Grundfos Global change project

A three-year project on virtual management will identify and exploit the potential in Grundfos’s international departments and transform the pump manufacturer into a truly global player.

Tomorrow’s product development at the pump giant Grundfos will take place 24 hours a day through cross-culturally managed collaboration between employees in different time zones. To make this possible, Grundfos in Bjerringbro in central Jutland launched a three-year partnership with CfL, which possesses extensive experience at consultancy and development processes targeted at international managements.

The purpose of the partnership is to develop more specific and concrete knowledge about what is required when employees must be managed at a distance, and the acquired knowledge will then be used to develop Grundfos’s executives and employees.

International or global

“Today, Grundfos has factories, sales offices and development departments worldwide, and even though most people consequently see the group as a global business, that is still some way off,” explains Gunnar Tindborg, Training & Development Manager at The Poul Due Jensen Academy in Bjerringbro.

“An international group usually has its core competences centred at its head office with various units located elsewhere as the head office’s extended arms. A global business, on the other hand, consistently places its activities where it makes most sense to have them in relation to customers, competencies or raw materials,” says Gunnar Tindborg.

Cultural diversity offers potential

Today, Grundfos is already aware of the potential of having employees all over the world, and that Grundfos’s development departments could, in principle, operate 24 hours a day.

“Once we master it, we can delegate tasks so they are constantly being processed in one place or another. The diversity between the various cultures also holds potential. The challenge is to make the most of this potential,” says Gunnar Tindborg.

Virtual management

Global Project Director Jimm Feldborg at Grundfos in Bjerringbro is in charge of all the group’s development projects:

“My interest in starting a project with CfL is the goal to accelerate our ability to develop and implement projects and to generate a profit. I therefore need to accumulate knowledge about distance management so we know how we need to operate in this new world so it impacts the entire business rather than just those places where we have individual project managers who are born with a talent for virtual management.”

Dispersed project teams

The project groups under Jimm Feldborg include production, sales, development and marketing, and the existing project developers have become accustomed to sitting together in Bjerringbro and then rolling out the projects worldwide.

“This has been possible as long as we focused on the domestic market and western Europe. However, we are now seeing the biggest growth in markets such as the BRIC countries and also in the USA, which still holds massive potential for Grundfos. My project managers therefore need to be able to navigate in a world where competencies are established in HUBS elsewhere than Bjerringbro and to carry out projects using these competencies and virtual management,” says Jimm Feldborg.

Formal Germans and straight-talking Americans

Gunnar Tindborg at The Poul Due Jensen Academy sees well-developed distance management as a way of overcoming cultural barriers.

“We are, of course, shaped by the Scandinavian management tradition which is based on a reasonably flat structure with a relatively weak hierarchy and a fairly informal manner. We only have to go as far as Germany to find a much more formal and hierarchical business style. In Asia you will find an extremely indirect and far more relations-based approach. And if you travel to the US, people are extremely direct. In Denmark we employ irony, which the British are also good at. Therefore, if you happen to combine inadequate cultural comprehension with a virtual medium, it can be a recipe for disaster.”

“The point of collaborating with CfL therefore is to realise the potential that lies in using virtual management in the most effective and beneficial way,” says Gunnar Tindborg.

Lose touch at a distance

At CfL, the project is being led by business psychologist Rikke Lindekilde from CfL who is writing a PhD thesis about the assignment. On the challenges of virtual management, she says:

“The general trend is that many managers switch from managing conventionally to suddenly managing at a distance. It presents them with completely new managerial challenges which they are unable to handle without the right know-how or tools.”

“For example, it is difficult to feel that you are not in contact with what is happening at a distance, and this can be a big challenge for the individual manager who needs to find the right balance between being confident that far-off employees are thriving and doing what they should while also ensuring a certain level of control or overview of what is happening,” says Rikke Lindekilde.