Danish managers maintain an open company culture abroad – University of Copenhagen

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09 January 2013

Danish managers maintain an open company culture abroad


Unintentionally, Danish managers posted abroad maintain an open company culture, based on trust, collaboration and equal opportunities. As these values seem to increase innovation, it is important that the managers become conscious about their role in the evolvement of the company. These are the words of a researcher from Employment Relations Research Centre (FAOS) at the University of Copenhagen, in her PhD-thesis.

PhD-fellow, Christina Jayne Colclough says: “My study shows, that a company’s potential for innovation increases when there are good opportunities for sharing and exchanging knowledge, both internal and among the different networks of the company. Companies that are considering a limited version of the open management style, which characterizes Danish corporate culture, should therefore be aware of the risk of damaging their abilities for innovation on a longer term.”

In her PhD-thesis, Christina Colclough looks into what happens to the culture of a Danish-owned multinational industrial company when it moves parts of its production outside of Denmark.

Management style creates an open corporate culture
The company studied in this PhD-thesis works in industrial manufacturing of special-products. It is founded in Denmark, but has later gone global with activities in many countries, such as Poland and Russia, where companies tend to be built in a strict hierarchic sense.

Christina Colclough says, that the managers posted abroad, in practice maintain a company culture which is based on trust, collaboration and equal opportunities, just as it is in Denmark. The Eastern European employees, who have participated in the study, have noticed that the Danish managers are in the same line in the cafeteria as the employees. They are also noticing that the managers appreciate and reward their initiatives, for instance by paying a bonus for good ideas.

It wasn’t until she started asking the managers about the specific examples from the employees, that they began reflecting over the fact that they were breaking local standards. According to Christina, this indicates that the Danish company culture lies so deep within the management style, that they unintentionally brought it with them abroad.

Team-organizing enhance innovation
The employees in the company’s subsidiaries are organized in teams, with a great amount of self-determination, especially in the Danish subsidiary. Independence is on the rise in Poland and Russia, and it keeps growing as the employees feel confident with the flat collaboration-oriented structure.

Christina Colclough says that organizing in teams is important, because this is where the employees first and foremost build relations of trust and start exchanging ideas. If the idea-development process is perceived as natural here, it will be easier to share these thoughts with others, such as the management.

Christina emphasizes, that the integration of the shared company culture and relations of trust in the different teams is what creates the conditions for a higher level of social capital, which again enhances learning.

Risky not to involve the employees
Like this company, other Danish companies are not aware of the importance their management style and work organization have for further development. Therefore there is also a risk, that the companies are unaware of the consequences if they choose to change their practice abroad.

Christina Jayne Colclough defended her PhD-thesis Building Social Capital – a joint venture between management and employees in a Danish MNC on the 7th of December 2012 at the University of Copenhagen.