Let’s hear it for Vladimir Kabaldiz – and vodka

Vladimir Kabaldiz, Manager of the Lenin Tractor Works in Minsk, sent a decisive note to his superiors in Moscow.

“Enough,” he wrote. “It is no use for us to fight against the forms, we must kill the people responsible.”

All Vladimir wanted to do is build tractors. Good tractors. He had no interest in politics and bureaucracy. Tractors, the building thereof, was all that interested Vladimir.

The letter was written in 1935. Stalin was in his pomp, and the end for Vladimir (a bullet in the back of the neck in some anonymous cellar) came swiftly following his counter-revolutionary outburst.

I mourn him daily because, daily, I see undisputable evidence that his tormentors have multiplied exponentially, like bacteria or rats. Fewer are armed than in Vladimir’s day, although they still do the same non-productive jobs and harass those who do.

Governments and corporations spend millions to communicate their claimed desire, and will, to reduce or remove overweening layers of bureaucracy and risk-averse people whose function seems to be to stifle and strangle everything new: innovation and entrepreneurship primarily.

This sort of communication is easy, though. As easy as lying in fact.

Much harder is to communicate will and intent by meaningful action.

I was reminded of this, and Vladimir, when I read this story about William Chase – Crisps, Vodka, Gin and business genius.

He was screwed by Tesco then by his bank, both of whom appeared to say one thing and then do another while hiding behind the sort of communication that had rock-all squared to do with telling the truth.

My favourite quote from William concerns the ‘management team’ the bank made him use (at great cost): “We were employing corporate people who were arranging meetings about more meetings.”

Vladimir was clearly correct in his heartfelt, though fatal, missive. William Chase and he are kindred spirits across the decades.

Almost certainly that spirit would be a chilled vodka after a hard day making genuinely useful things. I wonder what they would talk about.

This article was originally published on LinkedIn on 10 February.