Culture plays an essential role in every organization because it affects the level of cooperation between employees, sets appropriate values and behaviors, and affects its ability to adapt to external changes and threats. American psychologist Edgar Schein has developed ten mechanisms that leaders use to change the culture of their organization. The primary mechanisms include where leaders put their attention, how they react to crises, behave, allocate rewards, and promote and dismiss staff members (Schein, 1996). Secondary mechanisms include how leaders shape organization structure, facilities, and systems, formulate formal statements, and whether there are any stories or legends that experienced employees retell to the newcomers (Schein, 1996). The present essay analyzes the mechanisms employed by IKEA’s founder, Ingvar Kamprad, to shape this company’s organizational culture. The paper also discusses the role of IKEA’s corporate culture in its successful international expansion. To begin with, it is necessary to analyze what the organizational culture of IKEA looks like. As it is stated on the official website of IKEA, its culture could be described as typically Swedish (ikea.com, a). IKEA believes that every employee is unique, and valuable, and has something to offer the company (ikea.com, a). Another aspect of IKEA’s culture is the urge to promote gender equality (ikea.com, a). The primary goal of this company is “to create a better everyday life for many people by offering a wide range of well-designed, functional home furnishing products at prices” (ikea.com, para. 7, a). The values of IKEA include togetherness, care, cost-consciousness, simplicity, constant improvement, uniqueness, responsibility, and leading by example (ikea.com, a). It is curious to notice that IKEA not only implements these values at the corporate level but also tries to “convey them to consumers” (Sobirovna et al., 2021, p. 4273). From this piece of analysis, it could be inferred that the organizational culture of IKEA makes employees feel their value and, hence, increases their loyalty and commitment to this organization. The most apparent Schein mechanisms employed by Ingvar Kamprad are attention and role modeling. The essence of such a mechanism as attention lies in focusing on particular values and priorities. The paragraph above clearly shows that IKEA values high quality, self-improvement, equality, and employee commitment. IKEA positions itself as a unique company with a special attitude to the quality and price of the produced goods, employees, customers, and other stakeholders. The use of role modeling could be proven by the fact that IKEA “sees leadership as an action, not a position,” “looks for people’s values before competence and experience,” and is interested in “people who ‘walk the talk’ and lead by example” (ikea.com, para. 15, a).
In IKEA, the annual Christmas speeches of the leadership are a channel of communication between them and the staff members (Alange et al., 2016). In these speeches, the executives inform the subordinates of the culture, values, and strategy for the upcoming year (Alange et al., 2016). Therefore, through these speeches, the administration shows what they want and how this could be achieved and, hence, direct the thoughts and actions of IKEA’s diverse team. Ingvar Kamprad has managed to establish an organizational culture in his company that the employees listen to leaders, watch them, and repeat what they do. Another Schein mechanism that could be observed in the organizational culture of IKEA is stories and legends. As has already been mentioned, this mechanism is illustrated by the cases when more experienced employees retell new ones some important stories about the company and its leaders. The study conducted by Alange et al. (2016) reveals that in IKEA, “the culture is reinforced by storytelling about the founder’s choices and behavior, which has remained consistent over the years” (p. 1015). These stories are mainly used to solve current problems based on past problem-solving experiences (Alange et al., 2016). What is more, the aforementioned tradition of Christmas speeches could also be regarded as one of the components of the storytelling mechanism. That is because the leaders transmit their message and story directly to subordinates, talk to them, and listen to them. Furthermore, Alange et al. (2016) argue that employees learn how the company operates and how decisions are taken and implemented there via the shared experience. The indispensable component of this process is storytelling and communication between colleagues. Selection and dismissal mechanisms also play an essential role in the organizational culture of IKEA. HR policies of this company are directly related to its values. For example, since IKEA believes in gender equality, its HR managers hire a diverse population and try to escape the quantitative superiority of male employees over female ones (Song, 2021). Even though there is little information on the reward and punishment system of IKEA, on the official website, it is stated that the company allows employees to “try different roles, change between functions and even move abroad” (ikea.com, para. 1, b).
This statement proves that this organization treasures the loyalty of employees and strives to establish a comfortable organizational culture in which they can develop their skills and achieve new heights. Another significant mechanism employed by Ingvar Kamprad is the reaction to crises. According to the study of Ngai and Falkheimer (2017), the managerial personnel of IKEA knows how to turn crises into opportunities. IKEA commonly uses traditional media such as television and newspapers, and magazines as well as social media to interact with stakeholders and solve problems (Ngai & Falkheimer, 2017). This way, IKEA presents itself as a company that cherishes its consumers and stakeholders and treasures their loyalty and satisfaction. IKEA is a successful company that operates in 60 countries. International expansion depends on numerous factors, including cultural differences, brand recognition, tariffs, staff recruitment, market competition, and supply chain operation. Still, organizational culture also means a lot for the success of the foreign market entry. IKEA has become popular abroad precisely because it sells high-quality and well-designed goods at relatively low prices. Since these features are the cornerstone of IKEA’s organizational culture, it could be concluded that its prosperous international expansion became possible due to organizational culture. To conclude, primary Schein’s mechanisms utilized by Ingvar Kamprad include attention, role modeling, legends, human resource management, and crisis management. Still, it does not mean that the other five mechanisms developed by Edgar Schein are not represented in the organizational culture of IKEA. Instead, this paper analyzed the most impactful and vital mechanisms that distinguish IKEA from its competitors and, overall, all other organizations. IKEA’s care for the customers could be observed in its strive to sell excellent products at low prices enables it to become immensely successful in 60 countries of the world.
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