Mazeikiu Nafta invests in Lithuanian managers

  • 2000-12-07
  • Darius James Ross
VILNIUS - Twenty-five Mazeikiu Nafta production managers arrived at the Villon Hotel outside of Vilnius on Dec. 3 for a two-week stay, without knowing why. They are the first of four groups who will go through the oil refinery's intensive Centurion program, so called because 100 employees will be participating.

The program was designed by Mazeikiu Nafta in association with Vilnius-based Aon Consulting to give these employees "soft" skills, like leadership, team building, project management and interpersonal skills.

While Mazeikiu Nafta has been steadily modernizing its production facilities since being sold by the Lithuanian government to U.S.-based Williams International, updating its Lithuanian managers' skills has also become a priority.

"As far as we know this is the most intensive effort of its kind ever undertaken in the Baltic States," said Audrone Tamulionyte, an Aon vice president.

The employees will participate in interactive seminars for 14 days, 12 hours per day with very little down time. "We deliberately kept them (the managers) in the dark before they got here so that they wouldn't know what to expect. They were very nervous," said Jolanta Jonusiene, assistant human resources director at Mazeikiu Nafta.

The Centurion program will greatly emphasize project management, a skill that Jim Scheel, Mazeikiu Nafta's general director feels is lacking. "Our people are very good at operating our refinery from a technical viewpoint. I have rarely come across managers that are so highly educated in this area. But the time value of money, with an emphasis on economics and project management was not well entrenched in the previous thinking at this company," said Scheel.

Mazeikiu Nafta has roughly 3,800 employees at present, of which 400 are managers. The 100 selected for the Centurion program were screened by Aon and represent those with the most potential. The program will cost 6,000 litas ($1500) per employee.

"This is not the type of course from which you come back, put the binder on a shelf and forget what you've learned," said Aon's Tamulionyte.

She agrees with Scheel on the difference between American and Lithuanian managers at present. "The Americans are more team oriented while the Lithuanians are technically oriented. We are not seeking to impose an American approach on Lithuanians, but to build a bridge between the two management cultures," she said.

"We want these employees to become catalysts for change," said Mazeikiu Nafta's Scheel.

Production at MN's refinery was suddenly halted on Nov. 25 because of a stoppage of oil deliveries from Russia. It has since received 50,000 tons of oil from Russia's LUKoil with another 350,000 due by the end of December. Production is expected to resume on Dec. 6.

Also, the Lithuanian government is still sorting out the legalities of the privatization and has been consulting with experts as to whether certain aspects of the deal were constitutional or not.

The Baltic News Service reported on Nov. 28 that the Lithuanian government was seeking to appoint an associate director at the company who would observe the implementation of the management agreement between the state and the company. Newly elected Lithuanian Prime Minister Rolandas Paksas resigned as prime minister in Oct. 1999 because he objected to the conditions of the Williams deal.

The entire Lithuanian state budget totals seven billion litas. Mazeikiu Nafta paid 1.5 billion litas in taxes in the first nine months of 2000.