Finnish Management Style

Industry and management in Finland has tended to be dominated by engineers. (Indeed, engineers are held in similar social esteem to those as in countries such as Germany.)

The dominance of engineers in the management corpus has led to a strong technical bent with a reliance being placed on systems and well-organised procedures. Managers place more emphasis on effectiveness and order than on flair and initiative (which are more useful in the design and R&D side of the business.)

Finns respect modesty and ironic self-deprecation. People do not like to show any airs and graces, nor do they like to be on the end of a sales pitch. Therefore managers take a low-key approach to managing others. It is not particularly the manager’s role to motivate the troops through pep-talks or positive feedback sessions. Delegation is more a matter of setting tangible tasks and defining benchmarks against which results can be quantifiably and non-emotionally measured. Once tasks have been delegated, the manager would not expect, or be expected, to closely scrutinise progress.

Within larger companies, major decisions would tend to be made by a team of senior executives in a collective fashion. This process can be slow and painstaking – Finns have a history of conservatism and change happens only after very deep consideration by all involved parties.

A brief overview of some key concepts to consider when doing business in Finland

Written and Produced by Keith Warburton

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Finland punches above its weight and has done for decades. For a country with a tiny population, geographically remote and with an inclement climate the fact that Finland is considered a world leader in a number of areas is a remarkable achievement and a testament to the resilience and determination of its people.

Maybe Finland’s success is down to its world famous ‘sissu’ (read the country profile to find out what that actually is) or maybe it’s just down to the fact that Finland has been able to develop an education system that is globally envied and endlessly studied. Whatever the reason, Finland is in many ways remarkable. If you are looking for a market with an affluent, sophisticated consumer base which is technologically advanced and open to new ideas, then the idea of doing business in Finland should appeal to you.

Yet Finland is in many ways an enigma. Nordic but not Scandinavian; with a seemingly endless border with Russia but definitely not Slavic. Even the Finnish language has no similarities with its near neighbours. For these reasons Finland is often referred to as a cultural ‘lone wolf’.

Doing business in Finland can bring enormous benefits but Finns are notoriously circumspect. A better knowledge of Finnish business culture can help you overcome any initial reticence you might encounter and enable you to develop deep and long-lasting relationships. Finns are interested in people who are interested in Finland – so show an interest in all things Finnish and you will reap the rewards.

This country profile provides an overview of some of the key aspects of Finnish business culture in a concise, easy to follow-format. The document includes information on:

  • Background to business
  • Business Structures
  • Management style
  • Meetings
  • Teamwork
  • Communication
  • Women in business
  • Entertaining
  • Top tips