Written by: Philippe Riboton
A FEW YEARS BACK foreign companies in Prague typically staffed their management teams with a good number of foreign executives, from the CEO to the sales director and then some. The typical argument at the time was that those expatriates were needed in order to transfer their know-how and expertise to the local executives who would one day be asked to take over the business. In other words, this solution was purely temporary, and “going local” was the motto of the day. This year, the fact that there are quite a lot of international companies celebrating their tenth year of doing business in the Czech Republic offers a good opportunity to have a look at their Czech-to-expat management ratio. Sure, the top manager portrayed on our cover page this month is a Czech – Radomír Sabela, CEO of Philips Czech Republic – and this seems to signal a positive trend towards the localization of management within international companies. Except that his appointment does not in fact say that Philips decided to “go local”; on the contrary, it is his manager that went global. It is Mr Sabela’s ability to become a global manager – thanks to his experiences abroad – that allowed him to become the first local CEO of the Philips Czech branch. Unfortunately, the pool made of those “global” Czech managers did not increase much during those past ten years. In fact, the local “boys club” has tenaciously resisted that trend – perhaps too busy congratulating itself in so-called “100 Best” mascarades. A simple glance at the rankings of those awards over the last past five years offers a nice gallery of the unemployed, most of whom “managed” their company to actual bankruptcy. Another illustration that the “who you know” Czech syndrome has long prevailed over the “what you know” qualifications in an open market, preserving a Jurassic Park of managers. As a result, the Czech market economy has lost a unique opportunity to witness a fresh generation of new managers. This alone is reason enough to suggest that the time has come for a real shake-up.