Norwegian management model

DenNorskeLedelsesmodellenHi everyone

During my years as a blogger I have written a number of blog posts about differences between India and Norway. I have written about difficulties for Norwegian companies to do business in India due to differences in culture and I have even written about differences in management styles in India and Norway.

For about a year now I have taken an executive management study in IT-management. Here management and different management models have been essential. Based on this I have started to ask myself if there exists any specific Norwegian model for management. And more important; can this Norwegian management model be a reason why Norwegian companies fail in India?

Some time back I came across a book called Den norske ledelsesmodellen (the Norwegian model of management). In this blog post I will give a quick review of this book. A discussion on how this model work in a country like India will come in a later blog post.

The book starts by asking if there exists any particular Norwegian management model or if management is universal. Based on research it seems quite clear that the Norwegian managers seems to be less strict, more involved, delegate more and act more as a coach than foreign managers. The Norwegian management model has evolved because it has shown to be a management model that works. Management the Norwegian way quite simply give results, both in Norway and abroad. The Norwegian management model is very much connected to the idea about the welfare state. The idea about equality has its roots far back in the history. Way back in 1739 elementary school was mandatory for everyone! This means that Norway was one of the very first countries where children from all societies should get some fundamental education. It is also important that the Norwegian farmers to a much higher degree than farmers in rest of Europe maintained their own land rather than to be connected to a landowner.

In Norway there has always been a huge degree of cooperation between the government, the employer and the employees.  The labor organizations have been strong and made sure that the workers have been able to “stand up against” the employers when needed. This also affects the way the Norwegian companies are organized and helps to break down the hierarchies in the organizations.

Some of the people interviewed in the book stress the importance about recruiting good people. A good manager is a person who achieves results by help of others. The most important is to build a team or an organization where people really work together.  It is also interesting to read about what is part of the management role. The importance of giving good feedback to the employees is being stressed. All people in an organization must be confident of their importance for the organization is something that one of the managers stresses. The more confidence a coworker feels the higher will the revenue and customer satisfaction be is being stressed. Research shows that management based by confidence also increases the morale for the coworkers.

It is interesting to observe the experiences that Norwegian managers have with international management styles. One person say: “It is more difficult to be a manager I Norway than in Sweden or Denmark. Norwegians don’t really believe in authorities, they ask questions and everybody have to be convinced. Not everybody do what they are being told either, even if they say OK”. Hierarchies are more dominant in other countries than in Norway. Even our neighbors Denmark have organizations with much higher hierarchies. One person says that the Norwegian management style will be inefficient in some other countries. In some cultures it is seen as a signal of lack of confidence if the boss starts to ask questions to their subordinates. One example from Romania shows this. The CEO of the Norwegian company visited one of their factories in Romania. There were some points in the presentation from the marketing manager that the CEO was uncertain about. He then asked the country manager about this during the lunch but got no answer. Suddenly the country manager disappeared from the lunch. When he came back he said: “Problem solved. I’ve fired him”.

The conclusion to this must be that the Norwegian management model is very much based on equality between the managers and the subordinates. Everyone will have a say and it is actually important for managers to have the confidence, or maybe I should say trust, of their subordinates.

Do you have any experiences with this? Any disagreements?

Talk to you soon

Karsten

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6 thoughts on “Norwegian management model

  1. Really good post and important questions.

    Speaking from my personal experiance, there is nothing called a “Norwegian management model”. Rather it is a management style. So what is the difference between a model and a syle? Well a managment model is based on having a set of issues/challenges, and strategies of how to solve them. Formal hirachy, reward mechanisms, authority etc are pretty much same the world over, thanks to management consultants.

    Management style.
    Norway.
    To understand the Norwegian management style, one has to understad the fundamentals of Norwegian socio economic thinking. Post 2nd world war, Norway was a predominately rural society, with a very limited elite. The labour party ruled the country with firm hand promoting a classless society. The values of social democracy were thought via the radio, TV, School and newspapers. Even the king has been kind of “appologetic” to his status. Taking the tram, and trying to portray him self as much of a common person as he could.
    All this translates into the management style. The manager is very weak, which does not allow him to show authoritarian behavior. The sutiation is further made difficult by the leagal framework. Norwegians can take sickleave with full pay, the employee is hard to fire and should not be over monitored. All this puts the manager into a very tight corner, and he has to bank on the counsiousness of the employee. Hence he takes up more of a coordinator type of a role.
    This translates into less detail management and more of a “outsourcing” of problems. In stead of handing out piecies of work you hand out problems. Advanteges here include, motivated employees, less energy spent on “buttering of boss”, creating own status, peer competition and greater freedom to vent the thougts.

    Productivity and profitability.
    The total output of hours is definately less. Among the upsides are less waste of energy on peer rivelery and status issues. Another important factor that is often missed out is the objectivity of desisions. Desisions are usually a mix of self interest and company interests. In the Norwegian style, company interests are probably allowed greater weight. This point should never be underestimated,as good selfless descisions are of epic value to the company.

    It is hard to say what is the most profitable way. The Norwegian way definately allows better personal life and well being.

    Reply
  2. Really good post and important questions.

