Globalization in the company: Shared independence

Dec 8, 2021

In 75 years, SICK has grown from a small southern German company to a global player with more than 10,000 employees. How can SICK maintain the balance between the global network and its local nodes? What effect does a company’s globalization have on its culture and values? And how does the corporate culture support ‘internal’ globalization?

Dr. Mats Gökstorp, CEO of SICK
Dr. Mats Gökstorp, CEO of SICK
Dr. Mats Gökstorp, CEO of SICK
Dr. Mats Gökstorp, CEO of SICK

For Dr. Mats Gökstorp, CEO of SICK, maintaining the right balance between a global network and local awareness is a prerequisite for the success of an international company. “As a globally active company, we have customers, business partners and employees who are rooted in their local environment and in their particular markets and regions. And we must meet them there on an equal footing. We can only achieve this with a strongly decentralized organization in which our employees can also act independently of our traditional headquarters.”

 

Sharing values, appreciating differences

The native Swede discovered international business relations very early on. He recalls the beginning of his career at a start-up in Linköping: “When you grow up in a small country like Sweden, you quickly learn that you need to reach out to the world and explore things that go beyond your own immediate surroundings. The Swedish market for our solutions was simply not big enough. We therefore very quickly started gaining customers in Europe and the USA. As a result, we learnt more, found new business partners, and could expand our business. So, I very soon learnt that you must be open, get to know different cultures, and learn to understand the people in other countries if you want international success.”

Despite all the openness for diversity, one still needs a shared binding basis that brings together all the members of a global organization. Finding a shared basis in a world-spanning company – despite all the cultural, political and religious differences – requires a strong healthy corporate culture. “Respect and independence are two of our values at SICK – and are indispensable for shaping our community here at SICK. We respect our differences, and our subsidiaries act very independently worldwide. At the same time, we constantly work on strengthening the feeling of belonging together.”

Respect and independence are two of our values at SICK – and are indispensable for shaping our community here at SICK.
Respect and independence are two of our values at SICK – and are indispensable for shaping our community here at SICK.

 

Global network organization instead of traditional hierarchies

The concept of collaboration between equals beyond geographical and organizational boundaries calls traditional hierarchies into question. “You will always need a certain fundamental structure to lead a 10,000 person company, and you will always need a certain type of hierarchy to lead this organization. But this leadership should be based on professional competence and efficient collaboration, not on a traditional hierarchical organization of work. We will collaborate in agile teams with differing competences but particular objectives. We can work in teams whose members are located in Sao Paulo, Minneapolis, Shanghai or Waldkirch. And thereby, we can benefit from all the various aspects that come from differing cultures, differing experiences, and differing competences – and create added value. We distribute our knowledge and our competences across the entire globe while creating innovative solutions in project-oriented teams. We work task-specifically as colleagues in a network, regardless of which organization or unit we normally belong to. And when a task has been solved, we can assemble new teams for new tasks. This is my vision of collaboration in a global networked organization.”

We work task-specifically as colleagues in a network, regardless of which organization or unit we normally belong to.
We work task-specifically as colleagues in a network, regardless of which organization or unit we normally belong to.

 

Our shared mission: Helping the world move forwards

While respect and independence are prerequisites for the proper functioning of this global networked organization, Mats Gökstorp also believes that unity about where the journey together is going is a success factor: “Our company founder, Dr. Erwin Sick, coined a phrase for us – “Technology for the benefit of humanity.” Every day we work on creating solutions that protect people, relieve them of tedious tasks, and protect the environment. Whereby we only use our technology for peaceful purposes and refuse to permit our products to be used in a military context. We use technology for good. And we have been doing this – together with our business partners and customers – for 75 years. This is our contribution towards helping the world move forwards.”

 

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