Strategic Leadership

2.08 Cultural Differences of Swe-Fin

Cultural Differences Between Finland and Sweden — 2.08

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Even if your business has no connections to Sweden or Finland, it’s very useful to understand the cultural differences between both countries if you wish to understand more about the Nordics. Swedish people excel in certain things, which might be worth imitating to a certain extent over where you are. Let’s look at the cultural differences between Finland and Sweden.

I used to live in Sweden when I worked at Nokia. At the time, I also got to know Anita Ekwall, who is as of this moment still active in the professional space. She can be considered a veteran of her field of expertise. She was the one who introduced me to the cultural differences between Sweden and Finland.

It’s surprising how often things go wrong just because people in Sweden and Finland don’t understand each other. Globally, we share a lot of similarities in the culture with the Swedes, yet it is very surprising how many cultural differences we have on top of the similarities despite being neighbors.

1. Planning

Figure that describes the cultural differences between Sweden and Finland in planning in the form of a simple comparison table.

When we’re talking about cultural differences between Finland and Sweden, one worth mentioning is planning. Swedish people love planning and, in particular, participating in the planning process. Swedes love to work in groups and to share responsibility together as a group. In Finland, we want action and spontaneity. 

In Sweden, the boss has co-workers, medarbetare. The Swedish co-workers are very friendly and fearless towards bosses. In Finland, everyone knows who’s boss. Finns love individual responsibility, while the Swedes love group responsibility. 

The way Swedish people discuss during meetings seems far removed from how we Finns do things. We Finns don’t want to invest the time that is needed for long discussions. Swedes want to discuss until everyone understands why something needs to be done. Finns, however, want action. And they want to do things quickly. A Swede will try to avoid conflicts until the very end when a Finn will take the bull by the horns as quickly as possible and get it over with. 

These cultural differences between Finland and Sweden are pretty big, surprisingly big for many of us. When we act together, Swedish people should understand our customs and Finns should understand theirs. Neither of us can change completely because of our personal background, culture, personal history, etc. We can however respect and understand one another, where we come from, and not get offended if things do not quite go the way we by nature expect things to go. If we can learn from each other, our business can take flight in situations where there are co-workers from both cultures within the same organization.

2. Decisions

Figure that describes the cultural differences between Sweden and Finland in decisions in the form of a simple comparison table.

In Sweden, a decision is made by reaching a consensus. In Finland, the boss gets to decide. The Swedish approach also can be criticized. The Boss might know immediately what they want, but they won’t go and tell everyone. The boss first collects their group and becomes insured that everyone understands why a decision must be made and why the direction is what it is. Then the boss listens to the others and gathers information, which might improve the decision. It goes without saying that not everyone in Sweden is of the same opinion, but they accept the decision when they know the background. And (surprise surprise) everyone gets down to business immediately when consensus has been reached and the go-ahead is given by the boss.  

Finns are impatient and can’t stand to discuss, we want a decision. Our problem is that if people have not been heard, they become irritated and implementation won’t happen, even if the decision was made quickly. In fact, I believe that the Swedish way is often faster. In Sweden, implementation happens immediately, when in Finland it’s inadequate. The Swedish leadership model would be a great supplement to the Finnish approach. 

To be precise, Finland has changed a lot in the past ten years. We have learned to listen, to share our backgrounds transparently, and to make decisions together. Many organizations ask the whole group to set their goals, instead of proceeding top-down. The result is much better this way. Many people would never have the guts to set goals as high as one can with a bottom-up approach. 

In Sweden, it is, however, important to follow the hierarchy. It’s surprising, considering that they are all such co-workers. A Swedish boss might get frustrated if someone surpasses them. In Finland it’s not so dangerous, so let them! The main thing is that everything works.  

Of course, Swedes want results and they will get them.  

According to Anita Ekwall, Finns are visionaries as individuals. Design runs deep in our culture. I don’t know if I completely agree, because I believe the same applies to the Swedes. Maybe there’s a difference in nuance. People understand things differently, even if they use the same words. 

3. Operation

Figure that describes the cultural differences between Sweden and Finland in operations in the form of a simple comparison table.

Many misunderstandings happen in our everyday lives as we work together. First of all, our relationship with time is different between us. From a Swedish perspective, time equals quality. This can, of course, be true. In Finland, however, efficiency is important, and that is why decisions are made quickly. 

If a change of plan happens in Sweden, it’s a big thing. In Finland, people are flexible. If a decision is wrong, it is changed. In our minds, this is efficient. It’s an agile culture.  

