I. Introduction

This study uses discourse analysis as a tool for studying Scandinavian management characteristics outside of Scandinavia, mainly in Singapore, with the broad aim of contributing knowledge and research to the two fields of Swedish management studies and discourse analysis studies.

This chapter will introduce the theoretical and applied elements that make up this study on Swedish management in Singapore. As Swedish organizations in Asia tend to employ local managers in their organizations, a profile of the Asian (mostly Chinese Singaporean) management style will be presented (in Chapter 2) as a comparative style of management to the Swedish management style in Singapore.

This chapter begins with a brief introduction to Scandinavian management studies and a global outlook on Swedish trade and Swedish trade presence in Singapore in particular. It will also describe the aim of this study and broadly discuss the approach to studying the Swedish management style from a functional view of language. The use of discourse analysis is situated within a functional view of language. Discourse analysis and an applied systemic functional linguistics framework of analysis give us the tools to study patterns of Swedish management characteristics, values and beliefs. An outline of the following chapters is provided at the end of this chapter.

1.1 Introduction: Scandinavian management studies

The first mention of “Scandinavian management” as a concept appeared in 1982 in Hofstede’s (1982) article Skandinaviskt management i og uden for Skandinavien (cited in Furusten and Kinch, 1996). A few years later, the concept of “Scandinavian management” was further made publicly popular by the work of two consultants, Sjöborg (1986) and Thygesen-Poulsen (1987). Sjöborg’s work described how 100 top managers looked upon their managerial practice and Thygesen-Poulsen’s work is based on the results of the investigation of 18 Scandinavian companies. While Thygesen-Poulsen acknowledged that it was difficult to make generalisations based on his material about the presence of a homogeneous Scandinavian practice of leadership, both authors assumed that Scandinavians had specific social behaviours in connection to various institutions that led to a particular Scandinavian style of management.

The “Scandinavian management” concept, which differs from other types of management concepts such as those practised in the USA, Japan and Germany for example, could be seen as a movement toward the development of a more communicative model of leadership. Pehr Gyllenhammar of Volvo and Jan Carlzon of Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) are representatives of such leadership models (Byrkjeflot, 2003). There are other descriptive and comparative studies on Scandinavian management where the Scandinavian style of management is outlined and compared with styles of management of other countries. These studies, by Forss, Hawk and Hedlund (1984), Hedlund & Åman (1984), Czarniawska & Wolff (1986) and Axelsson et al. (1991) compare Scandinavian Management with the management styles of America, Latin America, Japan and Britain. Jönsson (1996) and Sivesind, Lawrence and Schramm-Nielsen (2005) draw a wider perspective in their work on Scandinavian management as a field of study, mapping changes, new ideas and future directions.

Within the field of Scandinavian management, some have studied and distinguished between Scandinavian management and Swedish management styles (Hofstede, 1980; Thygesen-Poulsen, 1987; Zemke, 1988; Tollgert-Andersson, 1989; Andersson-Sundelin, 1989; Gustavsson, Melin and McDonald, 1994). These studies have contributed to an understanding of Swedish management characteristics and value systems as different from other Nordic models of management in Norway, Finland and Denmark.

1.1.1 Terminology: Scandinavian management vs Swedish management

As most of the Scandinavian respondents (21 out of 23) in this study are Swedish, this study can be said to be more relevant as a study of Swedish management. As such, the phrase Scandinavian management is used to reflect mostly Swedish management in this study and the terms will be used interchangeably here. To make for easier reading, the term Swedish management will be used after chapter 2, which presents Swedish management characteristics in greater detail. Chapter 3 will give greater details on the method of investigation and a description of the participants to this study.

1.2 A global outlook of trade from Sweden and the international reach of Swedish management

Photo: Anders Wester
Photo: Anders Wester

The world is becoming an increasingly small place to live in. Many organizations today are multinational in nature in order to operate on the global scene. Managers in such organizations are often located away from their home countries in order to continue the work of the organization on a global scale, contributing to the existence, expansion and success of the organisation (Shay and Baack, 2004).

