Learning from Management Practices in the Nordics

By Mikko Honkanen

The countries of the Nordics have become a kind of untapped oasis for tech startups of late. Since 2005, the Nordics — Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden — represent 7% of global billion-dollar tech exits even though they account for just 2% of global GDP. You might say startups in the Nordics are tulessa, Finnish for “on fire.”

Okay, I realize that this declaration coming from a proud Finn and co-founder of a Helsinki-based tech startup may sound a bit pretentious. But that’s not my intent.

Rather, I’d like to highlight some of the lessons I’ve learned while working both in the U.S. and in the Nordics to share some of the best lessons from my experience of Nordic business and distill it for an audience who may be less familiar with the culture than I am.

Here are some management philosophies borrowed from the way Nordics do business.

Challenge overly hierarchical structures

Many companies in the Nordics — particularly companies in Sweden — have a tendency to discuss business decisions in detail in a democratic setting. Some might say, they discuss everything with all employees present. While some U.S. executives might consider that a bit of overkill, it creates a culture of shared decision-making. Traditionally, Swedish managers are considered to be informal and non-hierarchical when compared to managers across other global business cultures.

Indeed, many Swedish companies maintain a flat, non-hierarchical organization when compared to the layers of management seen at other companies worldwide. For example, young leaders from countries like Russia, Ukraine and Poland who have come to Sweden to study management have left recognizing a distinct Swedish leadership style: One that seems filled with easier communication and lower internal competition.

Teams that communicate and work toward a common vision tend to be more efficient. There is less drama, more productivity and often less turnaround. That saying about business being a dog-eat-dog world, it’s just not very relevant within Nordic businesses that adhere to non-hierarchical tendencies. For a manager or business owner looking to build a strong team, it is worth considering if your current managerial structure is the best for your business environment. Perhaps injecting some of the Nordic’s vision for building company management and decision making would go a long way in strengthening your company.

Celebrate team wins and encourage “our” and “we” language

One of the major differences I noticed when I became a manager here in the United States after spending time leading teams in the Nordics was how “me-focused” interviews and resumes are in the U.S. That is by no means a critique of how people build resumes here — a strong resume and emphasis on the value you bring to a company is typically how you sell yourself in an interview with a U.S. company.

Interviews are different in the Nordics. In fact, sometimes as an interviewer, it is often very difficult to get an interviewee to talk about themselves. Instead, their focus is on what the team did and how well they all worked together to tackle a given project or Go to the full article.

Source:: Business 2 Community

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