Management in Scandinavia

Management in Scandinavia

Culture, Context and Change

Jette Schramm-Nielsen, Peter Lawrence and Karl Henrik Sivesind

This book contributes to the expanding field of cross-cultural and comparative management, and addresses the issue of whether the main Scandinavian countries – Denmark, Norway and Sweden – exhibit such similarities in management style and practice as to constitute a country cluster.

Chapter 8: Present and Prospect

Jette Schramm-Nielsen, Peter Lawrence and Karl Henrik Sivesind

Subjects: business and management, international business, organisation studies


The discussion of Scandinavian homogeneity in the previous chapter was concerned to reach a judgement valid for the present. Now we are considering the possibility of wider changes that may, as it were, pass through the present and impact on the future. The previous chapter reached the conclusion of qualified homogeneity. This homogeneity might be expressed in terms of: G G G G G a management style characterized by informality, equality and restraint; paralleled by generally flat hierarchies, compressed salary spreads and low fringe benefits; a consensual, participative and inclusive approach to decision making and change implementation; a reluctance by most managers to articulate their power, an inclination to reasonableness and quiet persuasion rather than to charismatic dominance; and a market and/or customer focus tending to promote coordinative mechanisms across hierarchies and between different departments. It is difficult to find other countries that replicate this combination of values and practice. Such differences as there are between the three countries do not seem to us to be major or consequential in the context under review – that of business culture and management behaviour – but it will do no harm to reiterate these differences by type before moving the discussion forward. First, there are differences of economic structure and what might be termed ‘industrial legacy’. To take as an illustration the country with the most strongly differentiated profile, Sweden: one would recognize that Sweden industrialized earlier than the other two countries, that this industrialization was broader and deeper, that it generated more big...

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