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Why Swedes are mad about meetings

Colin Moon

Swedes at meetings

Swedes are somewhat obsessed with meetings. Swedish meetings are rather like cocktail parties. Most people don’t really want to go, but they are annoyed not to be asked.

This short article is for Swedish people who want to know how others see them. It is also for their international business partners who see them, but can’t always make sense of it all.

The very early Monday morning meeting

It’s Monday. We must have a meeting. It’s tradition.

It is the first of many in the week. My Swedish colleagues and I attend so many meetings that by the end of the week the meeting room feels like a second home.

Planned for this week is a variety of meetings - an idémöte, several informationsmöten, an avstämningsmöte, a planeringsmöte or two and, of course, a good old uppföljningsmöte. All meetings are scheduled to start and finish on time. Being late or causing the meeting to dra ut på tiden – to drag on, is a crime against humanity.

The mid-morning Monday meeting

Monday is Big M-day – reading mails, leaving messages and attending meetings.
Mårten has called a meeting. According to his business card he is the ‘Business Development Facilitator’. Nobody is quite sure what he does but people who have at least three words in their title must be very important.

We are in meeting room ‘Helsinki’, which doesn’t bode well for a lively, exciting meeting.

There is no Erik. My colleagues consult their watches to confirm the frightful fact that Erik is exactly six minutes late.

Erik flies in:

- Stopp i t-banan. Gröna linjen!

You can rely on the green underground line in Stockholm for three things - a vagnfel, a växelfel, and a spårfel. These usually occur during the rush hour. When late to a meeting, always blame technical troubles between Hagsätra and Hässelby – your colleagues will forgive you instantly.

Mårten considers himself an idéspruta. When asked once if he could translate this, he proudly announced that he liked to ejaculate ideas.

Never delay the end of a meeting or the beginning of a coffee break – so at 14.29 precisely Mårten suggests the obligatory uppföljningmöte. There’s nothing like a ‘follow-up’ as that means another meeting, more discussions, and probably not an awful lot of decisions.

Mid-afternoon meeting

Swedish business has a reputation for being fair, honest and transparent – Corporate social responsibility (CSR).The environment, gender equality, non-discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation, human rights and anti-corruption are central issues for all companies.

Per from marketing gives a PowerPoint presentation. His might just as well hand out a dose of valium. His presentation has no power and, quite honestly, no point.

We then go on to discuss various processes. The word ‘process’ is a very popular word in Swedish business. In this meeting we discuss kärnprocesser, delprocesser, and a few tvärfunktionella processer. We want to create stödprocesser and develop kundprocesser. We agree to be more effective at processhantering, processledning and processtyrning and learn how to handle processanalyser, with more precise processkartläggning, and better processsorientering.

The meeting is dragging dangerously on towards 16.00. People start to leave the meeting at various intervals.

It’s Cecilia’s week with her children. She has her own kids from marriages 1 and 2, her bonus kids from relationship 3 and one of her ex- mother-in-laws staying with her this week.

Malin has to fetch her dog from the hunddagis – the doggy day-care centre, Sten has choir practice, and Lena is going to Friskis & Svettis to get healthy and sweaty for some reason.

Karin has to attend the annual general meeting at Elöverkänsligas Riksförbund – The Swedish Association for the ElectroHyperSensitive. Yes, you read correctly. Many Swedes have something wrong with them and they join associations and form support groups so they can all be miserable together.

All that remains now is for us die-hards that are left in the meeting room to decide on the date and time of the next meeting. This is of some comfort – life as we know it will continue.

It’s amazing really. Despite all the meetings, the coffee breaks and the flexitime, my Swedish colleagues still get their work done. They prove they are super efficient in everything they do. For them, efficiency is doing better what they are already doing well. How do they do it?

Vi tar upp det på nästa möte.

Colin Moon

Colin Moon är kommunikationsexpert, författare och en av Skandinaviens mest efterfrågade föreläsare.

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