Alumni of the Week

The fighter pilot who became an executive

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Bjørn Granviken


Sporveien T banen AS

Executive Master of Management 2014

“Allowing people to truly use their talents at work is one of the most important factors for creating results.”

Bjørn Granviken’s background differs from that of most top executives. The former fighter pilot believes that it was curiosity that drove him out of the cockpit – and into management.

“I grew up looking at the fighter planes. Becoming a pilot was my childhood dream, I wasn’t exactly aiming for the metro. It was all about fighter jets for me,” says Bjørn Granviken, CEO of Sporveien T-banen, a subsidiary of Oslo Sporveien.

His path to the rails was not obvious. Granviken grew up in a military family, and dreamed of becoming a fighter pilot. He passed through the narrow eye of the needle in his early 20s, and started his pilot education in the Norwegian Armed Forces, before heading to the US, Texas and a fighter pilot education. After he came back to Norway he spent some years attending the Norwegian Military Academy, and then had a career in the Norwegian Armed Forces, followed by management roles in SAS.

“There are a lot of daredevils flying fighter jets who do not go on to become executives. When did you understand that management was something for you?

“I am probably more curious than most. During my career, I have learned a lot that I have taken with me. This development means that I have gradually worked less with operations and more with management and development.” 

Pilot and metro executive

It was also curiosity that drove Granviken out of the aviation industry. After multiple years in SAS, the pilot started looking for new opportunities. When the job opportunity in Sporveien popped up, he thought that his background from the Armed Forces and SAS would be relevant – also in the train realm.

“That turned out to be correct.”

The fact that Sporveien combines different types of technical expertise is a good point of departure for further developing Sporveien’s services, according to Granviken. Because a lot has changed in the company since the pilot became the head of the metro. Among other things, production has increased by 20 per cent in two years.

“I am really proud of the employees who work with trams and the metro. We have substantially increased productivity, and are driving a lot more than we did five years ago. We are also more punctual and cheaper,” says Granviken. 

Believes in trust

In addition to a curious nature and interest in management, Granviken has also built up technical expertise along the way. What he learned in the Executive Master of Management programmes at BI has had a definite impact on the fighter pilot’s management style.

“I would definitely say that BI has helped shape me into who I am, and the work I do,” says Granviken.

He goes on to say:

“It is about reflection, raising awareness and increasing knowledge. I inhaled the curriculum textbooks. It didn't feel like going to school, or just some compulsory exercise. I learned that self-management is crucial for being there. You need to structure yourself before you can structure others.”

The former fighter pilot now has several years of experience as a top executive. He believes that trust in employees is the most important trait a manager can possess.

“Trusting people means that you listen to them, and let them have a say. I believe strongly in determining directions jointly, because we all need to agree on the goals. I think that allowing people to truly use their talents at work is one of the most important factors for creating results.”

For the metro executive, the employees in Sporveien are like a big family.

Foto: Anita Arntzen