A Day With the EFL


In Alpha 1, the building across the parking lot from EC, one finds offices belonging to EFL, or the Executive Foundation Lund. Many Lundaekonomer have encountered it at some point, but what exactly it is and what they do can seem a bit of a mystery to some of us, at least to us at Lundtan – until recently. A few weeks ago, Nådiga Lundtan was invited to a HotSpot event with the EFL business network and got to interview the CEO, Henrik Lundgren, as well as the speaker of the day, Per Welinder, who is responsible for digitalization of the organization Swedish Elite Football Leagues (Svensk Elitfotboll). 

Photo: Malena Carlström, EFL
Henrik Lundgren, CEO of EFL

EFL is a foundation instituted by the Lund School of Economics and Management in the 1960s in order to further contact with the business community. They act as a resource to people both outside and within academia, providing networking opportunities, programs and advice for companies as well as things like guest speakers for the faculties. In the last years, EFL has also driven other projects such as a successful migrant integration project and the Nästa Skånska Stjärna grant. In the spring of 2018, EFL was written about on the business pages of some newspapers due to problems relating to the Executive MBA program, which is something I got to ask about. In general, I also wanted to know how EFL can benefit students at the Lund School of Economics. First, however, I asked Per Welinder about his connection to EFL. 

What is the connection between Svensk Elitfotboll and EFL?

– Svensk Elitfotboll does not have a connection to the EFL, but I personally do. I studied the Executive MBA program at the same time I started working with Swedish Elite Football Leagues, so I brought the knowledge from the EMBA in, and the problem formulations from the organization to the course.

How would you say that you and your organization have benefited from the cooperation? 

– I took a lot with me from the course. It’s always good when you’re an adult with experience and get to go back to school, so to speak, and reflect: what is it really I’ve learned? You could say that experience is good in itself, but only becomes knowledge when you reflect upon it. And you get that opportunity. Why are things in a certain way? Why did we handle this or that in a certain way? What was the outcome? Could we have done things differently? This reflective mode of thought is a huge asset, and you learn that through the EFL. It’s really good. 

When did you take the program, and how long have you worked with football? 

– I studied with EFL between 2014 and 2016. I started working for Malmö FF in 2009, and later went on to Swedish Elite Football Leageus, and around that time I decided to take the EMBA aswell. 

After the HotSpot meeting, I got around to a longer interview with Henrik Lundgren. As stated above, I wanted to ask him about the deal with the Executive MBA program, and if/how students can use EFL as a resource. 

Speaking broadly – what is the Executive Foundation Lund? 

– Formally we’re a foundation, and we’re connected to the School of Economics in the sense that they appoint the board. EFL was started in 1969 by some researchers and professors, from the Department of Business Administration. The idea was that there wasn’t enough interaction between the business community and academy, so they wanted to find a forum to reach out with research among other things. It started with being able to subscribe to theses and get them presented, and was developed toward really stellar forms of education. In the late 70s we started shorter economics courses for non-economists. In 1982 we started the diploma programs, the Diploma in Marketing Management and the Diploma in Management Control, and from there it has developed. In the 80s and 90s we started doing tailor-made programs for companies. Our statutes state that we are to create mutual utility for business and back to the School of Economics, strengthening it. 

The Executive MBA program seems to be in high demand. What is it?

 – Executive MBA is a program geared towards managers that often have a degree already, have worked for maybe ten or fifteen years, and want training in management, a development program. We’ve delivered the program in partnership with the School of Economics for 20, 25 years I believe. Moving forward from this autumn we are changing direction and the Executive MBA program will instead be transformed into our new Leading Impact Executive Management and Leadership program. We are moving it closer to the organizations, putting less emphasis on litterature and exams, tying the program closer to the specific challenges of the organization. The company brings in a strategic challenge and learn to work with it, taking another route with the learning. Super exciting, and I think we’re using new and exciting pedagogical methods. 

I read that you had to cancel the MBA program. What was that all about? 

– It’s a good question what it was really about, in some sense the jury is out on that one, I guess. It’s like this: the EFL is a foundation, not a government agency, and we don’t issue degrees. The Executive MBA is not a formal degree in Sweden – although there are other countries where it is – and the university flagged that they didn’t want us to call our program the Executive MBA as they wanted it to become a formal degree at some point in the future. We were quickly advised to shut it down, and at that point we had sold many spots already because it’s so popular. So we had to cancel it last autumn, but now we’ve taken the conclusions drawn from the Executive MBA and have developed them further in the form of Leading Impact, so I’d say we have an even better program. 

I’m getting the impression that this business network is quite popular. When was it founded? 

– It’s hard to tell precisely, but I’d say it was one of the bases on which EFL was founded. Some companies were with us from the start, seeing it as a good idea to found and to take part in the development of. From there it was built, and then it expanded. In the good old days the classic, big companies were the typical members of our network, but our network has grown since then, and we coordinate with the network of the School of Economics. Many of the partners are the same – but it absolutely is popular, a good way to stay in touch with business. 

I suppose it’s rewarding for these companies to not just stay in touch with you, but also to connect with each other? 

– Absolutely, that’s the whole point. And as you noticed today, it’s a good way to network with other companies, to exchange experiences and ask how others work with different challenges. That benchmarking is very important. You could say that characterizes a lot of our programs as well – coming from different backgrounds, even public agencies in some cases, getting input from different bits. 

This was mainly for partnered businesses, though. Is any of this publically open, or open to students? 

– Yes, we have some events each year for whoever wants to partake. The Strawberry Seminar (Swedish: Jordgubbsseminariet, see https://www.efl.se/nyheter/populart-jordgubbsseminarium-omstrategiskt-ledarskap/ ) for example: by the end of June, we try to give some inspiration before sending everyone off for the summer. We take a currently relevant subject; I think 180 people showed up last time. So we do have seminars and inspirational lectures, you just have to keep track on our website. It also happens that students contact us when they see some activity for members on our website that coincides with what they’re writing about, something that interests them, and then we’re usually very generous and let them come to us as well, if it can help them. They might get to meet an expert in the subject they’re writing their essay about. We try to contribute to the School of Economics as much as we can. 

In general: who studies at EFL? Is it bachelors from the School of Economics, is it people with master’s degrees, is it people with neither who come from business… 

– All of the above. We have a very broad spectrum of programs, starting with crash courses in economics for people who may not have studied it before. Let’s say you’re an engineer with specialist experience in something technical, and suddenly as you’ve worked a few years things pop up where you’re expected to become a project leader for a team. You have to know some basic economics and be able to communicate with the economics department, and some leadership training on top of that – know some basic stuff – that’s when you go to us and learn as a parallel activity to your work. You go on in your career, getting even more skilled, and then you might need training in strategy. Maybe you become a prospect for leadership and you want to attend the Leading Impact program. If you’re becoming part of a board, we have a program for that. Very few people do not find anything in our range that suits them. Depending on where you are right now career-wise – what level you’re on, what your background is and so on, you might choose differently. There is something for everyone. And we make a point of that: EFL aim be someone you can rely on for your whole career, within strategy and business that is, wherever you are in that career.

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