Before we begin talking about the projects carried out by kfu within your company, I’d first like to ask which demands you make of a consulting company.

Dr. Michael Stumpp: For me personally, it’s important to maintain perspectives which aren’t usually available within a company or one’s own daily business. The ideal consultant must look at problems from another perspective, through a wide angle lens, as it were. If this were otherwise, I would be able to solve the problem myself from within the company and I wouldn’t need an external consultant.

On selecting a consultant, obviously the type of project is important. If it’s about formulating a theoretical strategy, a different type of consultant would be required than if the company had set itself the goal of change management.

When I choose a consultant, it has to be someone with experience, someone who proceeds professionally and demonstrates a measure of pragmatism. There are many consultants who even in fields such as change management restrict themselves only to theory – such consultants are hardly likely to be useful in terms of implementation!

An important point with respect to the current project was, as I see it, that the consultation didn’t only include pure management but also distribution staff and that it also included effective support through the implementation. And with respect to change management it’s essential to have a consultant who’s accepted by all parties involved.

Did you have offers from other consulting companies before making your decision for kfu? What reasons were there for your choosing kfu?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: In accordance with BASF company policy, several offers are always sought. Within the company, we have a special department concerned only with consulting, accreditation of consultants and responsible for terms of cooperation. This department together with the business unit then decides which consultant gets the contract. The kfu offer was almost as if tailor-made to our requirements, and this was a decisive reason for our decisions for kfu.

Were you involved in the decision-making process?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: Yes, I recommended kfu – because of the positive experience I already had of the company and because of the tailor-made offer received from them. Their offer was not only one for pure management consultancy but also involved support with the implementation and the development of a distribution team.

How much contact have you had with kfu in the past?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: A number of years ago as I worked for BASF in the USA, a global project was implemented with kfu’s help. The project concerned improvement to the supply chain and increasing efficacy in cooperation between the parent company and the outlets outside Europe. This project with kfu wasn’t initiated by my department, but even then I appreciated the very pragmatic approach taken by the kfu consultants.

I asked about the personal demands you make of management consultants. Have your expectations with respect to competence been fulfilled?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: Yes, my expectations have been completely fulfilled! kfu consultants bring with them lots of experience and the necessary pragmatism. kfu consultants are always people with long-term experience of the profession. What they teach and advise they’ve been through and felt themselves first hand.

Another positive is that kfu is concerned not only to complete the consultancy in respect of product management but also with the distribution team. Mixed teams always took part in the workshops and this really has proved successful. What’s the use when management alone compiles a strategy when this can’t be implemented?

How did the business field analyses and strategies go? How did the project proceed?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: The approach applied by kfu really is excellent, and it really was textbook change management! It included all important points, starting from organisation and infrastructure right up to final coaching and change in mindset.

How did the project proceed? At the very beginning KSF visited BASF customers in order to collect feedback from them. The visits took place both in the presence and the absence of our distribution staff. Our customers should have the possibility of saying frankly and honestly what they think of the respective BASF department whilst at the same time maintaining their anonymity. They could talk of problems and identify strengths and weaknesses. They also indicated their opinions as to competition and where BASF stood in relation to this competition. On the basis of such informative customer feedback, we were able to assess our value proposition. The individual BASF distribution staff were given personal feedback from kfu as to how they were perceived by customers as part of an individual interview between kfu and the staff member.

The results of the customer feedback came at the very beginning of the actual analysis. I felt that beginning with the customer was a very good approach. The customer feedback gave us an excellent basis against which we were able to determine our direction.

The analysis took place in workshops in which marketing and distribution participated. We analysed business fields together and asked ourselves what areas we wished to concentrate on in future. The corresponding customer segments were then worked through and the rules for market cultivation. Finally the value propositions were formulated in the individual segments with the corresponding value cards and these were then passed on to BASF distribution staff.

How much time did the business field analysis take?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: All in all the process stretched well above a year. After defining the various business fields, each was then looked at in detail. I must add here that at the beginning of the project we stood before the reestablishment of our global business unit. We had to restart in synthetics: from commodities to specialities. We gave ourselves around a year’s time from reorganisation, consistently and successively implementing the recommendations received.

You must have had concrete expectations in respect of the results of the consultation. Have these been fulfilled?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: Obviously you look at the concrete results of any consultation – and I can certainly say that thanks to the consultation with kfu, we are better positioned and are more successful in Europe. Distributions, newly orientated toward business fields, works very effectively.

The important thing is to implement the strategy that’s been compiled. I estimate that we’ve currently implemented about 80%. This is considerable and kfu really has provided excellent support here.

How do you view your own personal time commitment in the project? Is it justified?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: I was present at all kick-off meetings and also tried, as far as my schedule allowed, to participate in the workshops. I was always informed by kfu directly of the outcome of the workshops. I was also sponsor for the steering committee in which all results from the workshops were presented, discussed and finally decisions were made with respect to how things were to proceed. Consequently I was always thoroughly up to speed. As with the workshops, the steering committee was also a mixed team comprised of staff from distribution and marketing as well as other fields, e.g. from the laboratories and production – depending on the topic.

My personal time commitment to the project was certainly justified. The time commitment at the very start was intensive; this then decreased through the course of the project and intensified again as the end decision phase approached. At the beginning, time investment was high on account of my involvement with the determination of aims and objectives and because I consciously decided to participate in workshops in order to see how things progressed, how the project was received by staff and colleagues and how they were involved in change management etc. Following that, I could withdraw a little. I was – as I’ve said – always kept very well informed through the kfu and the steering committee meetings. Decisions were then again taken by the bosses.

Were there times when your views and visions went in an opposite direction to those contained in team suggestions?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: Not really. The goals we set at the start with the corresponding recommendations and measures were all quite conclusive. There were no workshops in which suggestions were put together which were then completely rejected. Most of what was suggested was capable of being implemented and was in fact then implemented. During the workshops, various directions were discussed, though in the end it’s the responsibility of a good consultant to bring the workshop’s participants back on course.

How satisfied were your staff in the workshops with kfu consultants?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: The most delicate phase of the entire project came right at the very beginning with the first customer interviews. People are naturally first sceptical of an external consultant. Thoughts occur to you like “A consultant is following me to my customer, will judge me, and who knows what will happen with the comments.” But the kfu were very able to build up confidence in this very sensitive initial phase. And I myself didn’t hear a single negative word said about the kfu!

When you work together on a project for over a year, it’s imperative that the consultants are integrated. The buy-in and the acceptance that kfu consultants were shown right from the very first moment helped through the entire process. The kfu consultants were never looked upon as alien to the company, but were immediately fully integrated into our team, despite it sometimes being somewhat of a rough ride. An example would be the very first workshop, the “catharsis”, as it were, where no problem was out of bounds, where everything was discussed. At this workshop, the conscious decision was made not to invite management.

kfu really did manage to integrate very well – this is certainly one of the strengths of the kfu consultants. The pragmatic approach and the experience, not only as consultants but as professionals working in the relevant field – this is the key with which kfu consultants manage to win over participants at the workshops. There really were very open discussions; conflicts were mentioned though escalation was avoided.

How far has the message spread through BASF as to how well and with what approach kfu worked?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: kfu has already worked in several BASF departments. Our project was the biggest undertaken by kfu for BASF to date. According to the feedback I’ve received, awareness of kfu within the company has significantly increased.

Are further projects with kfu planned for the future?

Dr. Michael Stumpp: We are currently in the process of analysing a final business field in order to optimise organisation within this business field. We will then conduct a distribution development programme with value proposition workshops and value-added selling seminars.

Thank you very much for taking part in this interview.