What led you into working with innovation?
I started working for Schnellecke in 2012 when I was still a student. Throughout the years, I worked in different departments of the company. At one point, while working in the lean department, I noticed that I can change people's work-life to the positive by implementing small changes in the way they work. That is what I enjoy the most about my work, even today.
For me, it is important that lean is not seen as something that equals personnel reductions. The word often has negative connotations, but we want to show that it is about improving work-life by for example making things easier and less strenuous. If it was only about the money, we would not get the commitment of the people submitting the ideas.
Training is thus about developing skills, understanding and establishing a close connection to the change agents.
What does a typical day look like?
There is no such thing as a typical day at work for me. Most often it implies packing a suitcase and traveling somewhere to train people. To succeed with lean innovation, the community of change agents must understand what we do and why we do it. That is why we continuously train both newcomers and more experienced people. Training is thus about developing skills, understanding and establishing a close connection to the change agents.
Which challenges in relation to innovation do you face at your company?
The challenges that we are currently facing center around innovation across business units. We have gotten to the point where we have captured the low-hanging fruits by optimising within the units. Now, we must figure out how to tackle innovation across units. That means we need to look into ideas that are more complex and require cross-department collaboration.
We also need to have a continuous focus on building the community of change agents. They get value from connecting, so it is our job to enable and assure this connection. The Nosco platform helps us do that, but we need to do more. That could imply lean/change agent summits. We also let people connect via Yammer to support open and free-flowing information sharing.
Can you share a recent success story?
I think that our biggest success story is the Nosco platform itself. When we implemented the platform in 2016 we started with just a few Kaizen being shared online from all around the world. Of course, we were also in a kind of trial and error phase, in which we had to figure out how we could make the best use of Nosco. Since then, every year we improve our Nosco template according to the users and set a new standard. I think that is one of the key points why the platform is successful.
Apart from that, I consider myself a success when I can see people changing their way of working. This is the key outcome of lean! Higher job satisfaction and a community of people that help each other.
What is one thing about innovation that you think is important?
It is a critical success factor that the management team supports lean innovation and buys into the principles behind what we are trying to do. It is not just talk – they follow through and implement the ideas that come from our work. Making sure that management is on board and continues to support is an ongoing priority for us, especially at the business-unit level where the middle-managers are the true role models for our colleagues in creating a change.
We tend to think that we already have all the answers and that we know what works and what doesn't. But my experience is that if you give ideas a fair chance, the outcome will likely surprise you positively.
Another thing I would like to highlight is the importance of a community. Trying something new can be scary. The community gives people a feeling of not being alone. We strive for a community in which people share voluntarily and get rewarded for their input. Submitting kaizen was never mandatory for the beginning, but when people saw how they could benefit from it, it created a pull-effect. Employees request access to the platform rather than us imposing it onto them. I think this has been critical to the success of lean management in Schnellecke.
Finally, I think it is significant to be openminded towards new ideas. We tend to think that we already have all the answers and that we know what works and what doesn't. But my experience is that if you give ideas a fair chance, the outcome will likely surprise you positively. Even though I have worked with innovation for a long time, I constantly remind myself to stay open-minded!