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You've got to listen to the people to change the company

“The key to improving is to make problems smaller, and I mean that literally. When, for example a customer has a complaint, the human tendency is to try and solve the whole problem at once. But most often, that’s not the fastest way to help a customer. When you split the big problem into little problems, then maybe some of those small problems are easy to fix, and thus you can help the customer very quickly. And more often than not, when all the little problems are solved, the big problem isn’t so big anymore. It sounds really simplistic, but it works, and your customer satisfaction rises.”

Pedro Stam is Product Lifecycle Coordinator and project leader at ThyssenKrupp. This year alone, Pedro and his team were able to make over 1 million euros in savings by optimising products and numerous processes. Pedro explains: “I like connecting the dots. I like interviewing the people within the company and seeing what their views are. To map how the process works in practice. Of course you can read the designed processes on paper first, but this is usually not the actual state, the reality is always different. I have a clear image of the company in my head and I literally make connections between people. What are the actual distances between people working together? How do they communicate with each other?”

Pedro talks passionately about improving processes. And the way he looks for potential change within a company is very pragmatic. “When I am looking to change a process within a company and I get the OK from management, the first thing I do is I go back to the people I interviewed. I make sure they can see that I have used their input in my proposal. I always make sure their input is there. It may be that using their input means the new situation isn’t yet the most optimal. But that doesn’t matter, because we need the commitment of all the people involved. When I talk to them I say: Okay, you wanted to do it this way, now show me three ways we can do it that way while we take into account these other important aspects of the process. I make them tell me what to change. And when they have their solutions, I say: Ok, this change, who does this affect? And then we go and sit at a table with those people and talk with them.”

“It’s very psychological. I am always looking at the person in front of me and trying to analyse who they are and why they see things the way they do. Is he or she a directive person? Introvert or extrovert? Are they very analytical? What are his or her allergies, so to speak? And what are their strengths and how can we use them? I try to ask the right questions. And I make sure everybody is heard and feels part of the team. It’s important to give credit where credit’s due. When something goes very well, I make sure the management doesn’t hear my name, but hears the name of the person who made that happen.”

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