Applied EMBA learnings help to eliminate waste and save millions
Executive MBA programs are usually regarded as valuable for the individuals who pursue them, but
Dr. Martin Iffert is convinced that his company, TRIMET, has benefited from his passage at IMD as
much as he has.
When his company designated him as a candidate for the Executive Board, Iffert knew he would need
to deepen his understanding of business and management. With a master's degree in electrical
engineering and a PhD in chemical engineering, he had all the technical expertise to manage the
plants of the biggest provider of aluminium in Germany, but he still did not feel comfortable reading
a balance sheet.
The board members of privately-owned TRIMET all had commercial backgrounds as traders or bankers,
so Iffert decided that "it was important to learn to speak the same language." MBAs are not
widespread in Germany, Iffert said, but his post-grad studies in Australia and his many international
contacts had made him realize that he needed to complete his training with the "financial basics" and
developing a broader and deeper view of business.
He was encouraged to attend IMD by the owner of TRIMET who suggested the Program for Executive
Development (PED). Iffert knew that his responsibilities at TRIMET would not diminish during the
duration of his studies, but he insisted nevertheless on going further than the PED, and doing the
Executive MBA. Although it was a "very stressful year", he said that he was grateful for an
experience that he qualifies as "mind- blowing".
"The program surpassed my expectations in every respect," Iffert indicated. The fact that some of
the ground covered was outside his professional field broadened his perspectives.
"I learned so much about innovation, strategy, finance and other aspects of general management,
including starting up new businesses," he said. Working collaboratively, he found it interesting to
write up a business plan in technology and market areas that he knew nothing about. He also found it
valuable to master the art of pitching ideas: "The ultimate test comes when you pitch your business
plan to a venture capitalist. Your performance and charts have to be precise, convincing and on the
But what he appreciated most was to use his own company as a "learning laboratory" for his
assignments. One of his initiatives was to introduce Kaizen - a Japanese-inspired work philosophy
that aims to establish continuous improvement and eliminate any waste in products and processes - to
"This very successful methodology has allowed the company to save millions already," he indicated,
adding that today the Kaizen continuous improvement approach has become part of the company culture.
His next target is turning TRIMET into a true learning organization.
"Any company can buy equipment, machinery and plants, but having a good and effective organization
is what makes all the difference," Iffert said in acknowledgement of what he learned at IMD. "Using
your own company as the basis of your learning brings it all together. That's what distinguishes this
program from other schools."
To anchor the improvement process at TRIMET, Iffert has encouraged other managers to attend IMD.
"I realized that the more people speak the same language, the better we become."
Rather than spending millions on consultants, Martin Iffert suggests that companies are much
better off investing in the education of its best people. That way, the knowledge stays with the
company and doesn't move on.
"Everything you learn at IMD can be immediately applied to the business. What a payback for the
company," he asserts.
Effective October 1, 2011, Martin Iffert has been appointed CEO of Trimet.