Swedes need time to anticipate what’s going to happen next. This is why Swedes reserve time in the calendar long in advance, in a way that may seem almost ridiculous from a Finnish perspective. Why can’t things take place faster? Cultural differences.  

During my time in Sweden, I learned that if you, on a Wednesday, invite your neighbor for a barbeque and beer on Friday, you might subtly be insulting the Swede. This is because you are, in fact, expecting your neighbor to be free on Friday as if they would have a lousy social life. Of course, the neighbor will come. But they will first let you know that they need to rearrange their calendar. It would be advisable to give them a two week’s notice. Then it’s not embarrassing to have an empty calendar. 

Framförhållning, meaning anticipation, is longer in Sweden. We’re flexible. We have a one-hour warmup, just enough time for the sauna to heat up! It’s funny that it always takes an hour for a Finnish crowd to warm up. We approach new situations by observing. In Sweden, situations are always approached through discussion. It’s funny to us Finns because Swedes are very friendly from the beginning. To a Finn, however, it might feel like they would have known the person for 10 years. It might dawn on the Finn that this indeed was not the case.  

Everything is very informal in Sweden. Differences in hierarchy are frowned upon, whereas we Finns prefer formality. The thing that bugs me is that company hierarchies are somewhat concealed in Sweden, even though they very much exist. 

Also, Swedish people don’t do well if a situation is unsafe. In Finland, operation continues even if there is a lack of safety. Finland did experience a World War, while the last time Sweden was actively involved in a war was at the beginning of the 19th century. These differences in experience have undoubtedly had an effect on both countries and the people in them. 

4. Being social

Figure that describes the cultural differences between Sweden and Finland in being social in the form of a simple comparison table.

But there are even more differences that matter. The last category of cultural differences between Finland and Sweden is about social encounters. For example, a Swede wants to be like the rest, a Finn doesn’t want to be a part of the mass. For example, if you ask a Swedish person about what typical Swedishness is, they will find it difficult to answer clearly. Again, if you ask a Finn the same type of question, it may not take that long for the Finn to shout out something along the lines of… Sauna, Sibelius and Sisu. This is a hallmark of a younger nation. Things are way more pronounced. Sweden, on the other hand, is a much older nation, it has even been a superpower back in the day. A great nation with a great history with many great achievements. Things just appear different from this type of perspective.   

Finns are generally very aware of their identity, and naturally, it also means that the club of Finnishness has gotten a spirit of exclusivity around in the minds of many people. It’s emphasized and promoted passively in different situations. There are naturally always exceptions to everything. These are not natural laws after all.  

When a person from a stronger Finnish background goes abroad, they may appear insecure, because the environment is new. While at home there is a ton of confidence, on the other hand. It seems to be the reverse among people with a stronger Swedish background. Things are much more low-key at home, while there is a lot of confidence while abroad. This confidence means it is very easy to start a conversation, which inevitably leads to very profitable export agreements. Finnish society could benefit from having a bit more Swedish flair in its international dealings.  

Involve everyone

Perhaps it’s time to make some conclusions, and pull all of this together into a summary, of sorts. Let’s involve everyone so that they all understand why something needs to be done. This is what we do at Stradigo. While working with clients we involve everyone in the strategy process with digital technology and by crystallizing the strategy together. As far as I’m aware, this technique has not been mastered by the competition in Sweden, so there is a window of opportunity of sorts, for the time being. 


Drawing of two people. One person wears the colors of the Swedish flag and the other person wears the colors of the Finnish flag.

No one can change their background. So, let’s be safe and proud of who we are! That being said, we can, however, benchmark a bit and see if we can adapt good practices from elsewhere, Sweden in this case. Language barriers naturally play a significant role in this, while English cannot bridge this gap fully. To truly bridge the cultural and knowledge gap one would need to have insights into the native tongues, at least if one desires to make a deep dive and get the gold that lays on the bottom of the cultural swimming pool. 

These are the cultural differences between Finland and Sweden. Hope you found this blog informative!

Let’s increase our common understanding, speak languages, adapt and learn from each other, and let’s not be too stiff in our operations! Read more.🔥

Finding Us On Social Media


Stradigo is a brand owned by Rdigo Oy (Business-ID: 2120844-1).

Learn more from our Imprint.

Rdigo Oy is registered in Finland as a Limited company. We are a strategy consultancy located in the Helsinki capital region.

We’ve been in business since 2007. The company name comes from the latin word Redigo, meaning both ‘I shape’ & ‘I renew’.

Stradigo combines the word strategy with Rdigo.

Strategic Planning

1.15 Unit strategic key questions

Case: What are our business unit’s strategic key questions? — 1.15

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As I write this, I want to share an experience with you. With several companies, I have worked with the question: “What are our business unit’s strategic key questions?”

