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Next Frontline Podcast with Joachim Hensch: Driving Pragmatic Operational Excellence at Hugo Boss

6 minutes, 25 seconds read

In our most recent ‘The Next Frontline” podcast episode, Errette Dunn, founder and CEO at Rever, interviews Joachim Hensch, former executive at Hugo Boss, leadership consultant, and Industry 4.0 visionary.

In their conversation (hear the entire podcast episode here), Errette and Joachim touch on Joachim’s journey to Hugo Boss, his experience managing complex manufacturing organizations, and how to leverage technology.

Lessons from the conversation with Joachim Hensch:

  1. Connect the Dots
  2. Plan, but then Do
  3. Remember the ‘why’, when implementing technology
  4. Your North Star
  5. Competition is for Losers

Connect the Dots – get to know the people and their skills to build winning organizations

So starting with connecting the dots, what I really learned in my life was that I can be as smart as I want. There is always another smart person on this planet, which means like when working smartly together, when building the right team, and I was always aiming for this as a team. Individuals on a team may have completely different mindsets and knowledge, yet when put together can deliver extraordinary results. This kind of connecting the right people, the right skills, for the right project is really a mantra for me. I always try to understand the people in an organization before even asking about the technology, because that’s actually something that drives a change and that drives success, finding the right people for the right positions in leadership, expertise on the shopfloor and in management. So ‘connecting the right dots together’ is a big HR topic for me as a leader and as a mentor, another thing is ‘the plan, but then do’.

Plan, but then Do – invest in a compelling plan, and then drive execution

‘Plan, but then do’ is something that I’ve learned when working with lots of different people that want to have a result. You must have a plan that is so convincing, so people want to follow you. As they say at Goretex, if you want to become a leader, then find followers. So if you want to find followers, then you have to have a compelling story that people want to follow. That means you need to plan whatever, if it is an execution plan, or if it is a visionary plan, but you need to make a plan that people can say yes to that’s one thing, and then comes the execution. And that is something that is equally important when you have done your plan and people say yes to it, that then you make sure that it actually happens because otherwise it’s just philosophy. Especially in this transformation journey that we did. I first had to deliver something that the management and the people would say yes to, which was the smart factory story. Then I had to make sure that 4,000 people changed their minds and their way of working. So I could not stay in this philosophical ivory tower saying we become super intelligent digital and work with AI and whatsoever. I had to be real with my feet on the ground and make sure that all the projects and everyone is working in that direction.

Remember the ‘why’, when implementing technology – don’t get caught up in the hype, focus on solving specific problems

One thing that is very often forgotten is why we implement technology in the first place. The implementation of industry 4.0 technology is to enable people to do their job better, period. It’s not about making investments in fancy tech. You have a set of people who produce a defined product, and what all you do as a leader is you make sure that the organization supports these people to do their very best, which means when you think about technology, then you start thinking from the consumer of this tech. Google has put this very nicely and said, “if you don’t find what you’re looking for, then we have a problem”. I love this because this is exactly spot on what I see in some factories that they make installations of dashboards and fancy tech implementations. Then you ask the people how is this helping you to do your job? And they say, I don’t care. Start with the people. That’s something that I believe is super important when connecting these dots, like the consumer, the end user of this device together with the project managers together with the engineers and the IT department to then develop something that everyone can say, this is improving my life. You know, this is making me do my job better.

Your North Star – establish a specific goal, that is clear and shared by all

One thing that I believe is very important is the creation of a north star. You need a kind of orientation point where whenever you think about activities in your organization, be it transformative or be it improvement driven, that you can say, okay, this is investing into the direction towards the north star. So I’m giving you the example of the ISEA factory in 2015, when we had a highly lean factory. It was a really great factory, but it was a very standardized factory. I said, listen, guys, there is always a cheaper country. So if you are just investing in squeezing the same lemon, then probably this has an end and we don’t want this because we have invested a lot of money in people and assets here. When you say, the smart factory concept for us is what we are going to concentrate on in the next five years. Then we divided this into five actionable, yearly targets that everyone can understand when he has an idea or he comes into my office and says, listen, I just saw this technology. We can immediately go to our north star and say, does it invest into our north star digitally? And be it HR improvements, or be it technology driven, or be it process driven or something? We can say yes to that. This is a component that will lead us to this future picture that we painted. Then this is part of our digital strategy and turns into an execution strategy.

Competition is for Losers – progress over perfection

Competition is for losers.The more you put yourself into competition against others in the same field the more likely you are to lose. And what my take on that was that excellence is also for losers. Don’t get me wrong, we need excellent products and we need excellent services, but if you put this excellent expectation on top of everything that you do, you are simply too slow. There are areas when it comes to innovation, developing or, experimenting around new technologies, where excellence is the last that you should think about when you talk about later about implementation and operational excellence, like when you are really in deployment phase, then of course you think of excellence. And that happens very often, even putting an excellence model into the initial calculation, like finance people, requesting cost benefit sheets that are like the third letter past the comma, then you’re killing lots and lots of great ideas because of this approach.

Please visit ‘The Next Frontline” to hear the full podcast conversation between Errette and Joachim. Listen Now on:
Apple Podcasts
Google Podcasts

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