Organizations that are internationally active will most likely have their employees and managers working on a global stage, with their offices (or teams) including colleagues from several different countries. People working in such organizations tend to encounter Others who not only look physically different from them, but who share a different set of cultural values. In this study, culture refers to the characteristics common to a specific group of people that are learned and not given by nature that include patterns of thought, behaviour and artefacts (Allwood, 1985). Culture reflects the taken-for-granted assumptions and collectively shared beliefs, and the dominant ideologies of the group of persons (Simpson, 1993). These collectively shared beliefs or ideology, stem from socio-cultural and political background. Working together means communicating on a daily basis about work projects, negotiating meaning with each other so that each one understands what the other wants, the aim of which is usually to push the organization forward in reaching its goal (Shay and Baack, 2004; Hofstede, Van Deusen, Mueller and Charles, 2002).

Individuals who are deployed to an overseas organization affiliate from their home country are those who most often possess specialized knowledge, expertise and leadership skills, so that they can help set up and steer the affiliate organization in the new country.

Sweden in its first decade of the 2000’s is more active in terms of setting up businesses and business affiliates overseas than ever before. With its current trading figures, Asia seems to hold the most promising trade for Sweden: China in 2005 for example had 44,000 Chinese employed in Swedish organizations with an annual intake of 7.9 billion US dollars. Sweden’s presence in China since 2003 has also doubled (Serger, Schwaag and Widman, 2005). The Swedish Trade Council reported in their Export Managers Index (EMI) 2008, third quarter are also forecasting highest export sales growth in Asia (Swedish Trade Council, Export Managers Index, 2008).

The fast-growing markets for Swedish exports today are found in Asia, especially Japan, China, Hong Kong, South Korea, Malaysia and Singapore. Asia now accounts for 8.4 percent of Swedish trade, making it the most important single region outside of Europe (Statistics Sweden, 2008). As Asia is one of the fastest growing markets for Swedish exports, the increasing Scandinavian and Asian international trade relations create a need for a better understanding of management styles and working relations in the interdependent countries. A contributing factor to many failed cross national joint ventures and start-ups is due to a lack of understanding of international markets, cultures and management behaviour (Hill and Hellriegel, 1994; Hambrick, Li, Xin, and Tsui, 2001). A greater chance of both tangible and intangible success will thus depend on understanding and acting upon the similarities and differences between management behaviour in different international markets.

1.3 Swedish trade presence and Swedish management in Singapore

Singapore as a country of study

Singapore seemed a reasonable country to study for this small-scale comparison between Sweden and an Asian country, for four main reasons. The first reason is that Singapore, in strong competition with Hong Kong, is one of Asia-Pacific’s important regional hubs (Langdale, 1989) and is currently already a base for many international organizations (Mutalib, 2002; Teofilo and Le, 2003). The second reason is that Singapore provides access to English as an administrative language, in contrast with other Asian and Southeast-Asian countries. English as a working language in Singapore means that organization information and interview data are more accessible. This makes the collection of interview data and the subsequent linguistic analysis of the data more manageable. No translation is needed between languages, as most Swedish managers / leaders are also proficient in English. The third reason is that the existence of the Swedish Business Association of Singapore (SBAS) also provided easy access to Swedish owned or Swedish managed organizations in Singapore. Organization leaders and persons working within Swedish organizations were also listed with the SBAS, so that getting in contact with them was easy compared to any other Asian country. And the last reason is that the Swedish Trade Council (STC)
have been represented in Singapore since 1978, which means that Swedish organizations in Singapore have had time to develop a presence over several decades. According to the 2007 statistics
of the Swedish Trade Council (STC), there are approximately 160 Swedish owned or Swedish related organizations in Singapore that are Swedish managed, with 900 Swedes living in Singapore.

Companies included in the STC’s list are of the following three types:

i. Singaporean companies which have a parent company in Sweden
ii. Singaporean companies that sell Swedish products and who have active joint-ventures or partnership activities with a Swedish company and
iii. Singaporean companies owned by Swedish citizens.

1.4 Aim of the study and research questions

This study is cross-disciplinary in nature, situated in discourse analysis, with the purpose of contributing knowledge to the small but growing field of Swedish management studies. Using a linguistic framework based on discourse analysis, the purpose of this study is to explore and uncover some of the ideological patterns or value systems of the Swedish management style in Singapore.