    Speaking from my personal experiance, there is nothing called a “Norwegian management model”. Rather it is a management style. So what is the difference between a model and a syle? Well a managment model is based on having a set of issues/challenges, and strategies of how to solve them. Formal hirachy, reward mechanisms, authority etc are pretty much same the world over, thanks to management consultants.

    Management style.
    Norway.
    To understand the Norwegian management style, one has to understad the fundamentals of Norwegian socio economic thinking. Post 2nd world war, Norway was a predominately rural society, with a very limited elite. The labour party ruled the country with firm hand promoting a classless society. The values of social democracy were thought via the radio, TV, School and newspapers. Even the king has been kind of “appologetic” to his status. Taking the tram, and trying to portray him self as much of a common person as he could.
    All this translates into the management style. The manager is very weak, which does not allow him to show authoritarian behavior. The sutiation is further made difficult by the leagal framework. Norwegians can take sickleave with full pay, the employee is hard to fire and should not be over monitored. All this puts the manager into a very tight corner, and he has to bank on the counsiousness of the employee. Hence he takes up more of a coordinator type of a role.
    This translates into less detail management and more of a “outsourcing” of problems. In stead of handing out piecies of work you hand out problems. Advanteges here include, motivated employees, less energy spent on “buttering of boss”, creating own status, peer competition and greater freedom to vent the thougts.

    Productivity and profitability.
    The total output of hours is definately less. Among the upsides are less waste of energy on peer rivelery and status issues. Another important factor that is often missed out is the objectivity of desisions. Desisions are usually a mix of self interest and company interests. In the Norwegian style, company interests are probably allowed greater weight. This point should never be underestimated,as good selfless descisions are of epic value to the company.

    It is hard to say what is the most profitable way. The Norwegian way definately allows better personal life and well being

    Reply
  3. The Norwegian management model does not encourage innovation simply because innovation requires a genius of a “single” individual that is stiffled by the consensus based methods. As you put it, everybody has to agree in dedecison-making and even after they agree they do exactly what they feel is right.

    I pfetn use the unbreakable wine glass analogy to describe product develoment in Norway and US. In the US if you have to make such a wine glass, then you hire an scientific expert who knows much about making a wine glass, and a support team that should follow his expert advice to make the best possible wine glass. In this process some team mebers will not feel heard by the experts (because they are novices to the field), others will be run over by the experts knowledge. Now this method is not necessarily good for the pople who work in the team, but likely to get a great product based on empiri and science.

    In Norway, you also hire a scientific expert to make the unbreakable wine glass, and a support team that may not know much about wine glass making. What happens next is the wine glass is made not based on expertise , but consensus of everone in the team. Thus, the Norwegian wine glass in fact does not quite measure up to the American standards in terms of quality or innovation, but what it does, is that it respects all the individuals in team, but the product may not realize its potential.

    Its hard to tell whats the correct approach as it will be different for different people, but if you ask me how can the Norwegians get away with blatant medicority in a product? Well, critically because Norway has enormous resources to support such methods that espouse equality over competence and egalitarianism over professionalism.When someone askes me, how can the Norwegians get away with it, I love to quote Clinton – I did it becAuse I could!
    Thats the simple explaination.

    Reply
  4. Karsten, again a very interesting article.

    The Norwegian management model/style, obviously has confused many Indians. Especially our flat hierarchy attitude, where almost everyone not only should be heard – but even is actually expected to contribute actively in the decision making.

    As you say, Norwegians are programmed based on the idea of equality. A code that doesn’t work in India. Most Indians are brought up encouraged to do strictly as told – without any questioning on the decisions taken above them. Contributing to decision making is seen as risky business, that can easily backfire and result in something negative. This is a risk many Indians simply can’t afford taking.

    Then, what happens when the T-shirt dressed “we are all equal programmed” Norwegian CEO walks in, asking everyone for their opinion? People get scared. If not to death – at least to complete silence. Which again can be understood as lack of enthusiasm and interest.

    What a crash. The Norwegian trying to involve everyone in a constructive process bases on trust. The Indian is confused by which seems like a lack of a clear plan and strict orders.

    A very challenging situation to bypass. It demands knowledge and a long term clear approach. From the guy in the T-shirt.

    Karsten, I also found it amusing to read about the Norwegian managers questions, leading to the marketing manager being fired on the spot. I know the example was from Romania, but it could as well have been India. Many good people must have been fired in India as a result of the friendly curiosity of a Norwegian manager.

    According to me, hypothetical’s doesn’t work very well in India.
    At all mentioning or asking questions about something imaginary, seems to send the signal that “he has decided to do something- and it should happen right now”.

    So Karsten, don’t ask your Mumbai hairdresser if he think you would look good with a shaved head.

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Top diplomatic presence at NICCI meeting to promote Norwegian business in India » MY FANTASTIC INDIA MY FANTASTIC INDIA

  6. Great article , Karsten,
    The Norwegian management model which you described is very similiar to the style of management in Israeli and Jewish companies. I disagree with Tommy. The innovation in companies managed this way works differently, The innovation is driven not by single “genius” but by combination of effort, ideas, discussions in the team and ambition to achieve the success as the team.

    Reply

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