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IKEA history

Life in ikeevski

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Helen Lewis "Everyone with whom I spoke, he argued that the work in the" Ikea "is akin to a cult like the Moonies They only worship the pine boards and a sofa titled" Ektorp "..

Employees "Ikea" (so called all workers) do not deny it, but they say that this sect nice and friendly; as a separate cult, they have their own language, their own code of conduct and beliefs. In Sweden, things and people, or fit the category of «IKEA-massig», which can be roughly translated as "suitable for" Ikea "" or not. In France they say «c'est pas IKEA» or «c'est pas le concept».

It is impossible to get rid of the religious perception of "Ikea" - from it can not escape. The spiritual component is reflected in the shining eyes of optimism staff that you are either delightful or annoying. They sincerely believe that it is not just selling chairs and spread a new philosophy of living space. "We believe that" Ikea "improves life by providing cheap, well-constructed furniture" - preaches a "lifetime" employee "Ikea" with brilliant eyes.

"Lifetime" employees

"Life" inside "Ikea" call those who worked for the company for a long time. Such a great deal. They compare "Ikea" with a family who will never leave after become a member. "It is - how to be part of the crowd," - says another "life" employee "Ikea", which at the time left the job, but going back:

Relationships within can become very sharp, and communication is "Ikea" may collapse. But you always know the inner purpose and actually know what "Ikea". This means that you are going and doing something with meaning.

I heard about one employee "Ikea", whose parents met there. In the "Ikea" many couples. Some spouses met 16 years ago, when he joined right after university, and now they are moving along the career ladder. Some leave and return. Within the organization about them may say, "Well, Anders spent five years on the outside - a midlife crisis, but now he's back." It seems that the work in such a successful company fills people's pride - it's like to play rugby for New Zealand.

The company extended the saying "do not fit - go." Appear to thrive in "Ikea" can only be a certain type of people. They have in common that they are practical, not too flashy appearance, they are not clouding his eyes social status or wealth. "Principles" Ikea "and also our own principles - explains one missionary" life "of employees. - We will, we immediately realize the right in front of us or not. A day later, we can already say that this guy will stretch up to three months. "

Employment policy at the "Ikea" instinctive. She hires the "right" people - not always well-prepared or the most intelligent, but the "people" Ikea ". Almost every employee with whom I spoke, was offered a job immediately, during the interview. In one letter said: "We like you, like your profile, and if our meeting goes well, you would not have agreed to start work on Tuesday?". "In the" Ikea "there are good and bad sides, - says another. - You either offer something on the spot, or the long haul and do not say anything concrete for months. "

Father figure

In "Ikea" employees say about themselves "we", because this is a collective pronoun. The only "I" in the company is its founder Ingvar. Kamprad, who acquired something like a father's status. Every year, employees receive from him Christmas gifts, which used to be a set of towels from the Ikea or a bicycle. At the beginning of 90-ies, they all received a tape recorder with a recording of an interview with Kamprad Swedish radio. There is a joke inside the company that once in Elmhult all employees received a bicycle and the next day the whole town was rolled out on identical bicycles.

Kamprad is like a father to 84 thousand. Man. I heard of one manager "Ikea" in Western European countries, which faced a nasty divorce procedure. He admitted that he had read one of the books Kamprad to find there advice and imagine how Kamprad joined in his place. "I have not met anyone who had not worshiped him" -. admits one person involved in the company.

Ascetic and Spartan habits Kamprad had an impact on the culture of management "Ikea", which is a very low appropriation for hospitality. "Expenses in the" Ikea "- a mortal sin - says Kamprad in the fourth chapter of his" Testament. " - This is one of the greatest diseases of mankind. Use your funds in the image of "Ikea". So you will get good results at the lowest cost. "

Concern prices affects all aspects of the business, "Ikea". One official note sent by the designers were required to stop using mechanical pencils to complete drawings. Upstairs decided that these pencils are too expensive, because the rods are constantly broken; so the designers have proposed to use a pencil, which are sharpened by hand.

In the "Ikea" goes inside pamphlet "Traveling with" Ikea "," which lists the least expensive flights and the cheapest hotels "in the style of" Ikea "." All managers have to fly economy class or low cost airlines, stay in cheap hotels, sometimes share a room with multiple guests. It's a kind of snobbery vice versa; employees "Ikea" really like to stay in cheap hotels and cheap lunch at the cafe.

