Blog: Back in Nizhny Novgorod
Simon Warburton | 6 February 2013
Day two in Nizhny Novgorod and attendance at GAZ Group CEO, Bo Andersson's operational heads meeting at 08:00 to discuss the previous day's issues and plan the working time ahead.
No endless discussions here sat round a table - rather around 30 senior managers stood opposite Andersson whose Russian translator quick-fired back and forth as the Swedish boss listened, advised and suggested.
Andersson is completely driven by his desire to succeed - and he rewards those who triumph with him - targets, numbers, concerns, bonus payments - all were aired in a ten-minute brainstorming session that would be repeated later that day at 17:00 as those same heads came together with Bo to discuss what had and hadn't been achieved.
The GAZ chief is never anything less than direct: "Root cause is always hard to find - then you can attack the problem" - was one of his comments - to be swiftly followed up by the head of the OAO GAZ union's: "People are waiting to get their annual bonuses," giving a brief glimpse into the challenges and opportunities GAZ is undergoing.
We rapidly moved on to march across a vast part of Andersson's empire - he says he walks 5km a day touring this huge site - and I can well believe it.
Always striding ahead, the CEO is constantly asking questions, encouraging and praising his staff, who genuinely seem to respond to his enormous energy.
Bodyshop, the Bosal joint venture, the brightly-lit VW site, ditto Skoda, the upcoming Daimler hall, assembly lines, welding, training, were a blur of frenetic activity as the boss accelerated through his daily programme.
This is the second largest car plant in the world and you need a coach just to get from A to B. It has a real aura about it, bedecked with slogans such as the: "Thank you for your honest labour" adorning one exit.
Following that whirlwind tour and interviews with more senior plant management, GAZ drove us out to its snow-bound testing track about 30 clicks from Nizhny and where we got an off-road ride in its Tiger armoured vehicle - a bit like frozen wadi-bashing.
Back to Nizhny and a final dinner with Bo tonight at which one of his staff said they'd been to see Paul McCartney in concert in Moscow.
I'm no Beatles fan - which I realise is heretical in some eyes - but he did apparently play - to popular acclaim by all accounts - "Back in the USSR."
That's the one Beatles tune I do actually like and it must have seemed pretty powerful, given his audience, replete with memories that are still pretty fresh for so many Russians.
I'm starting to get a small idea of the scale of things here in China, but really, I'm only scratching the surface of this vast country....
Given the startling complexity of obtaining a journalist visa for China - the code 'J2' is now indelibly stamped on my mind - it was with some surprise how swiftly I managed to sail through airport im...