"I can sometimes get a little frustrated"

In March, it was announced that Olof Persson, the president of Volvo Construction Equipment, was going to take over as CEO after Leif Johansson. The ensuing period was intensive, full of interviews and congratulations.
Olof Persson, President & CEO of Volvo Group

The honeymoon is now over, however.

“This assignment makes me feel really humble. As I see it, I am going to have to work very hard in the future,” he says.

Olof Persson began by acquiring a picture of the Volvo Group as a whole, its products and production and, not least, the Group’s various brands, which he describes as an incredibly “important asset”.

It is too early to say exactly what is going to happen after the take-over, according to Olof. As he puts it, he is “in the midst of learning about the Group and putting the pieces of the jigsaw together”.

“The Volvo Group has developed enormously during the past few years and I want to continue this work. I have been impressed by all the employees I have met and their professionalism and huge commitment to our products, the company and their own colleagues. We have a powerful culture and it is firmly established throughout the organisation, with three core values that we are definitely going to safeguard,” he adds.

“In spite of this, an organisation never stands still, it is never totally complete and it is always possible to make improvements,” he says.

As far as Olof Persson is concerned, these improvements focus largely on efficiency – a word he returns to several times.

“Efficiency is going to be the focal point. I can already promise you that! As I see it, the word ‘efficiency’ has nothing but positive undertones. It’s a question of working in a smarter way, not working harder, of avoiding detours and the waste of resources. I’m convinced that everyone wants to work more efficiently,” he says and takes the decision-making process as an example. 

“We work in a large, global organisation and I think it’s important for us to be quicker on our feet when it comes to implementing the decisions that have been made. Otherwise, there’s a risk that we will get caught up in complicated, time-consuming processes,” he says.

As Olof Persson sees it, one of the most important tasks right now is to communicate the long-term strategy so that all the Group’s employees see the big picture.

“This is a question that I regard as truly vital. A company’s strategy should not be top secret and hidden away in some binders in an office. Even if certain parts of it are naturally sensitive, the main thrust of the strategy needs to be discussed and explained. The employees have to be given a complete toolbox to enable them to look ahead and obtain a clear picture of the objectives,” he explains, adding that, when the employees can come to work, knowing what awaits them and how they can contribute and influence things, this gives the organisation strength. He believes that this is one of the keys when it comes to creating employee engagement.

“When everyone understands what the strategy involves and how our products can be adapted to match social developments, this generates emotions and a sense of pride that are important for the entire Group,” he says.

According to Olof Persson, the collaboration between the business areas and business units needs to improve. He wants more synergies, more co-ordination when it comes to product development and more interaction. 

“Once again, it’s a question of doing everything more efficiently.”

He also wants the organisation to be more efficient in its dealings with customers.

“The ultimate proof that we have succeeded is the number of products our customers buy and how well we comply with their needs. We must always be one step ahead and listen to what our customers want. We are already doing a good job, but we can always improve. It goes without saying that our customers and their needs will remain a focal point,” he says.

Olof Persson is also planning to prioritise work on the Group’s brands.

“We need to safeguard them and have a clear-cut strategy for the way we plan to continue developing them.”

When asked about his good and bad points, Olof replies that one of his less positive characteristics is that he is impatient.

“I can sometimes get a little frustrated when things move too slowly when it comes to implementing decisions, for example.”

He adds that the fact that he is informal and frank is a good characteristic. He also feels that his experience of leading global companies with many employees is an advantage.

“I think it gives me an understanding of different cultures and the importance of seeing things from different angles.”

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