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Schibsted’s pan-Nordic company culture is built on trust, honesty, cake and pulla

Without backup from company culture, company strategy will fall on deaf ears. Schibsted has found a unique way to combine the two by focusing on people and continuous discovery and delivery.

Schibsted is an organisation with several well-known digital brands in Finland, Sweden, Norway and Denmark. In Finland, they are best known for Tori, Oikotie and Rakentaja. The company has over 1,000 employees and scores of product teams across the Nordics.

Luis Orozco, Schibsted’s Product Director, Engagement and Trust, explains that for him, building a company culture started with acknowledging that we all have work lives and personal lives, and these two come with different identities.

“Maintaining two identities takes mental capacity. We want to lower the cognitive load of people so we encourage our people to be themselves at work.”

Luis Orozco, Product Director, Engagement and Trust at Schibsted

For instance, when Orozco introduces himself at work, he also talks about his love and passion for cross-country skiing and good tacos. For Orozco, good tacos are basically as essential as breathing.

“It’s important that people at work see each other as real people, not just titles.”

Company culture isn’t born on a 3-day management retreat

Company culture is not a statement or nice words on a website but the sum of how all employees behave. When people in the company are open, the company culture is open. Culture also shows what you really are, not what you say you are.

Orozco quotes management consultant and writer Peter Drucker: “Culture eats strategy for breakfast.” The quote doesn’t mean that strategy is not important. It just states the fact that, if your company strategy and company culture are not aligned, your strategy is quickly forgotten.

“It’s really important that the top management has their ear to the ground.”

Luis Orozco, Product Director, Engagement and Trust at Schibsted

The same goes for everyone working in a leadership position. Leaders are responsible for creating trust and psychological safety, which ultimately lead to resilience. They also decide which things are encouraged or discouraged at the workplace.

“This is something that you have to think about consciously, and it’s easy not to.”

Have failure cake and deployment pulla but avoid OKR watermelons

Nordic consumers have a lot in common, and as a pan-Nordic company, Schibsted is well aware of that. But what unites the Nordics above all, according to Orozco’s personal observation, is the love of cake.

“Everybody loves cake. So when we learn, we have cake, and when we launch something, we have cake. We also have this thing called pulla-driven development: every time there is an important deployment, we give pulla to the team”, Orozco says. Pulla is the Finnish word for a sweet bun or cinnamon roll.

The idea is to acknowledge people’s contributions and give credit where due. By celebrating both success and failure, Schibsted aims to build a fearless culture that doesn’t shame people for trying and occasionally also failing.

Work at Schibsted is planned based on a dream of what they would love to have ready by the end of the year, and the dream is based on the company strategy. After defining the dream, the teams define the must-win-battles that lead to this dream coming to a reality and then decide on the Objectives and Key Results they will follow.

OKRs are marked on a confidence sheet in different colors: green is on track, yellow is at risk and red is not achievable.

“What I don’t like to see is the OKR watermelon. That’s when the sheet looks like there’s green, green, green and suddenly, at the end of the planning period, red. It means that the team is not estimating their work confidence and progress as they should.”

Join Qvik’s next Digital Product meetup?

This article is based on Qvik’s Digital Product Meetup held on June 14. The DiP meetups are a place for product managers, product owners and people in product management to discuss and learn about relevant themes. You can check out Luis Orozco’s slides from his talk here.

The next meetup will happen after the summer holidays. If you’re not on the invitation list yet, leave your contact details in the form below.

DiP Meetup Helsinki

If you’re not yet on the list and wish to get an invitation to the next DiP Meetup in Helsinki, please leave your contact information and we’ll get back to you.

DiP Meetup Stockholm

If you wish to get an invitation to the next DiP Meetup in Stockholm, please leave your contact information and we’ll get back to you.