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Interview with Plant Director Rafał Kania: Finnish vs Polish management styles

Rafał Kania has 10 years of experience in managing teams and organizations in the automotive, foundry, and metal processing industries. He worked in an international corporation as well as large family businesses with Polish and German roots. Currently, he runs the Hydroline factory in Poland. Piotr Worsztynowicz from Spondeo asked Rafał about his managerial experience and observations regarding the differences in national cultures.

Rafał Kania, Plant Director at Hydroline, source: Rafał Kania

You have been working in high-level managerial positions for many years. Do you like it?

I love it! Especially when I have the opportunity to develop my company and team. The greatest satisfaction comes from the development of people - when they start to make their own decisions and take responsibility for the operation of the company. Such an approach is the key to the satisfaction of the manager and his team.

Apart from your current company, which organization do you remember best and why?
I learned something in each company. I would say that my best memories are from working at ZF-Wabco and PGO. In the first one, I learned the importance of cooperation between various functions in a multicultural organization. In the second one, I had the chance to change the classic management system to the value-based one. Such a change, if successful, is the greatest reward for a manager. However, my current company is where I can make the most of my experience and managerial skills. It is a great pleasure to work here.

You have worked in multinational, German, American, Polish, and Finnish companies. Where did you feel the best?
Definitely in American and Finnish companies. In both there is a great freedom and focus on people and their abilities. The diplomas, certificates and scientific titles are put aside and the knowledge, experience and personality are the most appreciated instead. In Finnish companies, a lot of attention is paid to people and the philosophy of well-being. It impresses me.

Were there any significant differences in the styles of management between different nations?
Of course! For example, Polish companies have a significant baggage of experience with economic transformation, which leads to very down-to-earth, hard management. In turn, in my experience, German companies are characterized by very pragmatic and principled (sometimes too much) management. Sometimes there is no room for the element of spontaneity, finesse and flexibility.

Hydroline factory in Stargard, source: Rafał Kania // Hydroline

Can you provide any examples of things in a company with Finnish capital that were new and surprising for you?
I was surprised that they were so strongly developed in the IT area. The systems for analyzing the results are very advanced. Our visual factory system, which shows the work of machines in real time, is a dream of many companies and managers.

What do you like about working with Finns and what do you think they could learn from you?
I really like their realistic approach to tasks or problems. Concentrating on solving the problem while ignoring side issues. It is something that in other cultures is sometimes even more important than the essence of the matter 😊 You have to be a very good observer to catch these important nuances, but it is they that determine efficient operation.
There is not much to teach Finns about. They are very mature managers. Maybe I could just advise them to communicate with Polish partners through personal meetings more often. Poles like and appreciate it because then they can supplement the message with non-verbal communication to add emotions and context to the matter.

Can you provide an example of a curious or funny situation from work related to the different national cultures?
Perhaps the biggest illustration of cultural differences will be the meeting I once attended. At first, the German engineer took an hour to discuss and refine the agenda. Then, during the next three hours, his French boss did not refer to a single point of this agenda! It shows extremely different approaches to agenda and meeting sequence. Both ways could be successful and effective. Mixed together, they bring a smile to my face.

Hydroline designs and manufactures durable, heavy-duty hydraulic cylinders and offers life cycle services to them. The company was founded in 1962 in Kuopio, Finland. In 2012, Hydroline expanded to Stargard, Poland.

Contact info:

Rafał Kania

+48 663 703 717

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