Local Cultures and Management: The Case of Switzerland and Its Societal Management Model
This essay was inspired by the writings of Professor Joseph Weiss and André Delbecq on Silicon Valley and Route 128. 1 The question arose: Are there any Silicon Valleys or Route 128s in Switzerland? Does Switzerland have local cultures which have an impact on the way business is managed?
One major and undeniable fact must be mentioned immediately. Switzerland is a small country. Some 2,500 miles separate Silicon Valley from Route 128, but from east to west, Switzerland measures only 250 miles, and from north to south a mere 130 miles. California has a population of 26 million, whereas Switzerland has 6.4 million. Switzerland is even difficult to find on a world map. It is legitimate to ask whether a country of such small size can really contain regions and local cultures of importance.
On closer scrutiny, one discovers that Switzerland is made up of a surprisingly large number of regional cultures. Some highly successful businesses can be traced back to small parts of the country where the local culture made it possible for these businesses to develop. The watch industry is one example. At the same time, within the country as a whole, a number of homogenizing forces are at work which have a tendency to create an overall Swiss culture. It will be argued here that a Swiss "societal management model" exists and that this model has evolved over time. The model is a combination of local cultural forces and values that have been forged into a decentralized, integrative system of management practices. This so-called model can best be discussed by examining the historical experiences that have influenced its development, and by discussing specific industrial practices that exemplify its diversity. Since the Swiss management model cannot be