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Operational excellence in practice – how innogy is mastering the change

Why does process optimisation benefit from shifting the focus to the customer and how does that work in practice? These questions, which are very current for most companies, were answered by our Operations & Lean Practice Partner Stefan Schmidt at this year’s Business Transformation & Operational Excellence World Summit (BTOES) in Orlando, Florida.

We as innogy Consulting had the honour of taking part in this event, which is one of the biggest cross-industry events for managers from all key industries. The main topic of discussion was the most important challenges and future trends in the field of operational excellence – one of our specialisms in the Operations Practice. I met Stefan after the event and went over the key points he made in his presentation. A very exciting conversation!

The customer is king

The focus of Stefan’s presentation: the experiences made by our Operations & Lean Practice with the innogy and RWE Business Transformation Programme with the slogan “Shape the future of energy with operational excellence and systematic change”.

Stefan’s conclusion: the highest priority of any company should be to put the focus on the customer. In his opinion, you can only succeed if you understand what your customers need and have the means to meet these requirements. In my eyes, this is an approach that translates very well to consulting.

Flexibility is key to market survival

Although the trend towards customer focus has been long announced, it has still managed to catch some European utility companies off guard. This has far-reaching consequences for the business models of energy suppliers if they cannot react fast enough to customer demands and requirements. It all comes down to the evolutionary principle of survival of the fittest: only those that are best able to adapt can survive.

The innogy solution: no progress without change

The best example of a profound change based on evolving customer requirements is the energy revolution. The departure from coal and atomic energy in favour of renewable energies is quite literally a game changer for many large energy suppliers. And of course the same is true for innogy and RWE.

As one of the biggest European energy companies, innogy and RWE were likewise forced to face the oncoming challenges and undergo a profound change. It was an exciting task that we at innogy Consulting were happy to take on and a project that I personally found very captivating. That’s not to say it was always easy: we accompanied innogy and RWE through turbulent times as well as several drastic changes. But when the dust settled it had all been worthwhile. innogy and RWE did not only survive the changes to the European energy sector, they came out stronger than ever.

How did they do it? By transitioning from a traditional, fully integrated energy supplier to a versatile, innovative company that put the focus firmly on customer requirements, operational excellence and lean principles. And most importantly by introducing a new style of management that enables employees to make better decisions for tomorrow and accepts that in our job there is just one constant: change.

The perfect symbiosis: operational excellence meets change management

Another approach that helped was the founding of a programme that united the fact-based fields of operational excellence and lean principles with the more perception-focussed domain of change management. To put it simply: New Way of Working or NWoW for short. This approach helps management understand both its own team and the entire organisation at a deeper level and keeps all company activities in the picture at all times.

Plus it has already paid off: innogy and RWE were able to further expand business in Europe and assert market leadership over the strong competition – and are now even more efficient than ever.

Higher, faster, further – the next challenge is already waiting

After this long but successful period of upheaval, you might think that innogy employees and our team at innogy Consulting have had enough change to last a lifetime. Actually it’s quite the opposite: we are faced with the biggest fusion of energy companies in Europe, which could have serious repercussions for the energy market. This is one more testimony to Stefan’s prophecy: “The only constant is change”.

At innogy and innogy Consulting, we are convinced that we will master this change just as well as the last. Our past experiences have shown that we know how to tackle change and turn challenges into opportunities. So I say bring it on!

An article by

Indrani Kaliyan

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