At the end of 2004, I was honored to be chosen by the U.S. State Department as a Fulbright Scholar and sent to the Republic of Macedonia. While there, I was curious as to how my tax dollars are being spent as foreign aid, so I volunteered to help the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in implementing one of its many economic development projects. Because my specialty was e-business, I chose to help a project called e-Biz that was established by USAID for the purpose of incubating new Macedonian companies that would leverage Information and Communications Technologies (ICT) to create emerging market opportunities for ailing local industries. The e-Biz project was the first of its kind in the world for which the U.S. government took a venture capital role rather than a donor role. Its business model was to be emulated in other countries based on its success in Macedonia.
One of the new companies the U.S. government invested in incubating was established to significantly improving management training in the country. As a former socialist country that heavily had depended on the centralized, state-owned management system, Macedonia lacks qualified managers on all levels, and has no local expertise of the caliber necessary to deploy robust training programs covering multiple industries and types of organizations. Therefore, USAID invested in creating the Clear View Management Training Center, a Macedonian company that brings management expertise from outside the country into the country via technologies such as the Internet and videoconferencing (www.clearview.com.mk). I helped the local entrepreneurs that co-invested with USAID write the business plan for establishing that company.
While doing so, it became evident that even successful Macedonian managers were lacking in the use of Western thinking to get new companies — like this one — off the ground. This reinforced the desire to help Clear View find a superb program that could get many local managers properly trained in Western management practices. Working with a California-based company founded by Dr. Ichak Adizes, a whole new program emerged called TopLeaF (www.adizestopleaf.com), thereby trainees could meet every month for a year to attend a lecture, then participate in a facilitated group discussion regarding the topic covered in the lecture. The group could supplement its interaction between the monthly group sessions by using an online discussion forum. Best of all, the whole program could be delivered from California via videoconferencing by trained facilitators who were fluent in both English and Macedonian.
Enter Clear View Management Training Center. I got together with representatives from the center to explore the possibility of establishing a training program in Macedonia that Clear View could administer and deliver using the new videoconferencing equipment USAID had bought. TopLeaF came immediately to mind and, as a result, the Clear View team went out to the market, looking for Macedonian executives and top managers who were willing to commit to a full year of study in a group setting that was delivered directly from the Adizes Institute in Santa Barbara.
Luckily, Adizes is a well-known figure in Macedonia. Having been born there almost 70 years ago, he is one of the most locally revered leaders who have become a global name. Thus, the leadership development program was launched in the summer of 2005 and has just completed its first phase (the full program lasts three years). More than 20 top managers formed a strong bond as they proceeded each month to get deeper into the Adizes methodology and try its applicability in their respective organizations.
USAID was very pleased to be the catalyst for putting together the American know-how, technology and local Macedonian managers. Facilitators based in California regularly communicate with the group through the online discussion forum, which reinforced the monthly videoconferenced sessions in which the group participated.
As a Fulbright Scholar, I was pleased to report back to the State Department about this program’s success, especially because the program is the first of its kind in the world.
“The program has been a breakthrough in leadership training for the USAID’s sponsored e-BIZ project in Macedonia,” said Hal Yaeger, managing director of the e-Biz project. “The monthly meetings of industry leaders conducted through the e-Biz Center for Management Training have opened lines of communication among local top managers. This has enabled them to share and learn principles of management that they can apply immediately to their emerging new markets. It has proven to be very effective in bringing together sound management practices that have worked worldwide into a group learning environment, resulting in enhancing USAID’s strategic key economic development goals in the region.”
Clarisse Behar Molad is now the director of the TopLeaF program at the Adizes Institute. She is responsible for its development and worldwide deployment. She can be reached at email@example.com.