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12/30/2010
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IKEA: Leadership and organizational culture

It all began in 1943, when a young man Ingvar Kamprad, 17 years old, decided to create his own company, starting from a reward from his father for having finished his studies. This small company located at Agunnaryd in Sweden has now become a major performer in the world of organizations, employing 128,000 people in 24 countries/territories. Now, Ikea is much more than a retailer of pieces of furniture; Ikea is a lifestyle, a culture apiece, for having introduced new standards into the field of furnishing, like in the management of company.

The concept of an organizational culture aims at analyzing how cultural differences between internal departments in an organization and between several companies, intending for example to amalgamate, can appear. Even if the work on these concepts is rather old, the interest for the organizational world of today always remains, and becomes increasingly strong. In the context of accentuated universalization and the European market under development, the companies change and grow constantly. Thus, ‘these recomposed, diversified, internationalized companies, constitute of as many situations in which often clashed systems of values, diagrams of behaviors, obviously different visions of the world, generating detrimental incomprehension and conflicts with the prosperity of the company and the comfort of those which work there’.

We want to analyze how the culture of a company, and more precisely that of Ikea, is formed of. We activate in this step, the model ‘of onion’ of Shein (1986). According to this model, the organizational culture appears in four dimensions, of a more unconscious core towards the surface outside. The center, being the most stable, but an intangible sphere of any organizational culture, takes up the fundamental postulates. Thus, one can propose for the case of Ikea, the sincerity and the open character of the human nature which are considered very important, that it is between the relationships in the company’s environment.

The center, the sphere being the most stable, but also intangible in any culture, uses the basic premises of any business. Thus, one can put forward the case for Ikea's sincerity and openness of human nature which are considered very important, whether between workers, between management and workers or when relations with the environment. Ikea wants to be a young company in the eyes of its consumers and is looking for workers who have these traits.

At a second level, we find the values and beliefs upon which a company is built, and which result directly from basic assumptions.Through seminars, such as human relations, and meetings with management, thus the involvement of workers, Ikea aims to integrate its values into the behavior of its staff. Want to create a pleasant social environment for staff, promote solidarity and create the possibility for everyone to contribute, in groups and ideas, functioning, but also to the development of the company.

The third dimension of culture includes the norms of thought and action, already observed from the outside and a direct result of underlying values. Thus, we may face in the workings of Ikea for example the fact that the store manager in France takes time to speak with workers during the day to be a prescriptive body that is not anonymous in the eyes of employees. By the same logic, one is on familiar terms with colleagues, regardless of the position we occupy. Another remarkable detail is how workers react to external criticism and internal company events.

Tags: Ikea, history of Ikea, leadership and organizational culture of Ikea

[...] In the dynamics of the model we can classify IKEA’s organizational culture in a first type of support, based on internal and flexible orientation whose definition sticks very well if IKEA: "Anxious for the well-being and development of their members, these companies promote cooperation and participation. Confidence and interpersonal communication are reinforced [ . ] and the staff shows a higher commitment to the company. "However, this type of innovation feature is also present at IKEA; creativity in processes and business management should especially be emphasized. [...]


[...] Thus we will see how IKEA explains its actions by perpetuating a cycle of model organizational culture (Sathe 1985). According to Sathe, companies which start hiring soon select their staff among those closest to the norms and values the company. Thus, already at this stage the first candidates that diverge too much of the cultural model of the company will leave the cycle. After the socialization of new members, the company should strengthen and perpetuate the values beliefs of the staff, according to Sathe, on behavioral dynamics. [...]


[...] Every employee knows the bibliography of Ingvar Kamprad and has great respect and admiration for this character. The second concept in the personalizing approach is Transformational Leadership of Bass (1990). His idea is that by four qualities, charisma, influence, ability to stimulate subordinates intellectually and respond to individualized considerations, a leader will be able to create added value to conventional leadership. Bass thus says that a manager can develop extra- role performance and be affective in his influence as a leader. [...]


[...] A remarkable phenomenon, if IKEA can already be observed at this stage, is the high alignment of directions on a global level on the Scandinavian culture. Indeed, IKEA has managed to export its own Swedish culture, whether in design or furniture management and corporate culture in all of its subsidiaries and has introduced its own values management at different countries and regions of the world. Another important factor for national cultures is uncertainty avoidance, so the anxiety of a society faced with uncertain and risky situations. [...]


[...] IKEA has great strength of cultural perpetuation. IKEA has managed to install a set of approaches that allow them to manage their own organizational culture and exploit its own economic advantage by differentiating itself in the world of organizations. Finally, an interesting aspect to analyze is the impact of national culture on the functioning of a large multinational company like IKEA. We will base ourselves in this part, on the work of Hofstede (1980, 1991) who distinguishes four classification criteria to distinguish cultures in countries and regions. [...]

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