One consultant, who sometimes had to work with "Ikea" recalls terrible accident when his commercial agent to book seats in business class airplane, while customers 'Ikea' housed in economy class. Managers in the "Ikea" do not receive traditional company cars, mobile phones, places in the parking lot and representation allowance.

"We do not set prices at the time," - said one executive officer in an interview with the Harvard Business School. One day he called Ingvar Kamprad to get approval to fly first class. He explained that the economy class is full, and he needs to have time for an important meeting. "In the" Ikea "no first class - Kamprad responded by denying his request - can you go by car?" The employee had to cover the distance in miles 350 taxi.

When 1999 by President "Ikea" was Anders Dahlvig, internal magazine published a humorous article in which he compared his car and the car Kamprad. Myth "Ikea" argues that both own cars, which at least 20 years - a "Lada" and the other "Skoda". Machinery allegedly decided to measure themselves and conduct of the race, but none of them gained breakneck speed 60 miles per hour.

"In the Park" Ikea "is not flashy cars," - says one employee "Ikea". However, some employees have learned to reconcile their understanding of the social situation with neierar-hichnymi ideas company. "I know people who come to work in the" Ikea "on the usual" Volvo "and then transplanted into the" Porsche "to go home."

Modesty uniforms

In 30-ies a Norwegian writer wrote the book "The Law of the Jungle» («Jungte Lavin»), had a great influence on public opinion. It said that no one should look better than others. This concept permeates the entire Scandinavian culture, and it adheres to "Ikea". In the Swedish language is the word «odmjukhet», signifying humility, modesty and respect for others - is another important quality for "Ikea".

This same concept is reflected in the uniforms of employees "Ikea". Each necessarily tend to mention this, as if "Ikea" was the first company that invented the form to work. Perhaps it is. All senior staff wear jeans and a shirt with open collar - for them it is a kind of uniform. I suspect that Kamprad believes this uniform pioneers.

All employees are communicating with customers, shall wear the uniform of a bright yellow T-shirts with a badge and blue pants, including senior management, to help in the shop during the tense situation. In the early 90-ies employees "Ikea" in France was able to insist on not to wear uniforms ("This Euro Disney or what?") - Is the only country that did not immediately passed on uniforms. But now the French and walk around in a yellow and blue.

In France, by the way, made contact to each other "you", including senior management. In Germany - the same rule. Throughout the world, employees are advised to call each other by their first names.

Each year, "Ikea" organize "anti-bureaucratic Week", during which managers work in warehouses and the exposure to get a better idea about the work of their subordinates. As explained by the president of "Ikea" Anders Dahlvig, "so we follow the daily routine; do not forget about the needs of buyers »43. It is assumed that managers must, if necessary, to go to the gym and work there. They either solve the problem in the warehouse or when a lot of people sitting on the box office.

States "Ikea" is not inflated, it is very little middle management. Ideally, there should be only three levels of management, so if someone wants to, for example, discuss the work of the section of carpet, then he turns to the store manager, country manager or to someone directly in Sweden.

Sometimes it seems that store, comparable in size to the spacecraft control all 24 person. Corporate offices are also scarce. The headquarters of "Ikea" in the UK is located in the multi-storey car park at the store "Ikea" in Brent Park in north London. During her visit, I sat in krasoch-. Mr. hammock from "Ikea" and read the newspaper lying on a plastic garden table.

For Swedish business is characterized by a smaller role hierarchy and a greater role of equal partnership. Leaders must earn the trust and respect; subordinates have every right to question their quality. "In Sweden, before you go for some serious step, it is necessary to achieve universal agreement. If you're doing it right, people will follow you. But if you can not agree, then you are not care about success, "- says Thomas Gad, the Swedish brand consultant.

Reaching agreement - as one of the "principles" Ikea ":" They are afraid of conflict, scare them, all aimed at achieving consensus and agreement. No open debate, discussed all hours ", - says one former top employee" Ikea "in the field of advertising. I think the characteristic that the word "Ombudsman" about the Swedish origin. At Old Norse it meant "intermediary trusted". In modern Britain is the name of the post of Commissioner for complaints of individuals to the work of state institutions.