This question has given me so intense experiences that I simply had to record a video about it, and now this video has been turned into a blog text!

A company has a strategy, and it must be visible in the units. There are business leaders who belong to a school of thought that a company must not have sub-strategies but only one strategy. I belong to this same school of thought. Typically, it’s very common for a company several different strategies; a marketing strategy, a sales strategy, an IT strategy, a staff strategy, etc. The downside is that they can dilute the business-wide upper-level strategy.

Text: “Company strategy, unit’s alternative”. A blue arrow goes from company strategy to unit’s alternative.

It’s a more considerable risk that the other strategies will go all over the place. The workaround is to have one strategy, which is possible by converting the various sub-strategies into focus areas, which then get placed under the primary strategy.  

Let’s look at how these alternatives are created. 

Customers' key strategic questions

Let’s approach this from a customer-oriented perspective as if wearing the customer’s glasses! What are the crucial key strategic questions, which the customers ask you? They are usually something like the following: 

Drawing of a man sweating. Text: “Customer’s key questions”; “How are you going to solve our crucial problem?”

The definition of work is to solve other people’s problems. Compensation is the reward! Let me show the logic in this. 

Top down + bottom up

The point is to go both top-down and bottom-up. If you would wear your customer’s glasses, what is the Ultimate One Customer Core Question, in which the customer needs your help? This is solved together with the unit key persons. The number one question breaks down into three key strategic questions. 

What is the challenge in which the customer needs us? Crystallize this into three key questions! 

Once you figure these out with your unit, you will get a helicopter view of your process. 

Flowchart describing how customer view process leads to key strategic questions, focus areas, goals for the next quarter and actions.

Every answer from each question is divided into two boxes. What is the market’s strategic rationale? WHY is this question important for the customer? The other box will be filled with answers about WHAT your response is to this question. Both boxes will have about 7-10 bullet points. Every question has its own page. 

All three key questions also get their own separate workshop. With efficiency, one workshop is done in less than two hours. With these three short meetings, the whole project is completed in a very short time. During the final meeting, the responses are crystallized into focus areas and the tasks needed to make them happen. 

A helicopter view over the business unit’s work

Can you see the thin blue (indigo) vertical line going through the “Next Quarter Goals” -box in the above image? Everything on its left side is the helicopter view over the process. I began yesterday’s meeting by saying, “Now I’ll be taking you on a refreshing helicopter ride!”  This helicopter ride will give an upper-level perspective to the unit’s work. 

I’ve mentioned my motto, which is: “Head in the clouds, but with really long legs.” 

If one looks at the operation from above, it looks different than from a grassroots level. Grassroots perspective is critical as well; we need it! However, it’s the central part of every work. The question is: If one jumps on a helicopter ride and invests these few hours in it, does it produce different kinds of goals than with a bottom-up method? – OF COURSE, IT DOES! 

Multi-level goals

In general, there are multi-level goals. There are yearly goals – like, closing the books each year (accounting)I have also talked a lot about units and businesses having quarterly goals because yearly goals are too high-level. People tend to implement the quarterly goals much more quickly. 

3 levels of arrows representing a different types of goals. Quarter goals, Annual Goals and Strategic Response. Text: “Different level goals”

This exercise is all about the long blue curve, the strategic responses. Of course, the financing unit in yesterday’s case has implemented this curve for a long time. It is now only made visible! They have implemented strategic responses but haven’t necessarily documented them. When they are documented, everything begins to look different! 

Facilitation — The Golden Grain

Let me share with you one more pride, which is also the gold grain of facilitation. As people sit in a meeting, an online meeting, for example, they all look at the screen. Every key question has been provided its own slide with two boxes filled with bullet points. The first box is filled with reasons WHY the customers want this thing. What is the market suction? The second box is filled with WHAT the company’s response is to the need. 

The gold grain of facilitation is when others speak, you transcribe it into text in front of them. This requires practice; I have practiced for years. It’s quite challenging, but when you get the hang of it, people begin thinking freely. They constantly see the summary of the conversation, and it leads to iteration and a better outcome. 

Drawing of different people attending a workshop. Text: “Gold grain of facilitation”; “Why?”; “What?”; “They speak – you transcribe it in front of them”

This is actually the climax of the strategy consultation. Even if the meeting language is Finnish, everything is written down in the internationally recognized corporate language, English. Crystallizing and simultaneously editing thoughts is a talent. But, when the meeting ends, it’s a wrap! It leads to a better quality of thinking. In an expert job like this, the difference between poor and better performance can be like the difference between one and one thousand. If you dig with a shovel, the difference can be double by that much. 


