No scope for nicities
Interviewed in 2009, Svedberg says the main reason for giving ERA a new boss was that Lundqvist made decisions on issues – such as the credit extended in the US and ventures that led to competition with customers – of the kind that should have been referred to the Ericsson board.
“The roles we had to play did not allow much scope for niceties. Åke did a fantastic job as a manager but did not always understand that he was part of larger system and was putting other people’s money at stake. But I respect Åke for his tremendous talents and his passionate feelings about Ericsson,” Svedberg says.
Johansson adds: “Telefonplan and Kista were two different cultures; we were constantly walking a tightrope. At ERA we had to grow quickly and stay in front in development. We could either grow with the market or lose it. We could not devote too much time to developing processes and going in for quality control. By comparison, procedures at Telefonplan were punctilious. That added to our differences. We were seen as rough cowboys.”
RAMQVIST MAKES HIS ENTRANCE
Lars Ramqvist took over as CEO of ERA in September 1988. He did not of course get the job by accident. He was “appallingly well educated,” to use Svedberg’s words: his PhD thesis was in solid-state chemistry and physics, and he had been supervised at Uppsala by the Nobel laureate Kai Siegbahn before working for 15 years at the Axel Johnson Institute for Industrial Research at Nynäshamn. He was employed by Ericsson in 1980 and, as we have seen, four years later was appointed to head Ericsson’s component company Rifa, later to be renamed Ericsson Components.
It was at this time that Svedberg began to give Ramqvist special tasks relating to strategic questions. One dealt with producing a strategy for closer cooperation between mobile telephony and the fixed public telephone networks. The outcome was the strategy document that justified, among other things, the disposal of Ericsson Information Systems.
ERA NEEDED ALL THE HELP
Ramqvist recounts: “ERA needed all the help and resources it could get from the much larger operation in public telephony, which was based on AXE and which for a long time had been the group’s cash cow. The strategy document provided the platform on which ERA could later expand with the support of the entire Ericsson organization.”
The growing volumes of business led inevitably to the “need to organize quality and procedures”, Ramqvist says – in other words, just what the ERA management was claiming it had no time to do because of the rapid pace of development.
Ramqvist adds: “I made sure that ERA and ETX, public telephony, changed their operational directors in order to enhance cooperation between the operations and their mutual understanding. This was a personnel strategy that I used later when I was CEO of Ericsson with very good results. Critics complained that I was a bad boss because I switched managers too often. But the switches were necessary to enable the forceful expansion of mobile telephony in the group.”
Author: Svenolof Karlsson & Anders Lugn