"Benefiting both sides"

Learning from one another

Russian managers have been able to pursue professional training in Germany since 1991. What began as a study of 'actually existing capitalism' gave rise to a winning model for business development. Today managers come to Germany from 13 different Eastern European and Asian countries. In addition, German managers also visit Russia.

'Gorbachev changed my life,' says Alexander Shorokhoff of his experiences in the 1990s. In this he is not alone. The end of the Cold War and Gorbachev's reforms brought fundamental changes to the lives of many people in both the East and the West. For Shorokhoff, though, there is something else. In 1991, he was one of the first to be given the opportunity to take part in the Manager Training Programme based in Germany. As part of the Kohl-Gorbachev agreement and in close cooperation with the Soviet Union, the then Carl Duisberg Gesellschaft launched a wide-ranging professional training programme for highly qualified managers and experts working in business and business administration. One aim of the Kohl-Gorbachev agreement was to conduct a study into 'actually existing capitalism', focusing in particular on the workings of the social market economy. Gorbachev was convinced this was the only practicable solution to boosting the Soviet economy - Russian managers should from now on receive professional training in Germany.

Win-win situation

The Manager Training Programme, later run by GIZ, has proved a highly successful initiative: over the last two decades, around 20,000 Russian experts and managers have attended the training programmes, with around one quarter of participants detailed to German companies. New contacts and networks were established between the Russian and German companies, in particular between small and medium-sized enterprises. Under their 'Fit for Partnership' slogan, the programmes paid particular attention to developing leadership and management skills and establishing new business relationships. And the success has been tangible: training sessions have played a significant role in broadening the basis of German-Russian business relations. The programmes offer practical business experience and promote knowledge and understanding of business processes in German companies. Participants are given an insight into the operative and organisational structures, business interests and market strategies of German companies. This underpins the preparation of participants for future tasks, such as bringing their own firms into line with the German or EU market. At the same time, managers are able to hone their general skills in running a company. Particularly worthy of mention is the programme's broad reach, since it involves mainly small and medium-sized enterprises from Russia's regions, as opposed to companies in the economic heartlands of Moscow or St. Petersburg.

In the meantime, the original project has given rise to numerous spin-offs in Eastern Europe and Asia. In Azerbaijan, Belarus, China, India, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, the Republic of Moldova, Mongolia, Turkmenistan, Ukraine, Uzbekistan and Viet Nam, the programme has been adopted with the same objectives: acquiring knowledge of the German market and German business culture, making business contacts and conducting preparatory talks with prospective business partners in Germany.

Since 2006, it has also been possible for German managers to undergo continuing training in Russian companies with a view to getting their business in shape for the Russian market. In this way the Manager Training Programme in Germany has developed into a symbiotic exchange programme that provides all participating companies with access to another market – a win-win situation all round.

In partner countries, the manager training programmes are considered key to promoting modernisation processes in companies. 'We managed to increase sales by 70% over the previous year and win new customers. That would hardly have been possible without the training in Germany,' says Irina Matskevich. A graduate in psychology, she and her husband run D-ARC in Kazakhstan, a company of around 100 employees which supplies construction services ranging from project development to general planning, as well as prefabricated elements for low-energy housing.

The training legacy

Praise for the practical nature of the training programme also comes from Igor Sinkin, Managing Director of SibTotschMasch, the Siberian Centre for Precision Engineering and Design: 'Management training in Germany taught me to be more precise about formulating my company's objectives. Now I find it easier to make the right choices when taking strategic decisions. Thanks largely to the new machinery, we are now manufacturing at two to three times the speed - and half the cost. This means that medium-sized companies can also aford our expertise.' As a result of his international training, Igor Sinkin is able to stay ahead of the competition on the Siberian market.

Graduates of the Manager Training Programme know they also take on an important role as multipliers for the economic development of their country. On returning home, many managers set up graduate associations in other countries with a view to promoting exchange of experience, providing mutual support in the application of new knowledge, developing opportunities for economic cooperation in the region and building international contacts through corporate networks.

Author: Sarah Klein, has a degree in political science and works in GIZ’s Developmental Policy Forum. The article first appeared in the GIZ magazine akzente, issue 02/2012.