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Location: Poland

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Expanding Jarosław

The author Michael Korda studied powerful business people the way the Jane Goodall studied chimpanzees. In one of his books (with the modest title POWER!) he describes various methods for gaining organizational power.

At one point he contrasts 'climbing' and 'expanding'. Climbers slowly trudge up a hierarchical ladder of promotion (or fail to trudge up) while Expanders simply take over other people's jobs, starting with boring bits and pieces and anything having to do with liaison or communication. They don't give up any job once they have it but instead count on getting subordinates along the way to whom they can delegate most of the work. They create their own management structures and eventually they have to promoted to regularize their acquisitions and when powerful enough do away with as much of the previous hierarchy as possible.

Although written in the US in the 70's, this bit is as true then as now and Expanders also exist in Poland. What's interesting is that I thought (erroneously) that they could only function in the more flexible private sector as most public sector organizations aren't flexible enough. But I know of one prominent expander at a Polish university and now we have a wonderful example in one of the least likely organizations at all, the Polish government. The person of the most powerful man in Poland – Jarosław Kaczyński.

Prior to parliamentary elections the differences between his Law and Justice party and the somewhat more market oriented less socially conservative PO (Civic Platform) were minimized. Everyone assumed that no matter which party won, a coalition between the two would quickly be formed and the new government would try to better the perpetually stuttering Polish economy.

Fat chance. For a series of mysterious, never disclosed and never explained reasons the two parties couldn't patch up their differences and a minority government was formed with an informal alliance with the pseudo-socialistic populists of SO (Self-Defense) and the very far right League of Polish Families (LPR). Keeping the rambunctious, nakedly ambitious leaders of these two parties wasn't so easy and finally a Stabilization Pact was formed and his holding (just barely) for the time being.

In other words, with no official position besides that of Member of Parliament and leader of his party, the more secretive of the Kaczyński brothers has become the most powerful politician in the country, restructured the format of parliament and is in the very obvious process of trying to co-opt the other parties in the pact so that he can discard their troublesome leaders. He's even sent out feelers for forming a more market oriented wing of the party by co-opting former PO heavyweight Zyta Gilowska into his government as Minister of Finance (though she's been hampered in actually getting anything done).

Part of me finds all this scary and it's clearly not good for Poland (as most of his party's ideas are doomed to failure), but part of me is shouting "Well done! Bravo!". It's certainly been a virtuoso performance and I have no idea how much longer it can last. His perpetual weapon against his allies has been the specter of new elections where neither PO nor LPR would be expected to repeat their previous success. But all this has taken a toll on his own party's ratings so he may have to find a new big stick.