Culture Storytellers

To perpetuate its strong internal culture of "Ikea" for many years writing his own history and stories. They speak about frugality Ingvar Kamprad, the battles "Ikea" Competitors in the first years of its existence, about Älmhult about Swedish modesty and how the Vikings conquered the world and as "Ikea" does the same thing ...

Stories, legends and stories circulating on the organization and merge into polyphonic cacophony. There are stories about everyday events, there moralizing stories, morality which usually boils down to the fact that "so-and-so was because he (she, they) did not behave as customary in" Ikea ".

"They repeat the story over and over again, like preachers" - explains a Swedish officer.

These stories explain where it came from "Ikea" and how it has become a flourishing business. They do not teach you what to do, but explain how and why. As in the story of the two builders: one said that he lays bricks, the other - that is building a cathedral.

With the growth of "Ikea" had to move to a more formal approach to the maintenance of their culture in the organization. In 1976 year Kamprad transferred its founding principles in the "Testament furniture dealer", which is now given to all employees.

In 80-ies. Kamprad personally prepared 300 employees on a weekly seminar on the history and culture of the "Ikea", which, according to legend, includes a visit to the green shed, where "Ikea" begins. It was assumed that these messengers have to carry the seeds of further knowledge and to act as role models.

Today in Älmhult there is a special school "Ikea" entitled «Almhultdagarna» («Älmhult-dagarna"), which has just joined the "Ikea" employees perceive the "beginning of the doctrine." They view the photos a little background on the Ingvar Kamprad smolandskih landscapes and videos about the strangeness of the Swedes. Then go down to the basement of a local hotel to wander between the museum exhibits "Ikea" in three rooms.

Path "Ikea"

Such a doctrine (although the "Ikea" never so would not call it) gives a lot of freedom in your organization, provided that they regularly ask themselves the question: "Is it consistent with the principles of" Ikea "?". Many of them instinctively feel these principles, and the rest are content with their entrepreneurial talents. This is the same as instructions for assembly of furniture from flat packaging, where the process is described in general terms, and the rest must be thinking the ones who collect it directly.

In the "identity across borders" Miriam Salle-zer leads interview with Bengt, Swedish managers in the Canadian "Ikea", where he worked since 1980 years. It turns out that Kamprad Bengt hired as an assistant purchasing agent in the early 70-x godov44. Bengt says:

You constantly talk about "Ikea" as if someone always knows everything and make decisions. As if there is such omnipotent "Ikea", but "Ikea" - we are the ones who work there. If you want to do something, we do it. No, we do not order and does nothing for us.

Of course, there is the central decision, which we can not influence. Product range, restaurant, general policy ... But I never felt on top of the control. We have extraordinary freedom. "Ikea" is not the company that gives you clear instructions and says "do it this way!". It would not have worked. For us, "Ikea" - is primarily a Canadian "Ikea". The only thing that unites us all - it is our vision and our culture.

Store Manager must not offer obviously inappropriate changes, such as changing the color or the location of the store displays, but they are free to take the initiative and enterprise. This is a fairly sensitive issue, and Kamprad calls this system of "freedom with responsibility." They have the right to add something to my spartan instructions "Ikea" - whether they are attracted to London Zoo for a half term, arrange lotteries days or establish a radio station.

"Together with the freedom you get a lot of responsibility - says one European manager. - We have a goal, and if you reach, this goal, no one cares how you reach it - if you do that you need two days or three months, no one is standing behind him. The main thing that has been done. "

The rule of thumb is that an employee "Ikea" in each case needs to know what is right and what is wrong. You will not be punished, even if we admit any mistakes, but you have to understand what is the essence of the "Ikea".

Kamprad and "Ikea" very tolerant to errors. In the eighth chapter of his "Testament furniture dealer" Kamprad states: "A person does not commit an error only when sleeping. Fear of mistakes - the root of bureaucracy and the enemy of development »45. This is the best agreement with the own confession Kamprad on participation in the Nazi organization in the years of his youth. He also said: "No one has made more mistakes than I do."

Such tolerance of errors are common among senior managers.

One designer recalls the interview with the manager of "Ikea" in the UK. The first thing he asked, "You're making a mistake?". The designer admitted that he sometimes made on that manager replied: "Well, because people do not make mistakes, but when he sleeps."

In the "Ikea" extends another classic edition with a large image Ingvar Campra, yes. Its content is consistent with the slogan "Stop being such cowards." Kamprad encourages new generation of managers to be more entrepreneurial. "This company exists, because we are not afraid to take risks, and you will incur my wrath if you do not do the same," - he said.

