Research: The Scandinavian model – a success story gone adrift?


Research shows that the Scandinavian model for leadership and organization, with key concepts such as decentralization and delegated responsibility, is a success story for companies. But what is the situation in Swedish companies today? Have the Scandinavian ideas disappeared or are they still around? A research team from the University of Skövde and the University of Borås are going to find out.

During the 70s and 80s, the Scandinavian organizational model was an international role model connected to humanism, democracy and decentralization. Since the beginning of the 21st century, Sweden has been influenced by other, more standardized working models.

“What we can see in European research today is that successful companies are working with organizational models which are similar to the Scandinavian model. These are high performance companies with strong competences who are organized into teams and who work with delegation of responsibility. That’s why it is especially interesting to see what it’s like in Swedish companies today” says Stefan Tengblad, professor of business administration at the University of Skövde.

A standardized organization puts greater emphasis on the managers and experts providing solutions. It can make parts of the work more efficient, but it can also mean that employees feel less involved and committed.

“With a standardized model there is the risk that things are so efficient that co-workers get less qualified or more monotonous things to do. The model can be more cost effective for the employer but not good for employees’ commitment to the company or for the development of society on a whole, as it reduces taxes and most probably innovation” says Stefan Tengblad.

The aim of the research project is to get more knowledge about the ideals of the Scandinavian model, how it is a source of inspiration for companies today and how it is used in practice. The researchers will be conducting case studies in Swedish companies which have made a name for themselves by working according to the Scandinavian model, for example, Volvo, Scania, Ericsson and Atlas Copco.


The research project is a collaboration between the University of Skövde and the University of Borås and is financed by FORTE. It started in January 2016 and will continue to December 2018. Margareta Oudhuis, senior professor at the University of Borås and Stefan Tengblad, professor of business administration at the University of Skövde, are the two driving forces who are working together on this project.

Stefan Tengblad