Our conclusion is that Ericsson’s success factors can be reduced to a few simple ingredients:

  • What counts is the ability to get things to work. All the talking or politics that goes on around this is irrelevant.
  • Everybody has to be involved and contribute. And the solutions created have to be available for everybody.
  • Solutions should be thought through from the start.
  • In other words: If things are going to work, everyone needs to get involved and be part of the solution. Then it will be well planned right from the start and will work when it is sent out into the world.

This is not, then, a question of technology for the sake of technology, but rather about understanding technology and what it can be used for, to serve individuals and society. This does not eliminate some degree of nerdiness – not all Ericsson engineers are socially adept, but they can solve problems.

And the main unit is the team. Camaraderie reigns. The natural goal is consensus – which does not always mean avoiding conflict. Ideally, the solution is reached automatically once all the arguments have been formulated, expressed and weighed against each other. When conflicts of interest arise, the team looks for solutions that feel reasonable and fair.

THE TEAM FIRST

Accomplished individuals are given scope for maneuver as long as they are part of the team. Stars are accepted as long as they do not boast too much. 

The evidence suggests that the conversational tone is rarely effusive. People work hard and rely on each other, their satisfaction being a job well done. But expressions of gratitude have not been particularly generous. During our discussions with Åke Persson, an Ericsson veteran often mentioned in this book, he said almost in passing: “I do not believe anybody ever said spontaneously during all my years at Ericsson, ‘You did that well!’”  

This may be typical of “cowboys”, of the pioneers building railroads through the wilderness many years ago. This is how Ericsson’s staff are often seen. For more than a century, they have traveled all over the world to build networks and solve problems in extremely uncomfortable surroundings – without complaining that things are not the same as back home.

Today Ericsson is represented in 180 countries and Ericsson employees are used to working under any conditions you could name. Ericsson has almost never abandoned its local markets, however hard the times have been.

Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn

© Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson and Centre for Business History

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