by HANS J. STEININGER, CEO, MT Aerospace
For a good two years now, MT Aerospace has been in the midst of its digital transformation. Hans J. Steininger, the CEO of the Augsburg-based aeronautics company, describes his personal lessons learned and explains why he is convinced that digital transformation always has to be preceded by a change in leadership.
When we first started down this path with MT Aerospace in 2016 by taking initial steps in the field of R&D, one thing quickly became clear: digitization is a task for the boss. That’s why I meet with the responsible parties every week to stay abreast of what’s happening and get directly involved. Have the tasks discussed last time been settled since the last meeting? What’s on the agenda for the week ahead? This kind of personal commitment is essential, because a company can sense very clearly whether top management takes something seriously or not.
That doesn’t mean that the CEO has to become the chief digital officer too. Okay, sure, people’s expectations of themselves are very high at the beginning. But I’m among those who had to learn that patience is a virtue, and when it comes to digital expertise, I’m probably solidly in the middle of the field. We also have to accept that there is not any point in time in the transformation when we will know what the digitized version of MT Aerospace will look like at the end of the day.
In light of all of this, it is important for the CEO not to be some slogan-spouting IoT guru, but to give managers and employees enough time, provide them with the necessary resources, and supply external expertise. What’s more, in their role as boss, they have to stay calm when things go wrong and motivate their employees to continue with unwavering dedication. This is especially true since there are many companies who are in the same position we are — places where digitization and everyday business are running in parallel. Only a rare few companies can simply build a new digitized factory next to their old plant. So the same people are in charge of managing both the old and the new world.
And this only works if they are open to new things and to change. This openness in turn heavily depends on each and every employee recognizing the advantages that digitization has in their work. Digital transformation always has to be preceded by a transformation in terms of leadership. I don’t share the concern that digitizing production and back-office areas practically follows hand in hand with digitizing leadership. Obviously, artificial intelligence will help prepare management decisions more effectively and thus better. But even in twenty years’ time, we will not be able to get by without real human managers, because their personal experiences are what make proper decisions possible.
In light of all of this, it is important for the CEO not to be some slogan-spouting IoT guru, but to give managers and employees enough time, provide them with the necessary resources, and supply external expertise.hans j. steininger, ceo, mt aerospace