Manager of the Year award given to Saab's Peter Dörrich

I’ve mentioned a few times here at Inside Saab that we have a number of good reasons to expect to hang around here for some time. Specifically, they are:

  • Product
  • Plant
  • People
  • Brand, and
  • Heritage

Yesterday we had a wonderful example of one of our people being rewarded for his efforts. Even in these difficult times – perhaps especially in these difficult times – Saab people shine through.

If you read a review of the Saab 9-4x, especially a review sourced from North America, you’ll likely read the reviewer say that the vehicle is a Saab version of the Cadillac SRX. Don’t believe it for a second. Both vehicles were developed with distinct identities and that whole project was led by a Saab guy – Peter Dörrich.

Yesterday, Peter received the Manager of the Year award. The award is voted for by members of Unionen, a national body.

Following is a translation of a Saab internal article about Peter and the award.

Peter is a wonderful guy whom I first met a year ago at the Los Angeles Auto Show, where his baby – the Saab 9-4x – finally made its production debut. There wasn’t a bigger smile in the room than the one on Peter’s face that day and I’m ecstatic to see his work as a leader at Saab recognised in this way.


A popular executive who sees the big picture: Peter Dörrich is Manager of the Year

– I want to know how my employees feel and how they are doing at home. The job and life at home are not two separate phenomena. They are different parts of a whole. If one does not work, the other will not work properly either.

This from Peter Dörrich, who today was named Manager of the Year, as nominated by Unionen colleagues in the Technical Development Center.

Right: Peter Dörrich and Unionen representative, Annette Hellgren

– Peter is a good manager who will see that staff grow in their roles. He encourages and pushes us and gives us belief in our decisions. He is a great sounding board when you need to discuss possible solutions and problems and always takes time to listen and guide people to a good solution, says Mona Säverhag, who has worked with Peter at different times – about three years combined.

She also highlights Peter’s extensive knowledge of both the vehicle development and production processes.

– He cares about the team, but he is still demands our best.

This includes interaction with other departments where he really stands up for actions that are in line with our focus, says Conny Almkvist, who thinks that Peter is the best manager he has had during his 25 years at Saab.

– He has been a solid leader for us in the difficult times we’ve had recently. He has kept us informed about what is happening, even if it is over a weekend or at night, and his empathy and compassion for how we feel is a strong motivator for us, it leads us to exert ourselves a little more, says Conny.

Peter’s projects

Dörrich is currently known as one of the faces behind the 9-4X and he has travelled to and worked in both the U.S. and Japan at different times.

It’s interesting to see how leadership differs between cultures, he says. In Sweden we are accustomed to taking responsibility at operational level, we delegate responsibility and therefore, leaders often focus on creating conditions and providing support. “Management by fear” is thankfully rare here, he says.

Over his years at Saab, he has worked with several managers, who all had their particular leadership styles. One that he particularly remembers is Ronny Jonsson.

– He saw my capabilities but also helped me to see what what was expected of me in my own role vis-à-vis others. He was straight and honest with me – in a good way – and that is something I still feel gratitude for.

What does he say himself, about his leadership? When he speaks about it, it is the concepts of respect, listening, communication and continuous improvement.

– Everyone deserves and should be treated with respect. As a manager you have to realize that it is important for an employee to feel welcome, so as to promote the idea of a management team and create a good atmosphere. I believe that one should be humble, open and honest about who you are and what you think. A manager should not think he is better than others in the room and there is no reason to sit on a high horse. To be yourself and invite other people to do the same is a win. The worst thing is simply not to be personal, he says.

Rather be a leader than a manager

– I see myself as a leader rather than as a manager, and as a leader I want to be clear and create the right conditions for my staff to do a good job. Maybe I am too explicit sometimes, when I paint a picture of what I want them to do, but I believe in the visualization. I am also convinced that it is important to have the right tools. We can not ask our employees to be able to outperform their competitors if they do not have as good or better tools to assist in completing the job. We have very capable people here at Saab – with the right tools, they can accomplish great things.

He is a keen follower of the lean concept and believes that Saab must work constantly to create conditions for continuous improvement. Spend some time with Peter and it is quite clear that he is a developer and not a manager.

Peter has another belief, too, and it’s about the importance of listening.

– I want to know how my employees feel and if they are OK outside the job. The job and life at home are not two separate phenomena. There is a whole. If one side does not work, the other side won’t work properly, either. This is how it is for me and it’s the same for everyone else. As a leader I want to create the conditions to get the big picture and help to make ends meet. I know from experience that the company ultimately benefits from it, too, says Peter.

Award ceremony in Stockholm

Anette Hellgren is the Unionen spokesperson for Saab, is almost as happy as Peter with regards to the award. She thinks it is wonderful that the award has gone to a Saab manager, and for several reasons:

– First of all, I see it as a sign of strength both to Peter and the organization. He has managed to be the manager we need in these difficult times. People often show their management skills best under tough circumstances, she says. It is also evidence that there are very competent staff at Saab.

– As long as I have known Peter, he has always been dedicated and believed in himself and his cause. During his career he has also developed other important leadership skills: listening, participation and empathy.

At three o’clock yesterday, Peter was at the Skills Fair in Stockholm to receive the award. Five hundred thousand members of the Union had the opportunity to nominate a good manager, regardless of location, sector and nationality, and the jury’s verdict is:

“Peter Dörrich is a worthy recepient of the Manager of the Year prize. He is hailed by his colleagues, employees and Union representatives with words like “safe, encouraging, empathetic, purposeful, informative.”

He cares about all the individuals in the group, supporting and pushing, he takes the time to listen and guide to good practice. In the turbulent situation that Saab has long been in, Peter Dörrich has been a safe and informative leader who has always been available and showed compassion.”


Years at Saab

Peter Dörrich began on the line in 1979 and worked there a few years. He became a quality engineer in production in 1981 and then went on to purchasing, working with production techniques.

– It was a good education, he remembers, to work in production and to also be looking at the suppliers. If I am to work with development, it is good to have an understanding of how the various details develop, how they are manufactured and how they should be mounted in the car.

In the 90s he was commissioned to work on parts geometry at Saab. It was a job that took a long time, but which also resulted in the quality of the parts fit for Saab vehicles being so good that it was an area where Saab was a leader in the GM world.

Then he went to the United States for a period. Peter was responsible for when Saab had its first SUV experiments on an architecture that we had been allocated by GM.

– We saw from the beginning that it would be wrong but there was pressure placed on the brand. Eventually, we moved over to a different architecture, but then we stopped the project all together and we had to go home again, Peter remembers.

This was followed by a few years in Japan, where he worked as development manager for 9-2X.

– I was gone up to nine weeks at a time. It was a tough time and it was never easy to leave family, remembers Peter.

The highlight of his Saab career is definitely the 9-4X.

– I really longed for such a mission, to have that responsibility, to accomplish something tangible to be proud of. It has been a great time!

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  1. SAAB is such a fine bunch all of them I’m met thru the years . Got the people , got the  plant , so much in blessings and just last thing in the way to what we thought was independence ……  sigh . 

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