Here’s a hypothetical for you to think about. Let’s say you want to organize a party and hire a band to entertain the guests. You decide that classical music is the way and a string quartet is what you need. But you also want the band to perform something new… So you need a new composition! The question… Do you order a new composition from Mozart or Mr. Smith? What’s the difference in quality? Of course, Mr. Smith is the one you go with because Mozart is no longer among us! 

The gold grain of facilitation is the fact that the conversation is visible on the screen. Give me a call, and I’ll show you what it’s like in practice! 

Helicopter view

Let’s return once more to the subject of the helicopter view. If the helicopter perspective is in use and a few hours are invested in it, are the goals it produces better and different as if one would only operate on a ground level with one’s hands in the mud? OF COURSE. 

Drawing of a dart board and a helicopter. Text: “If we utilize the helicopter view, will it produce new better goals?”; “Of course!”

That’s what happened in yesterday’s process as well. People were delighted. It was refreshing to be on the upper level, not only in the operative everyday life. This is very exciting! 

What was the feedback?

Here are a few comments from yesterday’s meeting: 

what did people have to say? comments in finnish and english

“Todella tehokas tapa koostaa ja käsitellä melko suuria kokonaisuuksia.” – A very efficient way to compose and deal with the big picture    

“Great linkage through iterative structured way of working together.”  

“Kirkasti tavoitteita hyvin, tykkäsin prosessista. Saatiin hyviä ylätason tavoitteita, joihin hyvä linkittää alempien tasojen actioneita.”  – Clarified the goals well, I liked the process. We got good upper-level goals and good actions to link underneath them. 

Hyvää keskustelua josta päästiin myös ihan konkreettiseen alemman tason tekemiseen kiinni” – A good conversation from where we got down to lower-level activities. 

“Erittäin hyvää keskustelua, jonka Markus tiivisti tehokkaasti. Konkreettisten toimenpiteiden osalta painottaisin vielä perusprosessien kehittämistä. Siinä riittää paljon työtä.” – Very good conversation, which Markus crystallized efficiently. Regarding the concrete actions, I would emphasize the development of basic processes more. There’s a lot of work to do in just that.” 

“Hyvä fokus asioihin ja tarpeisiin.” – A good focus on matters and needs.

“Great discussion followed by conclusions. We need to keep this alive and updated.”  

I always tell the management team members that I’m so tired of the comment “Good conversation”. Conversing is important, but the outcome is very important and it’s often absent from the conversation. 

Final Check

Once you have the strategic responses to the customers’ questions and the market situation, it’s time for the final check. 

Drawing of a Strategy 1Pager. Text: “Final Check”; “Company strategy sector”; “Unit’s alternative”; “Strategy 1Pager”

The point is to check that you are inside the boundaries set by the company’s strategy, within the lines of the sector. The blue arrow is the strategic response! 

Ignite your strategy by answering crucial strategic key questions! Read more.🔥 

Finding Us On Social Media


Stradigo is a brand owned by Rdigo Oy (Business-ID: 2120844-1).

Learn more from our Imprint.

Rdigo Oy is registered in Finland as a Limited company. We are a strategy consultancy located in the Helsinki capital region.

We’ve been in business since 2007. The company name comes from the latin word Redigo, meaning both ‘I shape’ & ‘I renew’.

Stradigo combines the word strategy with Rdigo.

Strategic Leadership

2.07 Agile Strategy

Agile Strategy — 2.07

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Many strategies feel stiff and high-flying, like they are soaring above the cloudsa bit like if they are something an ordinary person doesn’t need to worry about. This is not how things need to be! Take a look at this. It doesn’t have to be the case!  A strategy can be agile!

Text: “What makes a strategy agile?”

What makes the strategy agile? Let’s think! Is it the fact that the strategy is altered and updated constantly? – Unfortunately, no. The strategy becomes agile when it’s on people’s minds and they live & breathe it and they update it. 

Text: “The fact that it’s alive and on people’s minds.”

Usually, the problem is that the word strategy is not understood. Here is a simplified explanation for what strategy means. Strategy means how the company fulfills its purpose.

Text: “Strategy = HOW”

Strategy has become a difficult word to understand over the years, therefore it must be demystified. We can make the strategy truly exciting and also simple to understand. When this takes place the strategy can be understood, which means it can be implemented, which means that it becomes agile. 

