Over the years, management at T+H were able to turn a blind eye to processes that were not really efficient or to weaknesses in a business unit. CEO Tobias Truckenmüller explains in an interview how the pandemic ruthlessly exposed all of the deficits. With executive training and a strategy process, the company is now taking successful countermeasures.
Over many years, it felt like everything was always running smoothly at T+H Metallwarenfabrik in Gerstetten, Germany. A specialist in metal machining and surface treatment, the company has been supplying high-tech metal products for aircraft, automobiles, and industrial equipment for 38 years. Its order books were full. Yet when Tobias Truckenmüller took up his position as a member of the Executive Board of the owner-managed company in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic put a sudden halt to the company’s growth trajectory. “I entered with the motivation to do my part to develop T+H further,” he recalls. In fact, the reality was very different: “We had implemented short-time work and a severe drop in sales. The framework conditions overall were volatile. And that also had a negative impact on the overall mood. The organization was rattled. Instead of “stepping on the gas”, everyone was forced to act as “firefighters” and help put out fires.”
In a position he had held at a former employer, Tobias Truckenmüller had been introduced to Staufen AG consultants while working on a Lean project. Having consulted with the other members of the executive management team on the next steps to be taken to overcome the acute challenges, Staufen AG was assigned the task of implementing a management qualification program.
Leadership Excellence as in-house training
The Executive Board quickly realized that it wasn’t just the pandemic that was creating the imbalance in the company. “Weaknesses that we might have always had were not noticeable during the expansion course. Inefficient processes were not a major factor, and if one business unit slackened a bit, well, then there was another one to make up for it. But all-in-all, things were still moving forward,,” says Truckenmüller. During the pandemic, on the other hand, potential was reviewed in terms of leadership and waste was relentlessly revealed. “Suddenly, processes were starting to run bumpy. So, we started looking for an approach that would combine effective leadership and lean.”
Working with Staufen, T+H devised in-house training sessions that were specifically tailored to address the company’s needs. Basis was the Staufen Academy’s program on Leadership Excellence. The fundamental principles were initially taught in two modules. Two subsequent modules then focused on putting what they had learned into practice. The executives learned how to write field reports to assist them in this process. “That put us in a position to reflect on the topics and take another serious look at them”.
We have to address the issues of vision and mission. Reduced to a single statement, that means: We need a strategy that unfolds effectively and sustainably throughout the entire company.Tobias Truckenmüller
Member of the management board T+H Metallwarenfabrik GmbH
Vision and strategy: Regular communication paves the way to a cultural change
In the meantime, the Lean Leader Program has been completed, but the consensus among the executives is that with it, the holistic transformation has just begun. Not only will all future managers also go through the leadership program, but T+H’s journey continues. “We have to address the issues of vision and mission. Reduced to a single statement, that means: We need a strategy that unfolds effectively and sustainably throughout the entire company”, says CEO Truckenmüller, announcing the next goal. Step-by-step, the entire company will be converted to a learning high-performance organization, which will ensure going forward that it is just as adaptable as it is completive.