The role of a leader is always the same. Interview with Maciej Korbasiewicz, President at Bolix.
You have been with Bolix for 11 years, so you are experienced with leading the company through times of crisis. What actions should a leader take in such circumstances? What is your experience of in this area?
The role of a leader is always the same – he or she must guide the team to a specific goal, taking into account the conditions in which the company is operating at the time.
When the organisation is mature and the circumstances do not call for radical changes, a gradual process, during which teams work in agreement, is a better option. Delegation of decision-making, making use of multisource knowledge work well, because entire organization is aware of the goals and the environment is stable. We cannot prepare the organization for all events and situations, but this model is very effective and surprisingly resistant to unexpected events. In such situation the role of a leader is to create the atmosphere, competence and the process for operation. The drawback of this model is group thinking, a kind of a comfort zone that lulls people into a false sense of security and the belief that innovations are unnecessary. Then a temporary ‘crisis’ must be triggered or an ambitious challenge should be set, for which additional resources, energy and focus must be mobilised. An organization operating like this is constantly prepared for new challenges.
A completely different, more authoritarian leadership style is better in some specific conditions like deep reorganization, a crisis of a scale that may bring disastrous results, for which an organization is not capable to prepare by itself. This kind of deep reengineering situations occur relatively rarely, they should not last excessively long and cannot be overused. I have had to take on this approach a few times during my career.
You attach great importance to your employees, their competencies and to the teams in which they work. What is your recipe for managing a team in such a large company?
First of all, you must not rely solely on the ‘silo system’, where each department ‘does its part’; such a model, though clear, kills development, innovation, and lowers company’s resistance to minor crises. I believe in a flat organization structure, supported by matrix systems that cut across organizations. I believe in working groups, task forces and open communication forums at lower levels of the organisation. People who work this way become engaged, want to develop to meet changing objectives, do not fall into a routine; I think they feel more fulfilled. This gives them the courage to make decisions and express opinions, to share experiences and knowledge. It supports the process of building know-how of entire organization.
Secondly, the process of continues improvement, which is about questioning the existing solutions according to the principle “the better is the enemy of the good”, must be appreciated and stimulated. It builds the awareness that what is good today does not have to be good tomorrow. Knowledge gained during education (school or university) only gives a foundation for real know-how that people gain mainly at work. Therefore, a company should spare no effort to enable employees to access knowledge through internal and external training. In Bolix, but also in other companies, I have always highly valued this process.
How do you see the prospects for the construction industry in the months to come? What is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the manufacturers of construction products?
In major part, the construction industry was affected by the pandemic in a very surprising way. For fear of lock-down, the turnover and the pace of work have increased greatly, wherever it was possible. In the first quarter of 2020 Bolix had record sales in its 30-year history. However, more important question now is what next. I think that a slowdown is to be expected, which will be accompanied by an increase in product prices, as it will be more difficult to obtain the products due to uncertainties of supply chains, a weakening zloty and inflation. Unemployment, which will soon appear, will not provide new workforce for the construction industry. All public procurements and projects financed by local authorities will be drastically reduced. I assume that it will take a year and a half for the whole economy to adapt to this new reality.
What is the direction in which construction chemicals technologies are developing? Will the coronavirus pandemic stimulate or inhibit the development of new technologies?
Among the manufacturers of building materials and contractors, a group oriented to high quality and innovation has been formed; some technological innovations will probably emerge from this group. Manufacturers of cheap and usually low quality products have chosen a different strategy – cost optimization and focus on low price. Companies from this group will not attempt to introduce new technological solutions. This trend has been evident for some time and the split or the gap between these groups will widen as a result of the pandemic. As for high quality solutions, the willingness to distinguish yourself by creating new solutions, will stimulate competition in this group. I see great prospects here for new technological solutions.
How do the solutions and technologies used by Bolix fit in with the idea of sustainable development?
We have recently introduced a solution to the UK market that has a life expectancy of over 75 years. When the product was being developed, both ageing processes and expected climate changes, including hurricane winds, periods of intensive rainfall interrupted by prolonged heat, were taken into account. When it comes to stone, concrete or brick, this time period does not impress anyone, but when it comes to insulation systems, this is revolutionary. It is assumed that the currently used insulation systems are prepared for about 25 years of service.
Other solutions that fit in with this idea are underway and can currently be found here on our desks and in our laboratories. We have prepared prototypes, are conducting research and hope to launch them within three years. However, for the time being, I am obliged to secrecy and does not want to disclose details of our projects.
What actions are taken by Bolix during the pandemic to fight it and support local communities?
Above all, we have taken steps to support the healthcare service locally by providing masks and ordering meals for doctors in the local restaurant. We did likewise when it comes to nursing homes. We also try to support Polish entrepreneurs and buy masks produced by a local printing house, which during the pandemic had to change its previous way of operation. We also fund cleaning products and disinfection of kindergartens and schools. All our activities are carried out locally in Żywiec and Rybnik to support people who heroically fight the effects of the pandemic.
Last Updated on December 7, 2020 by Karolina Ampulska