Most studies on Swedish management have tended towards quantitative methods such as questionnaires and statistics (Hofstede, 1980; Hogberg and Wahlbin, 1984; Furusten and Kinch, 1996; Lindell and Arvonen, 1996). Some other studies on Swedish and Scandinavian management employed qualitative methods such as the study of narratives, interviews in depth with story telling and organizational texts such as company reports and annual reports (Jönsson and Lundin, 1977; Jönsson, 1995, 1996; Czarniawska, 1997, 1998, 1999). This study aims to take a complementary approach of exploring the Swedish management style via discourse analysis, with the transcribed long interview data sorted with the coding procedures adapted from grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1998).

In order to do this, 33 interviews were gathered from both Scandinavian and Asian top level managers who work in Swedish related or Swedish owned organizations based in Singapore (a more detailed account of this can be found in Chapter 3).

Some research questions that will be addressed in this study are:

i. How can discourse analysis be used as a tool to study management in organizations and uncover aspects of ideological patterns in management systems, in particular Swedish management in
Singapore?

ii. Does there exist a Swedish management style outside of Sweden, mainly, in Singapore? And if so, is it different from the Swedish management style or model in Sweden as described in other studies, specifically Jönsson (1995)? Do the value systems of Swedish managers / leaders in Singapore differ from their Singaporean Chinese counterparts’ value system in management?

Beyond the academic field, answers to the questions above could help Swedish multinational corporations (or multinational corporations in general) understand global leadership better and apply a more efficient form of human resource allocation within the organization when sending a top level manager to be stationed overseas.

1.5 Approaching the study of Swedish management in Singapore: grounded theory categorization and discourse analysis

The approach to this study and the interview material gathered is multi-levelled. The first level of analysis is an applied grounded theory coding procedure based on the theory developed by Strauss and Corbin (1998). The coding procedure was used primarily as a data management strategy, to manage the fairly massive information gathered from the interviews. It also provides an analysis of the data at a quantitative level. The method of grounded theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1998) as such, is not applied to its full extent in this study. Although the section below gives a brief overview of what grounded theory is, grounded theory is not applied in its entirety in this study. It is rather only the coding procedures that were adapted from grounded theory and applied to the interview data as a form of systematic data management. A broad account of grounded theory is given below so that one can view how and to what extent the coding procedures have been adapted and applied in this study, in Chapter 4.

A second level of analysis applied, a more qualitative approach, is a systemic functional linguistics framework that lies broadly within the larger field of discourse analysis.

1.5.1 Grounded theory

Grounded Theory is a theory-generating qualitative methodology formally introduced by the sociologists Glaser and Strauss in The Discovery of Grounded Theory (1967, 1995). There, they addressed the deeper understanding of “the discovery of theory from data – systematically obtained and analyzed in social research” (Glaser and Strauss, 1995:1) as a means to the discovery of theory from data. They emphasised grounded theory as a general method of comparative analysis and a way of arriving at theory “suited to its supposed uses” (Glaser and Strauss, 1995:3). They saw the interrelated jobs of theory in sociology as enabling the prediction and explanation of behaviour, providing a perspective on behaviour that is useful in practical applications. It is a style of research and a strategy for handling data in research, providing modes of conceptualisation for describing and explaining. Strauss in particular, was strongly influenced by
the interactionist and pragmatist writings of others such as Dewey (1922), Meade (1934), Thomas (1966), Park (1967), Blumer (1969) and Hughs (1971). Strauss’ background contributed ideas such as (i) the need for an empiricist approach to research, (ii) the relevance of theory grounded in data to the development of a discipline and as a basis for social action, (iii) the complexity and variability of phenomena and of human action, (iv) the belief that persons are actors who take an active role in responding to problematic situations, (v) the realisation that persons act on the basis of meaning, (vi) the understanding that meaning is defined and redefined through interaction, (vii) a sensitivity to the evolving and unfolding nature of events and (viii) an awareness of the interrelationships among conditions (structure), action (process) and consequences. Glaser saw the need for making comparisons between data to identify, develop and relate concepts. He too emphasized empirical research in conjunction with the development of theory (Strauss and Corbin, 1998:9).