Strategy between the ears

Drawing of a human head with mess inside the head represented by a red line. Text: “Strategy between the ears”

An entrepreneur starting a company has the strategy between their ears. They don’t even notice when they update the strategy. After a while, they may come face-to-face with some situation, which causes the strategy to become confused. Their mind becomes a mess, and since the strategy exists only in their head, it too becomes a mess. The company is suddenly in trouble. The more people are employed by the company, the bigger the problem is. 

Too many directions

Drawing of a five people and an icon of many red arrows going in different directions. Text: “Too many directions”


In a company with tens or hundreds of people, the lack of focus starts to show. Too many directions easily are discovered. In this case, the CEO or founder no longer controls the situation. There comes a time when the CEO realizes something needs to be written down. 

Drawing of two heads, one has a mess inside the head and the other has a clear structure. An arrow points from the mess towards clear structure.

Yearly clock

Let’s think about the yearly clock for a bit. This is the annual schedule when things take place inside companies. From a certain perspective, the yearly clock is a sad thing to have to deal with. Bigger companies have considered the yearly clock to be nearly essential for successfully running everything. The strategy is created in the spring, operation and budget planning happen in the fall. It repeats again the next year. Since corporate legal entities are typically required to do accounting, and hand in the books at the end of the accounting period, which usually is at the end of the year, then it becomes really tempting to set up a schedule that goes hand in hand with it. That’s the yearly clock in a nutshell. Next year’s goals must be planned and the dividends paid yearly to the owners if there is an opportunity for it. Therefore, it’s understandable to use the yearly clock also when strategy updating takes place.  

Figure of a circle with four sectors, each sector representing a quarter and text: “Yearly clock”. The figure represents strategy update schedule.

It’s possible to challenge the springtime strategy hassle. It’s worth taking the time to think if the yearly clock is the smartest way to do things. Likewise, many people associate the word strategy with thick slide decks consisting of multiple presentation slides. Many people hate the amount of work that needs to be put into keeping these slides up-to-date and constructing new ones. It’s a huge amount of work.  

Here’s how working with thick slide decks typically goes: Take the last year’s slides and alter them slightly. After that, the management team sits cross-eyed over many workshops. In the end, they get excited when a new update and a new core are discovered. After that, a big briefing is held, during which the new strategy is presented and everyone is confused why people don’t begin implementing it and the strategy doesn’t become concrete. 

This begs the question, is there a better way to go about this? Well… of course there is!  

Strategy checkups quarterly

Start doing quarterly strategy checkups. In practice, this means, that a day or a two-day meeting is held once every quarter. The first thing is to look back and see if the goals of the previous quarter were achieved. The next step is to define the relevant goals, which should be included in the next quarter. This way proceeding happens in sprints and the strategy is looked at several times a year. It concretizes into quarterly goals. This is pretty solid! It works great in larger organizations, which usually have this in place in some form. However, not all ways are born equal. Some are preferred over others, at least if the management team desires to be agile. There are some very agile methods out there, and there are likewise very inefficient ways. It’s all about the meeting design and how things are followed up.  

Figure of a circle with four sectors, a drawing of two people and text: “Quarterly strategy check-ups”, representing regular strategy checks.

The agile way. During the strategy days, different unit leaders explain what, in their minds, would be the smartest move in the next quarter. They also explain how well they achieved the previous quarterly goals. If something wasn’t achieved, these goals are included in the next quarter for the finishing touch. Proceeding becomes very clear. 

Drawing of a meeting around a large screen, two red arrows, and text: “Q1, Q2”. This drawing represents a quarterly strategy checkup.

Check for updates

At the end of the strategy day, the Strategy 1Pager is checked for updates. When the strategy is on one piece of paper, it’s easy to update. Certain issues specifically are included on the page:  

  1. What is our Purpose? Purpose can be thought of as mission + vision. The mission is here now, and vision is the mission in the future. It only improves and deepens. The Purpose is the shining sun to the customers. 
  1. Focus areas. Strategy 1Pager consists of usually three or four focus areas. 
  1. Goals. Concrete goals are listed under the focus areas. They can be strategic development projects, or merely headlines for a task that needn’t be projected. 

When these points are looked at and updated once every quarter, you also look at the strategy. This is absolutely fantastic because this is how the operation becomes agile. Strategy is no longer carved in stone. Instead, we can proceed according to the market situation.  

It can be that the strategy needs to be updated much faster henceforth, than how things were done in the past. If the management team desires to use an agile strategy henceforth, then after setting it up it becomes possible to update it very quickly whenever the need arises. Agility provides huge benefits like this compared to more traditional and slower approaches. In short, if a company desires agility, then the strategy update can’t take too long. The work method needs to allow for speed, and a speedy method brings quality when the method is designed well. A badly designed approach always brings bad results. A good method, on the other hand, gives good results. It’s all about the output.

