Every year, I spend between six and ten weeks on the move. My destination: our sites around the world which carry out specific tasks within our development network. When I visit, I check whether the development site operates to its assigned level. There are five different levels. In recent years, we assigned the various levels to our sites and qualified them accordingly. Key factors were equipment, know-how and strategic importance. Today, every site in the world-wide development network of the MANN+HUMMEL Group has its own special role.
However, nothing in this world lasts forever – so every three years, a site must demonstrate that it can still fulfil its allocated tasks. Audits are carried out for this purpose. As Lead Auditor in the MANN+HUMMEL development network, I generally carry out these audits myself. To the outsider, my arrival might seem about as welcome as a visit from the tax inspector for staff at the sites in question. This is however definitely not the case. Of course, audits are not a ‘walk in the park’, they are real examinations. But my aim is not to ‘show up’ a site, but to ensure that – in co-operation with colleagues at that site – everything continues to work perfectly for the next three years.
In itself, this is not at all complicated. Colleagues essentially identify themselves with MANN+HUMMEL. We also have a solid team spirit. Perhaps this sounds a little idealistic, but it is nonetheless true. I have always been very warmly received. Naturally we go out together in the evening. I always try to persuade my hosts to choose a typical local restaurant, because wherever I may be in the world – either personally or on business – I like to get the feel of the country. This works remarkably well when you eat where the locals eat. Some dishes are of course rather unusual, particularly in Asia, but I like to explore local cuisine and thus enjoy a new taste experience.
At such occasions, we seldom talk business, but simply get to know each other a little better. This helps me at work, as it helps to build up mutual trust.
Incidentally, a motorcycle ride through Bangalore (India) can also be confidence-building! I was once taken right through the city on the back of a Royal Enfield Bullet – for us as Europeans, the ultimate experience of the really chaotic traffic there. I was particularly alert and full of the joys of life during the audit the following day.
You might presume that having dinner or motorcycle rides together affects the quality of the audits – and it does indeed have a positive effect. People who have eaten together interact in a more open and honest way. This helps, as far as audits are concerned. Purely professional matters are dealt with, of course – dates, facts, analytical results and target agreements – but in a constructive atmosphere, good results are almost always achieved.
I am therefore always rather watchful, looking and listening to everything. Finally, I am aware that I am talking to experts who know exactly where they are in a good position and where there is perhaps potential for improvement. I then discuss possible shortcomings objectively, at the same time trying to offer solutions.
My experiences with this have been positive. Of course, not everything runs perfectly smoothly. Some discussions have lasted for hours. When I leave, however, I always feel that we have found a common solution. And that we will eat together at our next meeting – sampling local dishes, of course. 🙂