‘Theory’ for Strauss and Corbin (1998:15) refers to “a set of well developed concepts related through statements of relationship, which together constitute an integrated framework that can be used to explain or predict phenomena”. In grounded theory, the creativity of the researcher plays an important role (Strauss and Corbin, 1998; Sandelowsky, 1995; Patton, 1990). In fact, for Patton (1990), “Qualitative evaluation inquiry draws on both critical and creative thinking – both the science and the art of analysis” (p. 434). For him, what was useful for research was (i) being open to multiple possibilities, (ii) generating a list of options, (iii) exploring various possibilities before choosing any one, (iv) making use of multiple avenues of expression such as art, music and metaphors to stimulate thinking, (v) using non-linear forms of thinking such as going back and forth and circumventing around a subject to get a fresh perspective, (vi) diverging from one’s usual way of thinking and working again to get a fresh perspective, (vii) trusting the process and not holding back, (viii), not taking shortcuts but rather putting energy and effort into the work and (ix) having fun while doing it (p. 434 – 435). Analysis is thus a dialogic relationship and interplay between researchers and data (Tuner, 1981).

As a qualitative method, grounded theory has been applied in the fields of sociology (Abramson and Mizrahi, 1994), health sciences (Thompson, 1992; Mazmanian, 1980), education and learning (Courtney, Jha & Babchuk, 1994; Rennie & Brewer, 1987), management science (Locke, 2001; Isabella, 1990), organizational research (Martin & Turner, 1986), market research (Goulding, 2002), leadership studies (Komives, 2006) and visual language and computer science (Petrie, 2003; Prince, Mislivec, Kosolapov & Lykken, 2002).

One way of systematizing data that grounded theory offers is through its coding procedures and in this study it is the version of coding procedures adapted from Strauss and Corbin (1998) that will be applied in the sorting of interview data. For Strauss and Corbin (1998), these procedures are to help “provide some standardization and rigour to the process. However, these procedures were designed not to be followed dogmatically but rather used creatively and flexibly by researchers as they deem appropriate.” The coding procedures are, (i) to build rather than test theory, (ii) provide researchers with analytic tools for handling masses of raw data, (iii) help analysts to consider alternative meanings of phenomena, (iv) be systematic and creative simultaneously and (v) identify, develop and relate the concepts that are the building blocks of theory (p. 13).

In this study, the grounded theory coding procedures were used not only as a data sorting mechanism and tool but as a way to make more stringent the text selection process for the discourse analysis study. The coding procedures helped highlight the more salient topics of interest for the respondents and it is based on these salient topics of interest that text samples were selected for discourse analysis.

1.5.2 Discourse analysis from the perspective of systemic functional linguistics

Developed first within the field of linguistics, anthropology and philosophy, discourse analysis is a rapidly growing and evolving field of study. Because language is such that it is involved with almost every aspect of our human interaction and it is the medium in which most organized thought and communication proceed (Hodge and Kress, 1979, 1993), it is not surprising that the study of discourse falls within the interests not only of linguists, literary critics, critical theorists, communication scientists but of geographers, philosophers, political scientists, sociologists and those in the field of artificial intelligence (Jaworski and Coupland, 1999; Schiffrin, Tannen and Hamilton,2001 ).

The breadth of scope of discourse analysis across various disciplines also means that the terms ‘discourse’ and ‘discourse analysis’ have different meanings. In their Discourse Reader, Jaworksi and Coupland (1999:1-3) include ten definitions from various sources, some of which are:

…the analysis of discourse is, necessarily, the analysis of language in use. As such, it cannot be restricted to the description of linguistic forms independent of the purposes or functions which these forms are designed to serve in human affairs. (Brown and Yule, 1983:1)

‘Discourse’ is for me more than just language use: it is language use, whether speech or writing, seen as a type of social practice. (Fairclough 1992b:28)

Discourse constitutes the social. Three dimensions of the social are distinguished – knowledge, social relations and social identity – and these correspond respectively to three major functions of language… Discourse is shaped by relations of power, and invested with ideologies. (Fairclough, 1992b:8)

‘Discourse’…refers to language in use, as a process which is socially situated. However…we may go on to discuss the constructive and dynamic role of either spoken or written discourse in structuring areas of knowledge and the social and institutional practices which are associated with them. In this sense, discourse is a means of talking and writing about and acting upon worlds, a means which both constructs and is constructed by a set of social practices within these worlds, and in so doing both reproduces and constructs afresh particular social-discursive practices, constrained or encouraged by more macro movements in the over-arching social formation. (Candlin, 1997:ix)