At the end of the quarterly check-ups, the big picture is looked at as well. Does the strategy page need to be updated? A helicopter perspective unfolds. It’s a bit like the hamburger model, in which top-down and bottom-up are combined and the operation is the juicy patty in the middle.  

Next goals

Drawing of a corporate hierarchy with goals, two red arrows, and text: “Q1, Q2”. This drawing represents the definition of new goals.

In order for quarterly agility to work in practice, we need the strategy to be displayed on a digital board, not only in PowerPoint. The common digital board allows everyone to look at it and to edit the contents as required. Goals are followed up and updated constantly in meetings between the quarterly check-ups. 

This digital strategy board consists of columns, in which the goals are written down on cards. Goals can be marked according to color to indicate how the task is progressing. This means that the strategy is constantly in front of people’s eyes in everyday leadership!  

With this approach, the strategy becomes agile, even if people are not paying attention to the fact. When one focus area is finished, it is replaced with a new one. This might happen faster than at a yearly pace. 

In conclusion, I could say that this is very easy to run in practice, but it is not possible to do without using technology. The analog alternative is too slow and cumbersome. If you don’t want to use technology, you will be facing lots of practical challenges. 

agile updating, strategy 1pager

Agile updating

When we operate with an agile strategy approach, things start to happen at a faster pace. We have quarterly check-ups, which are booked for the whole year at once. Tasks finish on time. Otherwise, there’s not enough time to think about the big things because of the hurry. 

People are happier because operating is so much lighter and, in fact, much more efficient. Competitiveness increases. 

This is a super strong way to do things!

Create an agile strategy and ignite it! Read more.🔥

Finding Us On Social Media


Stradigo is a brand owned by Rdigo Oy (Business-ID: 2120844-1).

Learn more from our Imprint.

Rdigo Oy is registered in Finland as a Limited company. We are a strategy consultancy located in the Helsinki capital region.

We’ve been in business since 2007. The company name comes from the latin word Redigo, meaning both ‘I shape’ & ‘I renew’.

Stradigo combines the word strategy with Rdigo.

Strategic Leadership

2.10 Creating A Better Meeting Structure For Companies

Creating A Better Meeting Structure For Companies — 2.10

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Today I thought I would address the cornerstones of business leadership, the company meeting structure. At the moment this is a current matter to me, and I thought now is the time to share this information onward. I’ll let you in on a few crucial principles.

The first principle is that the company meeting structure can be improved significantly. I’ll show you why and how.

Why company meeting structure?

Organizational chart hierarchy with boxes in black on three levels. Leadership written to the left and Backbone to the right.

Let’s begin with why this traditional hierarchical structure is needed. It might be too obvious, but it necessarily isn’t. We’re talking about self-management. I attended an evaluation team meeting where this topic was discussed. The team consisted of scientists. 

A lot happens in a self-managing organization. People get to direct themselves. Better organizing methods than a traditional hierarchy might be discovered. In my opinion that a traditional hierarchy has very many good qualities. Can we find a new delicate balance, in which hierarchy and alternating teams can work together with agility? 


A meeting structure is good because its job is to lead and to ensure productivity. It is also the backbone of the operation. Many organizations that have given up their backbone have realized that having a backbone has its perks. An organization can live without a backbone as an ameba, but it needs a lot of rethinking. 

I helped make this type of transformation in a Finnish organization, where a 20-year-old hierarchical organization transformed into a new self-managing business without named superiors. The process went very well, but it’s an interesting process, alright. There are many ways to organize between a traditional hierarchy and a self-managing hierarchy.  However, we should always understand the direction we need to proceed in. The direction needs to be looked at from every angle, it requires prioritizing, and that’s leading at its best. 

Need for organization

Many require a backbone. If everything just floats around, it doesn’t make employees happy. On the other hand, if everything is too strict, that doesn’t work either. A delicate balance for every business culture and people’s historic experience must be found. It’s very important. We must figure out what we need to do and how we want to lead ourselves. This is why a meeting structure is usually needed. In practice, it happens through a systematic rhythm of meetings, which are booked well in advance. These meetings need to be written down on everyone’s calendars. It gives a lot of structure. 

In practice, several organizations have a hierarchy, levels. A private entrepreneur is alone, but they must also collect their thoughts and stop to think. They have a meeting with themselves. A need for a clearer direction arises already in an organization with tens of people. Otherwise, people begin going in different directions. A need for strategy creation and visualization is born. One must get organized. In a bigger organization, it’s a must to think about who does what and who is responsible for what. This, however, can be done traditionally or in a new agile way. 

