The qualifications and performance of our
employees are key factors for Fresenius Medical Care’s
success. To identify managers with outstanding
capabilities within the Company and enhance their
professional and personal skills, we launched
the Global Executive Challenge in 2012. By fostering
talent with targeted measures, we aim to secure
our future as the market leader.
Making the right decision at the right time
Finding the right location for a new production facility is a difficult task for any company, including Fresenius Medical Care. Countless factors must be taken into account before a decision can be made. This costs above all time. Is it possible to develop a procedure to automate and thus accelerate the decision- making process? This was one of the tasks put to the participants at the first Global Executive Challenge. Talented executives from all levels of the Global Manufacturing Operations division were selected for the 2012 pilot project. One group of participants developed a method of this kind in conjunction with internal and external instructors. They presented the results to a committee comprising top managers and members of the Management Board at Fresenius Medical Care. Following the success of the pilot project, the Global Executive Challenge will be held annually in future.
The Global Executive Challenge was developed by Jim Freedman, Vice President Leadership Development at Fresenius Medical Care, and Borries von Mueller, Global Head of Human Resources. “We need leaders who act as role models for employees and who embrace and share our understanding of collaborative, innovative and successful growth,” says von Mueller. Fresenius Medical Care owes its success to people with just these skills. Sometimes, staying at the top is harder than getting there in the first place. That is why in an international and globalized working environment where the pace has accelerated due to the rapid consolidation of virtual networks, the Company will continue to rely on employees who remain focused and can make the right decisions at the right time, highly flexible people who can be assigned to other locations and other functions on very short notice.
Establishing a common management culture
The most productive way for a company to find managers with these qualities is to promote suitable candidates from within the organization. The Global Executive Challenge does just that. Each year, 15 to 20 selected candidates will be invited to take part in the program. Participants come together for one week at three workshops in three different locations. Accompanied by external and internal instructors, they develop solutions to real problems in the group and then present them. Each group is supported by a mentor from the Company’s management. Participants in the pilot project were particularly impressed by the constructive idea behind the program, as Gerhard Breith, Plant Manager in Changshu (China), confirms: “The atmosphere was incredibly intensive, fueled by ambition as well as mutual respect. I was amazed above all by how open-minded the participants and instructors were to different approaches and the creative solutions that came out of it.”
Other companies often take programs developed by external providers for training executives and then adapt them to their own requirements. Fresenius Medical Care prefers to do things a different way and developed the Global Executive Challenge entirely in-house. “Some buy an off-the-peg suit and then adjust it until it fits, but we tailor the suit ourselves, exactly the way we want it,” explains Freedman. “Our aim with the Global Executive Challenge is to establish something like an overarching leadership culture at Fresenius Medical Care.”
The idea of this common culture is to strengthen collaboration between managers, regardless of their country of origin or functional area, and overcome obstacles. Freedman compares it to an orchestra: Here, too, people with different skills pool their specialist knowledge to obtain the best possible result in step with other specialists. And each individual knows automatically what he or she has to do.
side by external instructors
To keep up the motivation during the seminars, external instructors provide the necessary impetus from outside. They are selected just as carefully as the participants. “We’re not looking for theorists, but for people who can show us possible approaches in a practical context. This allows us to see what we are doing right and what we can still achieve,” says Freedman.
pany network and the common
Reinforcing the global network
The overriding aim of the Global Executive Challenge is for participants to learn from each other and further strengthen Fresenius Medical Care’s global network across regional and functional borders. The time spent working together intensively in the workshops helps to build deep mutual trust and gain a better understanding of what other executives and the Company are capable of. The program developers deliberately set difficult challenges for the participants. The groups comprise managers from all areas of the Company who have to deal with problems outside their own field, a situation that can occur in practice, too. “For example, a Chinese manager might have to take on responsibility in a different business area in the U.S. from one day to the next,” explains von Mueller.
ing participants to their limits
challenges for executives
A resounding success for participants and organizers alike
The program is not called “challenge” for nothing. The participants are deliberately taken to their limits in terms of what they can achieve. But that is also what makes it so appealing to them, emphasizes Heike Strobel, Director Controlling Global Manufacturing Operations and a participant in the pilot project: “The opportunity of working together away from the daily routine and developing solutions for problems other divisions have to face, really broadened my horizon. Presenting our proposals to the Management Board turned the program into a particular challenge, from which I’m sure we all benefited.” For Troy McGhee, Vice President Manufacturing North America, the seminar was an important confirmation of what in his view should distinguish a manager at Fresenius Medical Care: “Each of us needs a clear understanding of where we stand within the Company and where we want to go. The workshop verified this for me.”
the international teamwork
The initiators’ expectations were also exceeded. “The results presented by the groups were of the same high quality as those of the best consultancy firms, and are already being implemented within the Company,” says von Mueller. “This shows us that our leaders want to contribute their experience, master new challenges and work with others from different business areas. There just wasn’t a platform for this before.” Now there is. And that is not all: The method developed in the Global Executive Challenge pilot project to automate and accelerate the search for new production sites has now been implemented at Fresenius Medical Care.