Alfred Josefsen

Alfred Josefsen

Former CEO at Irma

I’ve worked from a top management perspective in my entire career and I’ve positioned myself in terms of leadership as a ‘people manager’ – a style which is suited to me. Nevertheless, it was given a new form when I met Lasse back in 2000. A group chief executive among Irma’s owners, FDB, had come up with the brilliant idea that the whole executive group would participate in a customised Stifinder Programme. I’d been the general manager of Irma for a year. The business was in a bad shape and I was working round the clock to save it. Three weeks’ absence therefore seemed completely hopeless.

Felt at home
Fortunately I chose to say “OK, I have to be here – what can I get out of it?” And as it turned out, Lasse’s way of working was 100% identical to mine. It was incredibly easy for me to enter into the spirit of the Stifinder programme. I’d done many of the things before, but now they were conceptualised: peak performance patterns, proactive thinking etc. So I could go home and communicate the things that I think are right for us, and I started giving internal courses which helped inspire the employees to move in a new direction.

A Stifinder-minded business
Only the management team and HR people have completed the Stifinder programme, but the impact has been tremendous, and today we’re a kind of Stifinder-minded business. As I see it, organisations with diagrams, forms, hierarchies and procedures are mainly about what people are not allowed to do. We want people to do as much as possible of what we and they prefer. That’s the reason we’ve built responsibility into our organisation. Our store managers have personal responsibility and the liberty to make small-scale decisions. This means among other things that during the crisis we acted calmly and in good time, and that despite a minor dip we did well and made it in one piece without major changes to our concept and without job cuts.

Record birthday
The peak performance patterns in particular have created value for us because we’ve used them commercially. For example, we’ve set targets for how much we can sell in a week and we’ve introduced 10-15 peak performance days a year. This culminates on 23 August every year, our anniversary, which we only mark on the actual day. Our 125th anniversary in 2011 was on a Wednesday, where our normal sales total DKK 6 million. But we had prepared using peak performance patterns, and instead our sales totalled DKK 46 million! It has developed into an example, not only in our sector but in business in general, of how you can make trees grow up to the sky by concentrating, focusing and preparing. A brilliant story, isn’t it?

The crucial factor
The real merits of the Stifinder programme are to move from thinking to acting. The Stifinders I know have acted – made agreements with themselves and addressed their relations, mindset and behaviour etc. After all, leadership development is personal development. The Stifinder programme is not just models. On the contrary, you get the opportunity to work with aspects of your personality and you learn things about yourself. I also think that the slow pace is unusual – but recognition take time, and it takes a long time to effectively change your habits. I think the Stifinder Programme respects this.