Hybrid! Organizational chart hierarchy with boxes in black on three levels. Team meeting drawings have been placed on top of the chart.


An organization has a lot of teamwork, which happens outside the box and the home teams. I call my superior’s team my home team. We need parallel teams, alternating ones. These are customer teams, project teams, etc. These teams are constantly on top of the hierarchy. I truly love this hybrid organization, as you might have observed. Hybrid organizations require more team meetings. 

Simple drawing of five people with laptops looking at a digital notice board beside the text “Make work visible!”.

Meetings have their own digital boards

Let’s create each team with its own forum and its own living digital board. I personally use Trello. All the group’s goals are made into columns, which consist of notes, on which the assignments are written down on. These can be marked according to color to indicate how the task is progressing. When the team’s work situation is visualized on the board, efficiency goes through the roof. If conversation only happens during meetings, the conversation is left undocumented and disappears. Recording the meeting doesn’t help, because no one is willing to watch and to go through the whole thing. One must document the important points. 

Make work visible!

The fact that we document, write down the main points, and upkeep the work pile, is a pretty tough thing. When we prioritize work tasks for the next sprint while using a digital board, it diminishes people’s stress. They no longer need to carry the whole weight of the work pile, it’s enough to do the work only for the next sprint. After that, the situation is evaluated again, and tasks for the next sprint are decided. A sprint is a calendar time: A week, two weeks, or four weeks. It’s never late, the prioritizing for the next sprint is done when the previous one is finished. This truly increases efficiency. Nothing is as important as the choice, the prioritizing. 

My claim is that every team needs to have a Teams and its own board. The board displays the group’s Purpose: Why it exists and what its next big goals are. Everyone must be able to write on the board, so Excel isn’t the tool for this. Rarely, if ever, have I seen an Excel chart that many people update simultaneously. Excel is a great tool, but it’s more of a tool for individuals.  

The point is the wisdom – which I didn’t invent myself – but it is something I always speak in favor of: Make your work visible! Immediately after you have made the work visible, things begin to happen. 

Between meetings

2 drawings of five people each looking at a digital notice board. Arrow with speech bubbles connects drawings. “Conversation continues, decisions! Not through email!”

The next epiphany is that conversations can be continued in between meetings. If, and when questions and challenges arise between meetings, are people expected to wait until the next meeting? That’s slow. In practice, conversations and decision-making can be continued in between meetings. This is something that essentially improves efficiency. Don’t wait for a meeting. Today, this is simulated with email, but all the topics and messages are only disorganized in everyone’s email and work becomes fragmented. The structure increases efficiency.  

Common chat forums

I believe in the following: Technology is a blessing. It is here to make conversation between meetings more efficient. The conversation continues between meetings and decisions can be made. The trick that will increase the effect is that conversations are not kept in emails! Instead, conversations are held in common chat forums like Teams, for instance. Same subject messages are no longer disorganized in everyone’s email, they are beautifully bundled into the Teams chat threads. 

A person can be a part of several simultaneously ongoing conversations. All conversations also aren’t equally important. The benefit of Teams is that it’s possible to dam the messages. One can prioritize which messages one wants notifications from. Some messages one wants to be notified of immediately, some not so often, some only now and then. The new system is to read the Teams messages first thing in the morning, after that the ad hoc messages in the email. The volume of emails decreases substantially. Fast communication increases any which way you have defined it yourself. 

The benefit of documentation

The benefit of it is also that if an employee leaves their job, documentation isn’t in their private email. Reading work-related emails is illegal and they cannot be read with the whole organization. A new employee can scroll up and down the conversation and is therefore left with a much more detailed understanding of what’s happening. 

This is a great opportunity! Get out of the email! Everything that’s left in the email is ad hoc messages. Email communication can decrease up to 80% and conversations are moved to Teams. Everyone can prioritize which messages they want to read. All the extra ones will no longer disturb the important ones. Arranging digital teams is a great opportunity! 

This is a change of infrastructure, a cultural change for the management system as well. Those that can take this into practice better than others create a competitive advantage. But I always add: If you can manage the old way, keep going on. No one is forcing anyone to make changes, as long as money won’t run out. 

Drawing representing a box with indigo border and white intertior. Text inside the box: Purpose, Frequency, Duration, Participation & Agenda.

Defining meetings

When approaching a company meeting structure, we give every meeting a reason to why it exists. What are its motive and goal? How often is a meeting held? How long does it take? An hour? Two? Who participates in it and what is its general agenda? Can meetings be cut short due to online teams? Some KPI fanatics also define the meeting indicator. 

