Switzerland, as a country, is highly decentralised and divided into a series of semi-autonomous Cantons. Many highly contentious decisions are left to the population to decide through a series of reasonably frequent referenda.
A direct parallel between these two points of decentralisation and delegation of decision-making can be found in Swiss business structures. Switzerland is not dominated by a limited number of large companies but, rather, contains a plethora of medium and smaller organisations. Larger companies tend to favour the holding company model, under which operates a series of businesses aligned in a loose federation.
This industrial system promotes the delegation of responsibility to semi-independent operating units on a whole range of major issues. The benefit of this approach, coupled with the Swiss desire for order and systems, is that companies exhibit great strengths on the operational side of the business. However, the criticism often levelled at the Swiss is that they have a weakness in areas of strategy and business development (which, it is said, is a direct result of a lack of decentralised decision making.)
Surprisingly, the Swiss are not as hierarchically minded as some other European countries (the Germans and the French for example) and this could be another reflection of the deeply entrenched political beliefs in decentralisation and delegation of authority to the masses.
This country-specific business culture profile was written by Keith Warburton who is the founder of the cultural awareness training consultancy Global Business Culture.
Global Business culture is a leading training provider in the fields of cross-cultural communication and global virtual team working. We provide training to global corporations in live classroom-based formats, through webinars and also through our cultural awareness digital learning hub, Global Business Compass.
This World Business Culture profile is designed as an introduction to business culture in Switzerland only and a more detailed understanding needs a more in-depth exploration which we can provide through our training and consultancy services.
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