My journey through the purchasing departments in the automotive industry took me around the world within a year. China, Mexico, Poland, the United States, Germany, Romania – I’ll be reporting on all the countries.
One thing is certain: there is a growing awareness across the globe that low prices are not the panacea people used to think they were. Spectacular recalls and not least the emission scandal at Volkswagen are affecting buyers worldwide. We are in for a structural change. I see this daily as an interim manager, trainer and coach, and I am working out concepts for sustainable solutions.
Let‘s start in eastern Europe, with Poland: my journey on the shuttle from the Dresden airport over the Polish border and into the interior of the country was like taking a trip into the past. Our Polish bus driver sped over the poorly maintained roads without concern, driving past row after row of gray houses. The air smelled of brown coal. When we finally reached our hotel driveway, I could not contain my amazement: Pakoszów Palace (or “Schloss Wernersdorf” in German) is a grand castle that has been converted into a luxury hotel. Our work began inside the most beautiful conference room I have ever held a training in – and I’ve seen my share of conference rooms all over the world! The program included training for plant buyers, with a focus on intercultural cooperation with supplier companies in particular, as well as on structural improvements to work processes. What impressed me in Poland was the tremendous work ethic, incredible team spirit, and cohesiveness in the group. People strengthen each other there: empowerment is mutual. The conditions are harsh: classic plant purchasing, strict management, all buyers sitting in a confined space. All the Polish participants spoke perfect English, and many of them also had very good German speaking skills. Women rule in Polish purchasing! Almost all of the women buyers I encountered here were well educated, eager to learn and tough-minded. What caught my attention as a trainer in addition to this – especially in comparison to Western industrialized countries –, was the exemplary separation of work and private life: working (hard!) from 9 to 5, and then focusing on the family. Period. Other countries could learn a lot from this: It’s how we could achieve less burnout, personnel turnover and skills shortages. I am convinced that buyers in each individual country can all learn from each other. Poland shows us solidarity, a good work ethic and suggestions for a better work-life balance. And this, I believe, is no small thing.