Management by perkele

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Management by perkele is a Swedish expression referring to a Finnish approach to leadership that prefers swift decision making over prolonged pondering of many alternatives before making a decision. Aesop's fable of the Fox and the Cat is applicable. Management by perkele is in contrast to Swedish consensus decision-making, wherein management involves everyone prior to making a final decision.

The name is derived from the word perkele, a Finnish profanity, suggesting it is being yelled repeatedly by all involved using this approach.


Contrary to its original meaning[specify], the expression is also occasionally used when describing old Finnish Army-style authoritarian leadership. It leaves no leeway for dissent or differing opinions. It implies that any dissenting opinions are countered with an argumentum ad baculum (a threat of force) by management. The flip side of this management approach is that it creates an atmosphere of efficiency and straightforwardness; everyone knows what he or she is supposed to do. Tasks and goals can be achieved more swiftly and efficiently than in a non-authoritarian atmosphere, and any problematic situations can simply be handled without first discussing them.

In this meaning "management by perkele" implies indiscriminate application of Army methods in civilian life—exporting practices which are proper for one small specific area of society into another, where they may have mixed results. The Finnish Defence Forces have Prussian traditions of discipline: fast decisions, and clear rules. The Prussian military reforms, starting after the Napoleonic defeats, sought to turn soldiers into reputable professionals who obeyed orders without being oppressed, and made a militia possible. Physical punishment was forbidden, and later on the strong drill was replaced by better training systems[specify], especially for the officers. The making of quick decisions was a primary goal, which resulted in the commanders' loss of overall control. 'Total obedience' was now obsolete and operational initiative, direction and control had to be assigned to a point further down the chain of command.

Prussian hazing traditions—which have been eliminated recently in the army—follow. The old "army philosophy" is based on inducing fear and uncertainty in subordinates. It can also be seen as organizational workplace bullying. In expert organizations, management by fear has been found to cause halting of positive development, because employees can be too effectively intimidated from expressing alternative development ideas. This also promotes excluding individuals from the teamwork, because a fear of co-workers leads to associations only with the ones one can trust.[1]

It is possible that the concept has arisen from the practice of preferring people with a reserve officer rank from the conscript service for leadership roles in Finnish companies. (Approximately 10% of men fulfill this criterion.) This had once been a common practice, but it is not an official requirement.

Examples in free software culture[edit]

Linus Torvalds, creator of the Linux operating system, believes that he follows the management by perkele approach by making his opinion very clear. He honestly despises being subtle or "nice". He also recommends to others to not be subtle.[2] He manages by having clear rules (like "never break userspace") and by being demanding especially to his "lieutenants".[3] He explains in a July 2013 email to a colleague who questioned his workplace etiquette, "I'm not polite, and I get upset easily but generally don't hold a grudge - I have these explosive emails."[4]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Eriksson Marja, Parviainen Jaana. Management by Fear in Expert Organization. 2005.
  2. ^ Linus Torvalds response to Sarah Sharp criticism.
  3. ^ Linus cursing more at top developers.
  4. ^ Linus, easy upset, not holding a grudge.

External links[edit]