This approach implies that the error can not be avoided. Indeed, mistakes are quite common; new beginnings come to nothing, and in some countries, "Ikea" can not settle. But thanks to the spirit of entrepreneurship "Ikea", unlike some other companies that never falls into stagnation.

"Ikea" and does not keep people in one place and takes the most promising young employees to new positions about every 18 months "to avoid overgrown with moss," explains one. It seems that the prosperity of the "Ikea" largely depends on the change.

Employees transferred from one destination to another, from one post to another. Some destinations that other companies would have seemed lower, there are increasing. For example, if someone is transferred from the head office in the store, the "Ikea" is considered to be a step above. The most valuable experience is considered to work in the field of supply or in the store.

Swedish celebrations

Lucia Day - 13 December

This is a celebration in honor of the girl, who according to legend, she decided not to marry and to dedicate his life to God. She rejected the suggestion of one of the noble lord was killed, becoming a martyr. During the holiday passes Lucia Day procession headed girl, dressed in white robes and a crown of candles. It distributes coffee, ginger biscuits and cookies ("Lucia cats").

Walpurgis Night - the beginning of spring

Holiday has its roots in the Viking Age and symbolizes the beginning of spring. Swedes kindle large bonfires and sing songs of spring.

The middle of summer - the summer solstice

This is one of the most popular public holidays in Sweden. It was originally a pagan fertility festival. It falls on the longest day of the year, in which all relatives and friends gather to taste herring, drink beer and spirits.


For employees "Ikea" Swedish language does not lose its significance, particularly with the growth in popularity internationally. The shops around the world often marked Swedish holidays. Mid-summer day - a great holiday in Sweden itself. On this day, put a pole decorated with flowers, sing, eat "smorgasbord" (Swedish delicacy) and drink a lot of vodka and beer. A similar festival is celebrated in April in honor of the arrival of spring, when the Swedes kindle large bonfires and fireworks.

Some foreign control "Ikea" believe that non-Swedes difficult to make a decent career in the organization. One employee, who asked about future plans, said: "Unfortunately, I was not born in the country. I reached the peak of development. " Another told me that although not necessarily be a Swede, but they have - very helpful.

Foreign managers are encouraged to learn the Swedish language, because to advance in the company it is almost mandatory. The former president "Ikea" Anders Moberg once said:

I would advise any foreign manager, who really wants to achieve a high position in the company, to learn Swedish. Then he will get a very different picture of our culture, our way of thinking, our values. We try to have our foreign staff had as much contact with the Swedes, for example, send them to Sweden for the weekend.

This is confirmed by one of the workers: "It is considered useful if the Swedes abroad feast like a party with crayfish."

But the more the organization becomes, the more difficult to stick to it the same culture. This is especially evident when the Swedish company enters the international level. Although most senior managers are still men Swedes in the top management gets more and more foreigners.

CEO Anders Dahl-Whig publicly announced his intention to diversify representation in leadership. One of the most interesting destinations - Kerri Molinaro, Canadian and the first non-Swedish leader in the Swedish offices. It cooperates with "Ikea" with 1992 years and was formerly the shop manager in Chicago.

Among the thousand 80. 500 employees Swedes expatriate help to establish global operations for the dissemination of furniture in flat pack. They are often perceived differently than ordinary employees - they pay more, sometimes isolated at home, they often go on business trips.

A much bigger problem lies in the fact that the average member of staff "Ikea" often can not accurately recall its principles, and probably not really care about them. There is a sort of two levels. Senior management, up to the store manager has an idea about the idea of ​​"Ikea"; store employees who communicate with customers, not really remember her. From this, the organization is sometimes there are some inconsistencies.

But sometimes it seems to me that the idea of ​​the idea of ​​"Ikea" and penetrates to the very lowest levels. I saw in a shop in north London embarrassed, flushed employee fought with willful desk, while buyers stood in long lines, clutching glasses and bath mats. On her arm, I noticed yellow plastic watch with logo «IKEA». "You make it wear?" - I asked, wondering to what may come Swedish organization to demand loyalty from their workers. "No, no ... I always wear them," - cheerfully replied the girl with beaming eyes.


Helen Lewis (chapter from the book "Great IKEA. Brand for All")

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