Finland: Where Management Sweats The Details

16 May 2010|Darrel Rhea

The Finns are serious about sauna. I’m not talking about a private personal indulgence at home – the sauna is also part of office culture too. Last night I toured the offices of our client, Sitra, the Finnish government think tank. Sitra owns and occupies the tallest building in Helsinki. Of course the top floor has an incredible view, with an outdoor observation deck encircling the contemporary wood and leather board room.

But no Finnish corporate board room would be complete without – you guessed it – a sauna. In this case, it is a spacious, beautiful wood sauna built by a famous craftsman utilizing all 16 of Finland’s famous woods. It was constructed in the historical village of Fiskars, transported to the building site, and hoisted to the top by the largest crane in the country. Apparently, they miscalculated the final height of the railing by a few inches… and ultimately had to get a massive military helicopter to drop it into place. They take this sauna stuff seriously….

Going to this length to add the sauna to their offices demonstrates…

the importance of this cultural practice. And clearly the sauna is a place where, in Finland, the real meetings — and the real decisions — happen. This has worked well for their culture for a long time, but as the Finns are becoming internationalized, this just won’t fly. Except in family life, saunas are not a coed affair, and women directors are not willing to be left out in the cold. Companies like Nokia have had to stop using their executive saunas to avoid legal issues. Sitra is still a Finnish organization, and so it still works, but for how long?

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