Scandinavian Management across Cultures: An Empirical Study of Cultural Differences Between Denmark and Ukraine

Laura Deichmann & Line Bohn

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis focuses on the complexity of culture as a phenomenon and has accordingly drawn attention to the contemporary case company, JYSK Nordic. In today’s diverse and multicultural business world, organizations need to increasingly consider their engagement in intercultural management to make collaborations with sub-units abroad work as effectively and respectfully as possible. Even though JYSK Nordic has expanded massively since its establishment by Lars Larsen in 1979, the company is still very much grounded in its Scandinavian roots. Its management style is clearly reflected in the organization’s core values and corporate culture, and more explicitly stated in keywords such as participative, trustworthy, and reliable - traits that are easily admired from an outside perspective. JYSK Nordic took its business to Ukraine in 2012 and has within only a few years experienced heavy obstacles along the way. Ukraine is marked by its turbulent and complex political development, which reflects back on JYSK Ukraine’s business openings, or lack thereof. The country’s external environment can be argued to be one of the biggest obstacles to its further development toward Denmark’s liberal market economy and democratic society. The above considerations have led to our research question that seeks to discover in what way JYSK Nordic’s organizational culture has inspired JYSK Ukraine to move toward a more Scandinavian management style, and yet how Ukraine’s external environment challenges this development.
The purpose of our this research paper is to offer a more comprehensive and nuanced approach to culture as a complex and multidimensional phenomenon. In order to answer our research question sufficiently we will include relevant theorists to further substantiate our claims and empirical findings. The primary theorists of this thesis will include Jacob (2003), Trompenaars (2012), Inglehart (1997), and Plum (2013), as they share one common thing: culture; yet, they approach the concept in very different ways. Accordingly, their theories on corporate values, organizational culture, national differences, changing belief systems, unique individual traits, and finally cultural intelligence, will have significant relevance to this thesis’ structure, as they support a number of sub-questions to be answered throughout three separate analysis chapters.
The empirical findings of this thesis are discovered through qualitative research methods, including oral and written interviews. We also distributed a questionnaire among the employees in JYSK Ukraine to get a broader picture of the topic in hand. Combined, the two data collection methods are referred to as mixed methods approach. Our choice of methods should be seen in the light of our chosen view on the world or phrased differently: the way we define reality. Due to our view that culture is dynamic and changeable, we find that the substance of it is created through social interaction. With reference to the above, we wish to challenge our preconceived ideas and understandings of culture; particularly our prejudices of the Ukrainian and Danish culture. Accordingly, we have approached our interviewees with an open mind in order to create a new and more profound understanding; this subjective approach to culture and to people should also be seen in our choice to apply philosophical hermeneutics.
In the analysis chapters of this thesis we explore in depth JYSK Nordic’s strong corporate culture, which is formed by its many distinct values and norms, and are furthermore well-distributed among its sub-units abroad. JYSK Ukraine gave a clear impression in our empirical data that they are very proud of working for JYSK Nordic, as they value professionalism, honesty, transparency, and reliability. Characteristics that are seemingly far away from the Ukrainians’ everyday life. Due to a high level of corruption and a low level of trust in the government JYSK Ukraine has difficulties fully taking on the Scandinavian management approach. Due to many years of political unrest and economic instability, the country still tiptoes their way into new circumstances.
This thesis concludes that it is no longer sufficient to look at culture’s national differences; instead we argue that JYSK Nordic should take equal consideration to external factors and individual differences in order to create the most profound and deep understanding of their business partners in Ukraine. Finally, a recommendation of obtaining a higher level of cultural intelligence is made, based on the concept of Plum, Achen, Dræby, and Jensen (2008); by switching focus from generalizing assumptions to instead focus more on one’s self, i.e. individual cultural identity, JYSK Nordic’s managers would be able to reach a meta-level of communication, which would in turn help ensure a more profound and respectful cultural understanding.

EducationsCand.ling.merc Erhvervssprog og International Erhvervskommunikation (Multikulturel Kommunikation i Organisationer), (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2017
Number of pages187