Drawing of an organizational chart with three levels. The number of boxes per level is 1, 3 and 7.

Traditional organization

Let’s look into this traditional organization once more. 

Of course, it’s ok to stick with any organizational model as long as you wish. As long as you manage, that’s that! If the operation efficiency is starting to bug you, you’re no longer managing and this is the time to look and see how others have tackled the issue. This operation model has been developed around the world for decades. In fact, since the 1950’s when the first agile organizations were created. 

A traditional organization naturally has a management team. It’s a nice feeling to be a part of the management team, it’s like earning a gold medal. I have however begun to wonder if it indeed isn’t worth a gold medal. A true leader has followers. If your leader didn’t have their position, would you follow them? Quite many would say that they would never follow them. The reason they follow is because their leader is wearing their rank. We need true leaders! If you have one, hold on tight! 

Organizational chart with three indigo circles have been drawn on top. The circles are called management, unit management & manager’s team.

Home teams - Permanent teams

A hierarchical organization has several permanent teams: A management team, department leadership teams and the CEO’s teams. However, there are plenty of alternating teams depending on the situation. They usually aren’t specifically defined; they come and go. And that’s a good thing! It already is the embryo of agility. 

Traditional organizational chart of 3 levels with a red arrow from top to bottom. Levels are named: management, unit management & manager’s team.

If we look at how decision-making works, many organizations go as the red arrow in the image above. It has an iteration from top-down and bottom-up. In many places, it’s useful to first ask about what goals people would suggest for the next period. These suggestions are bundled together to see if they are sufficient or does one need to expect more for things to work. This creates the hamburger model, as bottom-up and top-down are combined. The result of iteration is the juicy hamburger patty in the middle.  

If you have a traditional organization and you want to roll with it, please do! Go for it! As long as you manage, everyone is happy, also the customers. But when the customers are no longer happy, a question arises if things should be looked at from a new angle. And the answer to that question is always YES! 

Traditional organizational chart with several teams drawn on top. Includes text: customer teams, management, unit management & manager’s team.

The fact that many teams are needed doesn’t make this matter any easier. They exist also in the traditional organization whether you have visualized them or not, there they are. It’s almost impossible to operate within one box, one needs inter-box teams. This is where customer teams, project teams, special assignment teams, product development teams, etc. are created. This can be a bit tricky to manage. 

Process chart with five boxes. Changing the business, running the business, business unite performance review, people and governance & corporate online forum.

New example

One organization went and changed its whole company meeting structure to get rid of the management group. They realized that the management group should be divided into several and that discussions about customers and sales and inner processes and managing should happen separately. 

Running the business was a conversation only for the business leaders. People and governance were for business leaders, HR, and other supporting functions. Once every quarter, they had a Changing the business – conversation, where they made slight alterations to the strategy. The new thing was only to include the business leaders and none of the functional staff. A bigger strategy upgrade is done separately, where the functions are included.  

Once a month, a performance review is held for the departments. It’s a number meeting in which the performance of the business unit is evaluated. The meeting includes the CEO, department leader, CFO, and the unit controller. 

In addition, a larger quarterly meeting is held online. The whole organization is included in the check-up. Online meetings utilize teamwork by dividing people into breakout rooms to discuss. 

Does one need a management group?

So, do we need a management group at all? Not necessarily, because all teams require leadership. Is it actually even logically correct to talk about a management group? One unit quit its management group. Only topics that need to be addressed when needed are taken into the conversation. Simple. 

Drawing of many table meetings reduced to a lesser number of meetings. Representing a reduced number of meetings held inside an organization.

Less meetings

Many companies have new goal to reduce the time that goes into meetings. Let’s hold fewer meetings and make them quicker! 

Drawing of a clock that is speeding onward.

Quicker meetings

Can the meeting time be reduced by half? It might be doable if a digital twin of the operation exists. This is the digital twin of operation. That means that the operation exists in Teams and on its digital board! Between meetings, topics can be dealt with asyncronically and the need to discuss during meetings is reduced. 

Reduce your meeting time to half! That’s quite something for the business culture!

Drawing of a person thinking about an organizational chart and asking for opinions from a group sitting around a table.

How to create a new company meeting structure?

How is a new structure created? In practice, the company leader begins to wonder if they should create a new meeting structure. They might have a “right hand” or an outside professional to give advice. Then the leader creates a draft and asks their own group for opinions. I think it’s efficient that one starts with a suggestion and not from ground zero with everyone. It might be that the matter dilutes with more ease this way. 

Make your company meeting structure better, and your meetings quicker!  

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