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The manager as the company’s global competitive parameter

Danish companies operate globally to an increasing extent, but the managers’ international management skills are rarely questioned. The research group Design of Global Enterprise have focused on the notion of Danish management in a global context in the year 2014. In this article, we share three of our most significant conclusions.

From Danish to global management
Danish managers in global management positions draw on experiences they have acquired in Denmark. Many believe that a specifically Danish management approach constitutes a competitive advantage for international companies. Our research results challenge this self-understanding. In fact, certain Danish management ideals, such as an open and inclusive management style, can create more problems than solutions in an international context. Employees with a different cultural background than Danish do not always understand our version of openness and inclusion. The delegation of responsibilities may be interpreted as an attempt on the part of the management to escape responsibility, and requests for employee initiatives may be seen as though the management do not have a clear idea of the direction the company is going. A derived consequence is that the manager’s authority is questioned, and the Danish management principles grounded in a Danish mindset become a source of frustration, which, in turn, causes the collaboration, communication and knowledge dissemination to deteriorate.

Globalised work culture
Danish companies are focused on attracting international specialists. But a great deal of these companies find that many of the talented people they have recruited leave Denmark again fairly quickly. The increased focus on work-life balance in companies with a specifically Danish work culture may pose a barrier to the integration and socialisation of the company’s international employees. In the Danish work culture, employees will typically work hard to avoid downtime during the work day in order to gain more leisure time. The Danish working approach is a double-edged sword for the managers, which can be employed to attract the strongest Danish talents - but it may also cause a talented international workforce to leave Denmark, because they do not feel socially integrated.

A new mindset
The third challenge is related to the managers’ basis of authority. Given the ever-changing market conditions that we expect to see in the future, managers need to move away from the role they have assumed as the calculating and competitive strategists who are in command of their own resources. In the future, what we will need are managers who are the conductors of the networking organisations, who work with their doors open and are willing to collaborate with other organisations. In this context, our research has shown how the intermediaries, in the role as sourcing facilitators, create value for the company to an extent that completely conjures away their reputation as mere costly links.

The time has come for Danish managers to tackle some of their most ingrained assumptions about the international superiority of the Danish management model. A self-contained Danish management style may ultimately pose a strategic challenge to Danish competitiveness in general. We believe that Danish managers can get better at basing their decisions on what actually works in an international context, rather than relying on the presumptions and traditions they brought along as mental baggage.

Further information

Poul Houman Andersen, Professor, Aalborg University. Jakob Lauring, Professor and Hanne Kragh, Associate Professor, Aarhus University.