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Growth strategy for the Port of Aarhus

The Port of Aarhus has been through a process in which they developed a growth strategy with broad involvement of employees across the organisation, creating a direction for growth while at the same time preparing the organisation for the future.

The need for a new business strategy

During the years that followed the financial crisis, the Port of Aarhus felt the impact of the recession with declining quantities of cargo and reduced activity. The turnover dropped by almost 20% over a number of years.

Once there was increased optimism among customers, and the forecast for global and national growth looked good, the Port of Aarhus wanted a business strategy that could contribute to value creation in both the short and long term through the development of new and existing business areas and more efficient and flexible use of the existing capacity.


Key strategic questions aligned with the Board

The Board, which consisted of representatives from the public sector and the private business community, was relatively new, so it was necessary to both give the Board deeper insight and ensure a balanced growth strategy.

“The process and methods were ambitious and hit both management and Board spot on. H&B showed good understanding of the port’s points of view and the municipal ownership, while the involvement of the Board ensured a common understanding,” says Mayor and Chairman of the Board, Jacob Bundsgaard.

“It was important that the process was fact-driven to ensure that we all understood the bigger picture. There was a lot to learn for both the management group and the Board, and with a common understanding of the market, the customers and the organisation, it was easier to agree on the key strategic questions and create joint ownership of strategy and process,” Port Director Jakob Flyvbjerg Christensen adds.


Broad involvement across the organisation

Once the parties had agreed on a framework for growth and organisational development, the Port of Aarhus initiated a process in which a large part of the organisation became involved in defining objectives and direction for the 12 strategic tracks.

“The involvement of the employees provided more energy and generally raised the skills level in terms of how the projects were handled. It also resulted in a new way of understanding and communicating about strategy. The results indicated that a focus, as well as a framework for prioritising on all levels, was needed, so we drew up the present strategy by setting out initiatives and targets for both departments and individuals,” Jakob explains.


Higher job satisfaction and breakthroughs in business areas

Once the Board had unanimously approved the strategy, it had to be broken down into components, and the corresponding investments and the budget for the coming years had to be determined. To support the implementation it was decided that a programme management team should ensure progress through firm and frequent follow-up.

“Focus and a regular cadence through programme management requires investment, but it is necessary and it prepared us for the long and difficult change process. We can already see that job satisfaction has improved, and we have also had some breakthroughs in both existing and new business areas, where we have now made long-term financial investments,” Jakob elaborates.


About the Port of Aarhus

The Port of Aarhus is a self-governing municipal port that provides the infrastructure and services needed for the movement of cargo. The Port generates approximately 10,000 jobs and is Denmark’s largest container port. In 2015, the company had a turnover of DKK 246 million and made a profit of DKK 84 million with a balance sheet total of DKK 2,093 million.