Executive Education Helps Put Kazakh Railway on Track

They’ve been workin’ on the railroad: Sebastien Brion and Greg La Blanc of Exec. Ed. helped hone the leadership skills of railway managers in Kazakhstan

Tired of merely chugging along, a regulated monopoly with a Soviet-era organizational style turned to the Haas School’s Center for Executive Education (CEE) to become more competitive.

Kazakhstan’s national railway, Temir Zholy, partnered with CEE in September to train 130 of its leaders how to lead change, communicate up and down the hierarchy, and better listen to the customer to reorient strategic direction. “Temir Zholy is currently profitable, but keenly aware that it needs to change to survive in a more competitive and more dynamic transportation market,” says Haas Lecturer Greg La Blanc. La Blanc, Sebastien Brion, PhD 10, assistant professor at IESE, and Peter Wilton, senior lecturer, developed and delivered the curriculum for this custom program.

Participants learned about customer value, developing a performance-based culture, and building coalitions. They were guided, La Blanc says, to question the status quo and to think about how the world will change. “We encouraged them to identify all aspects of the business that could be improved, dividing them into teams to hone their ability to communicate, find common ground, and work fluidly in groups,” he says.

La Blanc observed that many of the participants were skeptical that they could learn much from people outside their industry. “I think we convinced them that we were not there trying to tell them how to run their railroad but to help them to realize that it was up to them to figure out how best to run the railroad . We were there to jumpstart that process.”

Abby Scott, CEE interim assistant dean, says the partnership speaks nicely to the work Haas is doing in emerging markets. “Haas has a lot to offer in markets like this because our instructors and students are very comfortable dealing with markets in flux,” Scott says. “We are in an environment that makes a habit of continually generating ideas and questioning the way things are done. This maps well to markets that are confronting major transformations–such as Kazakhstan.”

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