Interview with Tobias Kuners of Koenders, Director Program Management Europe at Wolters Kluwer Health
Initiative management is an important step to turn your strategy into results. It includes the management of all strategic initiatives/ the portfolio with the associated strategic programs and projects.
Many companies struggle with initiative management, especially in times of crisis when resources are even more limited and choices have to be made.
We interviewed Tobias Kuners of Koenders, a seasoned Program Director at Wolters Kluwer, an international player in the Publishing Industry.
Question 1: What strikes you most when you look around you?
Many Senior Leaders in the companies I have experience with, have a clearly articulated strategy, but its impact in everyday activities and the connection with the daily operations is often difficult. The review cycle is typically monthly, and it is considered normal that the financial data are only available at the middle of the following month – much like information after the facts (lagging indicators). If you suggest that simple measures are conceivable to know each shift / day / week if all goes well and whether it is (very) likely that the projected results will actually be achieved at the end of the month, people tend to look glassy or say in advance that this would take too much of their time and effort!
Question 2: What three tips have helped you the most to become a good program manager?
- Say what you do, do what you say and show it: this is – briefly – what it is all about. Make a clear project definition, execute it and show the results.
- Know what your customer really wants: Make sure you clearly know and tune in with your customer (both internal and external) on what the project should deliver, but also what NOT to do.
- If it does not add value, let it rest: all too often we think our customers want it, but if the customer doesn’t see the added value, you can better save the effort, time and cost.
Question 3: How do you look at indicators?
As for measures, it is necessary and important to review EBITA and Gross Margin monthly. But a technician or operator can’t apply this in his daily work; it lies outside his responsibility and circle of influence. Therefore you need to translate organizational KPIs to into KPIs that are in their circle of influence and offer guidance at the workplace level. This way, the technician or operator knows what the results of his actions are. By weekly reporting and monthly discussion, it will start to actually be meaningful for them and they will see their impact on the results!
Question 4: How do you make the link between cost savings and Program Management?
In my view cost savings are always the result of continuous improvement and optimization. As Lean Six Sigma Expert, I am alert to opportunities to stop non value-added activities and to prevent errors from happening rather than repairing them. If you actively pursue this course, you’ll reach a point where fewer people can do the same job – or better still – where the organization has the opportunity to do more with the same people. Choosing the first or the second scenario is a Management decision. When improvement and restructuring are directly linked, you create an environment where people in the organization no longer want to work constructively to improve because it translates into job loss for them! Of course I’m aware that this alone won’t be sufficient. However, by driving continuous improvement and optimization on an organizational scale and by continuously steering in that direction, you will create a lean and mean organization, which can rapidly respond to change and where people feel that they make a difference. Implementing this will take more then a few months of course.
Question 5: Tobias, what are your critical success factors of a good program?
I have five. On paper they seem very easy – almost simplistic – but practice shows this it is not the case
- Each program needs a clear objective. If the vision / purpose of the program is not absolutely clear, you can easily become lost
- Provide adequate resources. If the people and resources are not tailored to the program, the program will inevitably suffer delay
- Make sure your team members have the right skills. If the skills are not available in the team you won’t reach the goal and everyone will become nervous on what to do to get results
- The correct reward. If the incentive is not clear or if the incentive is too small (in the perception of the recipient!) it won’t provide sufficient motivation to overcome all obstacles
- Work with a concrete action plan. If there is no clear action plan, your program will have a false start
With an annual turnover of €3.374 billion (2008) and 20.000 employees worldwide, Wolters Kluwer is an international multimedia house. They are stock listed on the Euronext Amsterdam. For more info: visit www.wolterskluwer.com
Tobias Kuners of Koenders
Tobias Kuners of Koenders earned a BSc in Chemical Technology at the HTS-Amsterdam (nowadays Hogeschool Amsterdam) in 1986, and a corporate MSc in Manufacturing Management at Cranfield Institute of Technology in 1992.
Tobias has 20+ years of solid industrial experience based around the elements of manufacturing and all related processes & operations. He is a cost saver & value maximiser. Grown from being a Technologist to Production & Technical Manager; from Engineering Manager to Operations Manager while enclosing the responsibilities as Business Unit manager where he is accustomed to all aspects & functions associated with profit & loss responsibility. Industries that he has encountered vary from consultancy services to construction; from mechanical engineering to FMCG – industrial plastics to automotive – pharmaceutical.
Tobias has been instrumental for his various International employers over the years to be the driving force behind change environments; delivering the action needed after his managed assessment of core needs. He is both the theorist & the leading practitioner of that which is needed. Most recently with Wolters Kluwer Health, Pharma Solutions he has responsibility for Project, Portfolio, and Program Management and is Six Sigma Trainer for Europe
You can reach Tobias at firstname.lastname@example.org