The definitions, according to Schiffrin, Tannen and Hamilton (2001), generally tend to fall into the three categories of ‘discourse’ being, (i) anything beyond the sentence (Benveniste, 1971; Stubbs, 1983; Foucault, 1972), (ii) language use (Fasold, 1990; Fairclough, 1992b; Candlin, 1997) and (iii) a broader rangeof social practice that includes non-linguistic and non-specificinstances of language (Fowler, 1981; Brown and Yule, 1983; Fairclough, 1992b). For purposes of this study, the terms ‘discourse’ and ‘discourse analysis’ refer to ‘anything beyond asentence’ and ‘the analysis of language in use’. This study also takes on a functional view of language in the Hallidayan point of view, where language is considered in terms of its use. We as human, use language every day in our lives to do things, whether it is chatting with family members, reading the newspapers or performing commercial transactions etc. It is only for rare moments, perhaps when one is totally absorbed in a physical activity, do we drop language from our minds, but other than that, we constantly react to and produce language that is meaningful for our purposes (Eggins, 2004).

For Halliday (1994:xiv), “A language is interpreted as a system of meanings, accompanied by forms through which the meanings can be realized and answers the question, “how are these meanings expressed?”. This puts the forms of a language in a different perspective: as means to an end, rather than as an end in themselves.” It is in this point of view of language that systemic functional linguistics (SFL) was developed by Halliday and his associates during the 1960s. Fowler (1991:481) describes functional linguistics as: ‘Functional linguistics’ is ‘functional’ in two senses: it is based on the premises that the form of language responds to the functions of language use; and it assumes that linguistics, as well as language, has different functions, different jobs to do, so the form of linguistics responds to the functions of linguistics. SFL has its foundations with the London School of Linguistics, with J. R. Firth (1890-1960) as its founding father. Halliday was Firth’s student who continued to develop Firth’s ideas from 1960s onwards. This theory of language is built around the notion of language function, what language does and how it does it, in preference to more structural approaches to language, such as the Chomskyan school of thought and approach to language. With SFL, the social context of language in use is taken into account and one looks at how the social context can also put constraints on language use.

The extensive writings of Halliday since the 1960s have been edited and re-issued in a ten-volume set of Collected Works (Halliday and Webster, 2002a, 2002b, 2003a, 2003b) where SFL is increasingly recognized as a useful descriptive and interpretive framework for viewing language as a strategic, meaning-making resource, exploring language via metafunctions (Halliday and Hasan, 1985; Bloor and Bloor, 1995; Martin, Matthiessen and Painter, 1997; Butt et al. 2001; Droga and Humphrey, 2003; Martin and Rose, 2003; Eggins, 2004; Halliday and Matthiessen, 2004).

In this study, SFL is used as instrumental linguistics, which is “the study of language for understanding something else” (Fowler, 1991:481). It is applied in this study to understand the nature of management styles, in particular, that of the Swedish management style in Singapore, set in context with the Singapore Chinese management style.

1.6 Limitations and constraints

The choice of the subject of investigation, which is Swedish management in Singapore and the choice of methods to study the subject means that this study is inherently cross-disciplinary in nature. Its approach is corpus based or empirical in nature and its research and findings are aimed at contributing mainly to the small but growing field of Swedish management and to the field of linguistics, specifically discourse analysis applied in organization studies.

In order to find a balance between both qualitative and quantitative methods of analysis, the data management and analysis approach is selected to be one that is multi-levelled and eclectic in nature. The qualitative nature of this study and the time consuming nature of the linguistic analysis method of analysis means that only a limited amount of data can be analyzed with the SFL framework.

The findings of this study are also limited to Sweden and Singapore, as the participants are mainly from top-level management in Swedish owned or Swedish managed organizations based in Singapore.

1.7 Overview of Chapters

The following chapter will provide a review of previous studies on Scandinavian and Asian management styles, in particular Swedish and Singapore Chinese management styles. It will also introduce the theoretical background to the functional view of language, discourse analysis and its various approaches. Chapter 3 will outline the investigation process, the participants, the interview process and how the data was collected. As a data management strategy, an overview of the grounded theory coding procedures is also presented in this chapter. Chapter 4 presents the findings to the grounded theory coding procedures and how some topics emerge as salient in the data. This chapter also prepares the ground for the text analyses in Chapter 5, where the topics from Chapter 4 are grouped together to form categories to be studied via a linguistic analysis. This linguistic analysis with a systemic functional linguistics framework, is presented in Chapter 5. Chapter 6 discusses the findings of this study and points to future research in the area.