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

Thomas Stewing: For me it’s incredibly important that the consultants each set about their own analysis of the company’s needs. Of course each one will use a certain methodology, but this must be in a position to allow him or her to respond flexibly to the given situation instead of simply blindly applying the model. I particularly respect consultants who don’t just attempt to bash through generalised ideas and models, but who adjust their methods to the specific needs of the company surroundings.

I also expect the consultant to give me an absolutely honest feedback, however hard that might be. Only this way can one hope to build up the necessary basis of trust, essential when working with consultants.

Which change management project was on the cards at that point within the company?

Thomas Stewing: There wasn’t just one project but several. Why? TECHNICOL Chemie Holding GmbH is a young holding now heading up four companies: CARAMBA Chemie GmbH & Co. KG, TEGEE-Chemie Bremen GmbH, WIGO-Werk Kreuznach Chemische Fabriken GmbH and RUMLER GmbH & Co. KG.

As the Berner Group, to which TECHNICOL belongs, restructured its chemical works, a change management process was begun right at the very beginning. The reason for this was given by the departure of the long term managing shareholder of WIGO and CARAMBA. A real culture change was initiated as the company and its staff went through the transition from an owner-run to a management-run company. At the same time, both companies introduced modern management structures.

In September 2007, TECHNICOL’s area of activity widened as a result of the acquisition of TEGEE. Consequently, this also had to be integrated into the holding. Once TEGEE has been successfully introduced into the holding’s structure and the change management process for WIGO and CARAMBA has advanced, primary focus will move to the determination of strategy.

How did you become aware of kfu?

Thomas Stewing: I already knew kfu from my time as German Sales Director for Glasurit GmbH. Contact was maintained through various projects completed with kfu in the course of my time with BASF Coatings AG. It should come as no surprise then that as the above mentioned change management process was initiated, I sought further cooperation with kfu. On the basis of prior discussions, the first thing was to agree a business process analysis/optimisation project (BPA/BPO) for Bad Kreuznach (WIGO). The processes are to be analysed and more importantly, the staff there are to be included in describing and solving the problems. After successful implementation, we plumped for the same approach as in Duisburg (CARAMBA).

Did you look for offers from other providers? What were the reasons for choosing kfu?

Thomas Stewing: No, for the BPA/BPO. I didn’t shop around for alternative tenders but instead trusted in my previous positive experiences with kfu, experiences which have been collected through a number of other projects. Admittedly, I hadn’t yet completed a BPA/BPO with kfu, but I did know how the consultants worked and how people orientated their approach is. Exactly because change management processes are very people based and because “soft factors” are of such central importance, it was very important to me that kfu assumed this project.

How did the project progress with WIGO?

Thomas Stewing: The decision to carry out a BPA/BPO with kfu at Bad Kreuznach was made early on. Of course, the departure of the managing shareholder represented a caesura for the company. For this reason we waited for exactly this point before launching the project. The first step involved informing managers and staff in detail of the aims and approach of the project. Open communication had and still has top priority in this project.

Shortly after this, in May 2007, the kick-off took place. Participants were kfu consultants and the group of decision-makers (i.e. managers and shop stewards). Once again, aims, methods and approach of the project were presented in detail, this time by the kfu. Company processes were broken down into three parts and for each of these parts a project team was created. Immediately after kick-off, contents, decisions and project teams were presented to all staff in a company meeting.

Open communication is, as already mentioned, essential to this kind of project. The presence of management consultants and meetings behind closed doors can lead to rumour and unease, fear and rejection. All of this was avoided with the approach we took. Only this way was open, result-based team work possible.

The three teams began work in June 2007. At the beginning of each team meeting, management was represented in order to reiterate and underline the significance of the BPA/BPO for the future of the company. Following this, the teams were handed over to the kfu consultants.

Around 6 weeks later, the presentation of the results by the decision-maker team took place. Following these decisions, an intensive period of some 5 months of implementation followed. Some projects are still in progress and meanwhile further measures have been defined and stand before implementation. The entire time framework stretched over about a year. During the entire project phase, staff were informed on progress.

Was feedback given from the team members?

Thomas Stewing: Staff were highly motivated in the meetings and were keen to include themselves. I see this as positive feedback. The meetings with the kfu consultants were a real experience for many staff members as it was often the case that it was the first time that they were asked for their opinion and were in a position to take influence on something.

A big step for many team members was the presentation of results to the decision-makers on account on the unprecedented nature of the situation. After the first noted how appreciative their results and decisions were received, trust and confidence grew massively.

Were you able to determine positive consequences of the kfu consultation? What was achieved?

Thomas Stewing: The goal was and is to change the culture of the company; a very ambitious goal which we’ve come an awful lot closer to achieving thanks to the project.

The catalogue of measures consisted of more than 60 action items and part projects in total, most of them to be managed by staff. The individual measures and part projects obviously have varying influence on company results. Some results are difficult to measure. Other measures, though, are in a position to provide concrete figures showing the success of the kfu consultancy. All in all, one can say: the company has become significantly more successful.

How do you view the time and money invested by your company in the projects? Is it justified?

Thomas Stewing: Yes, it is justified. At the start, on account of the kick-off meeting and the decision-maker meetings, my time commitment was quite intensive. And in the initial periods I asked for result reports frequently. In the second six months, as the measures only needed to be adhered to, my time commitment could be dramatically reduced.

At the start of this interview I asked you about expectations that you personally have of a management consultant. Have your expectations been fulfilled in respect to competence? And what, in your view, is the particular strength of kfu consultants?

Thomas Stewing: Yes, the expectations that I have of management consultants in general and of kfu in particular were completely fulfilled.

I was already familiar with the working methods employed by kfu consultants, though had not had the experience of completing a BPA/BPO with them. I must say: BPA/BPO is an excellent mode of accompanying a company through change management.

In contrast to other management consultancy firms, kfu consultants don’t just seek to apply a standard set of rules to the company to be advised. And they don’t leave their customers all alone in the important implementation phase, but always provide competent support. The kfu advisors manage to identify hidden staff potential and to increase the motivation of all concerned. As a result, a real feeling of positive change swept through the entire firm.

I’d like to mention here I found kfu consultants to be very open and honest in their description of the state of affairs. Exactly these frank descriptions and open feedback, whilst at the same time avoiding the passing-on of confidential information from the project team, is in my opinion solid proof of the exceptional mutual trust they enjoyed and fostered, and is the basis for such productive cooperation.

And my last question: are other projects with kfu in the pipeline?

Thomas Stewing: As TECHNIOCOL, as mentioned earlier, has expanded through a new acquisition, the beginning of 2008 saw the launch of a strategy finding process with kfu. The project should be completed in autumn 2008. The strategy so defined will form the basis for the future direction of the Group, as TECHNICOL intends and will continue to grow through further acquisitions.

The need for change is very closely linked to the concrete acquisitions. Whatever, we’ll direct our acquisition activity so that it will fit as well as possible to the kfu strategy. No doubt in future there will be further projects where TECHNICOL and kfu will cooperate.

Thank you for your time in this interview.