively and keep up with the changes — a team that’s hard to create is needed:
“I know it from my experience in Dagestan, though the region isn’t the easiest one to create teams. The team is a matter of trust in people, while trust is gained with time. Somebody easily joins a team, somebody doesn’t. Processes have recently accelerated, and the external environment makes one working faster. And project teams have to be created faster. And the main obstacle is that — and any region will confirm it — centrifugal forces around Moscow, Petersburg attract the best specialists (this has always been this way: both in tsarist Russia and in the Soviet era).”
What should regions do? Zdunov thinks it is necessary to train the would-be personnel by mixing specialists at regional, federal and municipal level between each other. Municipal workers are especially important, they often separate from other power levels by creating ready teams and projects and simultaneously stay up-to-date.
So today there is quite a high demand for managers who would be good at health care, medicine supplies. And not only businesses but also authorities who supervise such a business now, watchdogs needs such people. At the same time, the education an experienced manager got, in fact, doesn’t really matter.
“In Mordovia, for instance, we have World of Flowers company, Aleksandr Boldyryov has been chairing it for more than 15 years, he had a degree in agriculture. There is Chamzinskaya poultry farm, it is a rival of Miratorg, a former countryside history teacher leads it, he managed to increase competencies, create a team. At the same time, there is a paradox. For instance, Dagestan and Mordovia have unemployment, but the companies at the same time have a shortage of qualified force. There is Biochemist enterprise, it needs more than 100 workers. It is necessary to motivate people so that they will go to work there. The same is about the Agro-Industrial Complex. Incentives are needed to work 20 km far from the city,” Zdunov thinks.
Why Mordovia’s new head prefers specialists with degree in engineering
Artyom Zdunov also paid attention to another problem the pandemic and bans on mobility brought: an outflow of the foreign labour force (migrants), which severely hit the construction sector, some companies of the sector has vacant positions and there “nobody to work”. If this shortage isn’t filled today by Russians themselves, the construction sector can suffer seriously.
The acting head of Mordovia himself admitted answering the question of how he created an effective team that “it is profitable to hire experienced people and people with a degree in engineering”, mathematicians or physicists who are diligent in practice.
“I have worked with such people in Tatarstan, Dagestan and Mordovia. If a person is good at machinery and science, he will handle management too. Management is rather an art. During the pandemic, by the way, I had to learn incident management, quick response and reception of feedback,” the functionary said.
Bashkir premier prefers mixing experienced people with creative novices
Bashkortostan’s Premier Minister Andrey Nazarov, in turn, has always preferred mixed teams: by including both experienced and older people and young but enterprising and creative people. Experienced people understand what things should be avoided and that “an initiative can be punished”, while those who quickly occupy management positions, in contrast, stay ambitious and know to make new decisions to achieve quick goals.
“I tested it first-hand because I often moved from region to region, I always had to create a team from local and experienced people but at the same time they left some time for work. I also included those whom I brought with me from other regions to the team, they, on the contrary, dedicate most of the time to work. In Bashkortostan, we created the Centre for Strategic Development a long time ago, we hired people through competition, both experts and people who can work effectively and creatively. As a result of the pandemic, they became more noticeable than others: they developed a mind-blowing career like talented commanders at war, and people with experience and skill of how to solve problems during the pandemic in practice began to be seen immediately,” Nazarov shared his observation.
The speaker put an example of the construction of two hospitals for infectious diseases in Bashkiria. Traditionally, only a design of a hospital takes a year, it is built for another 2-4 years. While Bashkirs built a hospital on a 17,000 square metres of area in 55 days, the other was 16,000 square metres in 50 days. The solution was not quick construction but parallel processes.
“A feat in public service is a dangerous feat because if it has mistakes and violations, you will be punished. Public service isn’t a field for experiments. A feat must be well-thought-out. In the end, we had parallel processes. The design, construction, licensing were simultaneous, not 100 but 1,000 people with different professions worked on the sites,” the premier of Bashkortostan explained.
“We will gradually transition from the mode ‘mistake is an enemy’ to the mode ‘mistake is a friend’”
Sergey Vorobyov, president and co-founder of Ward Howell consultancy specialising in search and development of managers, management teams and board members of Russian and international companies and public organisations, thinks that precisely regions address the challenge of the pandemic more effectively, particularly those regions teams that know how to establish vertical and horizontal links at the same time, that’s to say, speak the same language.
According to him, one functionary can’t solve a truly difficult problem, moreover, a number of difficult problems, he will have to create a regional team whose representatives know how to speak the same language and collectively make a decision in a situation. The problem is that the old public management system can’t stand and forgive functionaries’ mistakes (especially regional and municipal functionaries).
“Our system isn’t tolerant of mistakes. ‘We all will be jailed!’ But the mode of the experiment the pandemic brought us to is precisely characterised by a dramatic shift of paradigms, we will gradually transition from the mode ‘mistake is an enemy’ to the mode ‘mistake is a friend’. Those regional managers who find it interesting to learn to turn out to be more effective than others: they have a lot of problems, not much money and not everybody has oil,” Vorobyov noted.