I interviewed Christoph Szakowski who discussed Change Management in Logistics.
...to you today, Christoph.Looking forward to hearing your views on change management in logistics. Can you first provide a brief background of yourself?
Sure, Dustin.And thank you for inviting me. My name is Christoph Szakowski. I am an international logistics manager with a multicultural background. I was born in Poland, relocated to Hamburg and educated in Germany with an MBA. So I have been working 18 years in the logistics industry in different roles, as corporate manager, interim manager, consultant, entrepreneur. I was able to manage people in a broad range of logistics firms in mid-size and large business units across Europe and Asia with the focus on the C and CIS Region and the emerging markets.
First question then is can you share your experience connected to change management?
Sure. Change management has been actually very often the mission I was interested with by large third-party logistic companies, companies representing B2B spectrum in general. So I was able to gain experience, for example, as CEO of a [inaudible 0:01:43] company in Poland in a restructuring project, as C-level executive in one of the world's leading logistics providers in Russia, as an interim chief operating officer in a mid-size logistics company, operating in 16 countries in the Euro-Asia region with strong exposure to the so-called New Silk Road.
The experience I have been able to gain can be summed up in two groups of tasks. The first group would be assignments connected to turnaround of a company. The main point is to ensure the company somehow goes back to normal after weak performance, client losses, or other troubled situations. Or the second group of task connected to change management are expansion roles where the goal is to develop, connect, and motivate teams across the whole organization, show vision and leadership, and integrate parts of a company into larger networks or units.
The main point there is business development and growth.
What are the necessary steps to start a change process?
I believe, first of all, the key stakeholders of the company, which is the top management, the advisory board or consultants, interim managers, in case they are [inaudible 0:03:52] for such as role as well, they simply need to agree on the necessity and the reason for the change management. This is crucial, especially in the very fast business environment nowadays. In a business environment with volatile markets and strong competition and sometimes this competition is coming into a new line of business with revolutionary business models. So that is the first step. That's the alignment on top level.
The reason why and to the target which we want to achieve with organizational change management in the logistics business, I would say a target for one year after starting the initiative is sufficient. So that first step.
The second step is already to communicate your plan, your milestones, and the advantages of the change processes to your teams and to your people. That is a very critical point. In the time of talent shortages, you need to lead people with professional and trustful communication and explanation of change. You need to keep your best managers around you and absolutely committed to the change. From my personal experience, I can say that the successful change assignments — whether this has been in Russia, Poland, or across the C Region or across continents — they very much succeed or fail with the way of management communication.
The first step you need to start with, from the point of view of the company, is to consider opportunities you might have with outside consultants or interim managers coming in such a change process. Those are obviously neutral and independent. They have an independent perspective on the change process and its implementation and results. And they possess market knowledge which really can help you benchmark your company against competition. So this is the first step, and this first step is an option, obviously.
But large companies and mid-size market players, they might consider those investments in outside experts are a very good decision at the end.
What about organizational change management for logistic companies?
Talking about logistic companies, I think there are three main areas they need to focus on during change management. First of all, the question,will the change management lead them into new markets, niches, or new solutions [inaudible 0:07:30] overland transpiration, multi-modal transportation, etc? So the question, will the change help the company really to obtain better position than their competitors?
Very important also for logistics companies, the following questions... Does their plan change have an impact on their business model? Business model – so asset light or asset heavy – in case yes, I believe they need to check with the overall strategy and vision as you cannot simply change your business model very fast, or it is very expensive with strong impact on your financial figures. And the kind of tracking of your what is your [inaudible 0:08:27] for final customers.
It’s also very important for logistics companies is to consider the availability of top talent of managers and specialists but not only for the change process itself but also for the time after this change is realized. So to give you an example...
If the company would like to be much more technology driven, the question is, are there enough experts to pull it off then, or if the company goes to emerging markets, are managers on board to lead the whole move successfully in the emerging markets?
What are some of the mistakes that companies make and how do they avoid them?
I believe they might be very specific mistakes, depending on which company we're talking about. But I would like to underline that a lack of resources and capacities is often simply the show stopper. And sometimes also companies values might not allow a company to make a radical change. I suggest always to companies top people to consider the question of resources, capacities, and companies’ values before any big change process.
Do you have any success stories to share?
I believe in general the success stories and implementation in different projects show that companies are coming out as more effective or better organized or more customer oriented or more innovative of the change processes. For example, I was honored to lead a change process in a very challenging C and CIS markets,one of those happening in the largest European transpiration network. So between European countries in Russia, for example, and this has given me lots of experience for new roles as a change agent in a broad spectrum of logistics task worldwide. So it has been about the success stories from my point of view.
Thank you for sharing today, Christoph.
Thank you very much.
About Christoph Szakowski
COO / Logistics /SCM/General and Interim Manager in 20+companies/DACH, CEE,CIS, Asia, Emerging Markets