During the past couple of years, our operation in Sri Lanka has played an increasingly significant role in the way we execute on our projects and deliver service to our customers. And there is no doubt that a successful cooperation between Scandinavia and Sri Lanka is a true prerequisite for achieving our ambitious goals in the years to come.
Since I joined IFS, I have heard a lot about the ways people in Scandinavia and Sri Lanka work together. How we benefit from each other’s knowledge and competence. But also about the cultural differences that exist. Last month, I had the privilege of travelling to Sri Lanka, together with other members of the Scandinavian Management Team, and meet the team in Colombo myself.
My first reflection was that I was impressed. And felt inspired! By the positive journey they have begun and their remarkable achievements so far, their ability to drive things in the right direction, their streamlined internal HR processes, from which we can definitely learn, and last but not least by the way they make you feel welcome.
My meeting with the Sri Lankan part of IFS made me think a bit about culture. We all know by now that “Culture eats Strategy for breakfast” meaning that organizations with a strong culture and a common set of behaviors are much more likely to succeed than companies with a strong strategy. A clear indication of the need for management, in any company, to start focusing more on company culture if they want to stay on top of the game. But how does culture work across borders?
One of our biggest achievements and building blocks of the success we experience today is the creation of a true Scandinavian organization where most people are used to having 3 countries as their place of work. I have not personally been part of the journey so far back but I can only imagine that, as it goes for any major change, there have been difficulties in accepting the new status quo and challenges to overcome. Over time, we have learned to adapt to the new way of working and one day working in a Scandinavian organization has become so natural that you don’t think about it anymore.
Today, I believe we have an organization that, to a large extent, is good at accepting that the only constant thing is change! This is a big advantage as it makes us more agile in the way we cope with changes in the surroundings around us and helps us sustain our competitive advantage. We are all so used to being part of a Scandinavian organization by now that we are no longer surprised to find ourselves working with:
- The Consensus Driven Swede. (Everything takes forever because everybody must agree with everybody else)
- The Laid Back Norwegian. (Does anything really get under their skin?)
- The Tough Dane. (You can say whatever you want – they know best!).
I believe that a major thing that has made a difference between success and failure with our Scandinavian focus is that we all want the same thing! We all strongly believe that our product is the best in the market where we compete and we all want IFS to further thrive and are proud to be part of the journey.
When looking at the fruitful cooperation between Scandinavia and Sri Lanka, I believe the same thing to be true: Having a common goal in mind makes us more alike!
When working with all kinds of cultural differences there are of course a couple things you have to bear in mind. Tolerance is a key word in this connection. Tolerance that there are differences in the way people express themselves, approach new ideas, behave around leaders etc. And that this is okay and does not necessarily have to change.
Communication is another important word that comes to mind. Even in the electronic age, effective overseas communication can be difficult. And when you add a bit of cultural diversity as well, this becomes even truer. I believe we have already done much in terms of creating an efficient communication platform but we can become even better at thinking competence instead of offshoring, exchanging viewpoints and seeing things from other perspectives. We might even learn something on the way.
By being open and changing our minds as to how things should be, I believe that only the sky is the limit.