We are are just about nine million Swedes , but that hasn´t stopped us from gaining a worldwide reputation as being professional in business. IKEA, Volvo and ASEA (now ABB) are some of the international well-known top brands with their roots in Sweden. No doubt about the efficiency in our way of doing business. However, we have some twists in our business culture and it might be good to be aware of them to avoid surprises.
We do it together. It might have something to do with the Jante Law (see posting on that), the far-reaching social security system or the strong influence of labor unions. Whatever the reason, be prepared that decisions can take some time to be made because everyone must be involved.
Confusing? Well, there is a relaxed atmosphere at most companies. We´re not so formal or hierarchical. Most managing directors are openly available to the employees. They can address almost any question directly to him/her. I would say there is a casual overall feeling at work. There is a chain of command of course, but it´s not so often put into practice. A manager in Sweden has to motivate and engage his staff rather than give orders. In general, we tend to put more efforts in reaching compromises when it comes to make a decision.
The consensus process
It´s called förankringsprocessen, the consensus process, and it aims to get people involved. Everyone get a chance to discuss an issue and everyone listens. Then we compromise. Everybody gets something, not too much and not too little, but lagom (se my posting on that). As a result, decisions and solutions are deeply worked through. Ultimately, the employees feel they have been part of the process and therefore more motivated to do a better job. So when you´ve had a meeting with managers Anna, Lisa & Kalle at your Swedish partners office, you probably end up in another meeting before any real decisions are made – because in the meantime they have to check what Björn, Anders & Catharina think about it.
Just be aware that it may take some time, compared to decision-making in other countries.
Curt Landin, Natural AB