Strategic Management Competences in Scandinavian Contractors
Paper in proceedings, 2013
Over the past ten years, a series of contractors operating in Denmark, Norway and Sweden have slowly but surely expanded their markets beyond their previous single-country base towards operating in Scandinavia as a whole, and beyond. This expansion has been accompanied by a restructuring of company organisations and associated processes of competency development in senior management. This paper asks the question: How well is top level management prepared to manage and lead these large companies? The paper adopts a multidisciplinary theoretical approach combining international business, strategic management and HR concepts and approaches. Methodologically, a sample of the top level leaders of the hundred largest business units at some thirty Scandinavian contractors has been analysed. The focus is on the 400 top level managers in these organisations. On the basis of a desk study, an analysis of 124 managers from 18 companies has been carried out, providing insight into the basic education and mixing of competences in the top-level boards. More specifically, the areas of operations strategy and IT have been reviewed. The results show that even if the board is mainly composed of engineering competencies, business, legal and HR competencies are also present. Both engineer-dominated and mixed management boards are heading companies which show growth in turnover. This runs counter to a widespread sector perception that management boards in the construction industry are mainly composed of engineers. However, it seems that the managers with business administration competencies are rarely those with responsibility for the central tasks of leadership and strategy. Moreover, very few companies prioritize operations strategy and IT. It is assumed that everybody knows about practical building projects, and therefore that operations strategy will develop naturally. The IT area is viewed as best placed at a lower level of organisation, counter to IT governance and management prescriptions.