Ideological control in action

“How do you make sure that a set of values or business principles are more than pretty words in a nice-looking pamphlet? In Novo Nordisk experienced employees called facilitators have been visiting Novo Nordisk units around the world since 1997, helping employees and managers translate our printed values into practical action.” reads the abstract of a short presentation of Novo Nordisk’s value audit program (

Novo Nordisk has established a special unit that regularly monitors whether their branches, which are distributed all over the planet, live up to the cultural values (called ‘the essentials’) of the organization. Recently, I had the chance to listen to a presentation of one of their so-called facilitators. This person provided an introduction to the purpose and procedure of the value audits and gave us a bit of insight into his work. During the presentation it became obvious (and it had been made clear as well) that Novo Nordisk uses this type of audit as a means of controlling the organisation.

However, why do I refer to this here? Well, at first sight it may serve as an example of ideological control, hence making employees to identify with particular values and beliefs that are defined by the organisation. At closer inspection, however, it appears to be a combination of bureaucratic control and ideological control. Defining the Novo Nordisk Essentials, i.e. ten cultural principles, that should guide the behaviour (yet, probably also the thoughts and feelings) of the employees, the organisation provides particular values and beliefs for the employees to take up and to implement in their daily work. The regularly conducted value-audits, in turn, serve as a practical management tool to control to what extent the employees have been successful implementing the principles into the organisation’s daily operations. During the one week-long audit procedure the facilitators investigate what the audited branch did since it had been last visited, particularly examining what the employees and managers have to tell about their work and the place. Regularly conducting the value-audits may serve to make the branches internalise Novo Nordisk’s central values and believes. Doing such audits may also indicate that ideological control is not that robust but needs to be supported by other forms of control. To this extent the Novo Nordisk value-audits may also serve as an example of how management combines different control forms in order to ensure the accomplishment of its goals. To some extent textbooks that address various control forms raise the impression that there are more traditional forms (e.g. direct or bureaucratic control) and more contemporary forms, such as ideological or disciplinary control. This may spark the idea amongst students that we hardly see for example direct control any longer. However, the example of value audits may support my belief that the management in order to accomplish effective monitoring skilfully combines different control forms.

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