Expert Q&A: Michael Stilger on Performance Excellence and the Continuous Improvement Process

Qmarkets’ SVP of Global Solutions, Michael Stilger, will be leading an innovation ideas session at the 2016 Business Performance Excellence summit, San Francisco, at 17:00 on the 27th of September. In anticipation of this event, we gave Michael the opportunity to share his thoughts on performance excellence, the continuous improvement process, and specifically what we can expect from Qmarkets at BPE 2016.

Qmarkets’ Senior VP Michael Stilger has a unique understanding of how to successfully implement innovation strategies and optimize idea management, based on his experience as a senior innovation manager in large global firms as well as startup companies. Michael has inspired, implemented and steered innovation management systems and methodologies at major companies – including HP, Siemens, Lufthansa, Swiss Post, Fujitsu, Amer Sports, and many more.

At the end of this month, Michael will be running an innovation and idea management discussion panel at Business Performance Excellence USA 2016. Michael will be joined by senior leaders from Pacific Union and KeyBank, along with two other experts for this interactive session which begins at 17:00 and leads nicely into the drinks reception which Qmarkets is also sponsoring. We sat down with Michael before he left for San Francisco to get his impressions on performance excellence and the challenges facing companies today:

As someone who deals with the matter on a daily basis, what are the main challenges facing companies striving for sustainable performance excellence?

There are several levels, but at the core it’s important to realise that their most valuable contributions are not hinged on the next big idea, but a summary of many small ideas. Also, it’s important to embrace crowdsourcing and realize that all employees can contribute to the continuous improvement process, not just top management or the R&D department.

You have several years of experience in the field of innovation and idea management. How do you feel about the evolution of business, and what direction do you see it moving towards in the future?

With global markets in the age of internet and cloud/mobile computing, social enterprises, and social media, nothing stays hidden. If we consider that so much of the business in today’s world is transparent, so many people and organizations are connected, there’s so much information out there to be seen by whoever looks for it, then only those that truly stand out through business performance excellence will be the leaders. One of the key components is to take advantage of the collective genius available to you and use all of these channels to lead into one goal – to increase the company’s performance and quality of what you deliver, in order to be the best at what you do.

How have technological advances helped or harmed the quest for achieving sustainable performance excellence?

Idea Management Process expert Michael Stilger discusses the continuous improvement process

Technology can be a blessing or a curse. But in my experience, the change in culture needs to go hand in hand with the change in technology. The greatest success stories I’ve seen are ones where strong leadership establishes a culture of performance, quality, and innovation and embraces technology to deliver their goals and capitalize on the collective genius of their employees, customers and partners. Companies that were able to do this leaped out ahead of the pack to become the market leaders. Embracing technology is the way forward, but merely embracing technology without the proper culture will not succeed either. Only employing the two in unison will create a stable discipline of performance excellence and optimize the continuous improvement process.

Why do you think companies need to implement innovative tech solutions?

Like I said before, we live in a connected world. Now, imagine your life without your cellphone, without social media, without your laptop. We rely heavily on technology. What better way is there to connect with your employees, customers and partners, than to hear their ideas? Implementing tech solutions is the most strategic, cost-effective way to optimize the idea management process, and connect with the most valuable assets in and around your business.

What roles do collaboration and crowdsourcing play in the idea management process, and how can they boost performance excellence?

I recently read a study used by Continental, the tire manufacturer, which showed how they saved over €100 million purely through process performance initiatives. All of the ideas presented were small, incremental ideas, which built into great savings. This is a beautiful example of how incremental innovation can work for companies where the employees help contribute their ideas on a daily basis to improve the company a little bit continuously. At the end of the day, this is the ultimate goal of every company. Despite the un-glamorous comparison, imagine a snail crawling up a glass window. Only by continuing to move forward will the snail progress. Staying in place means it will slide down the window and regress. The same exact thing happens with large companies. Staying in place means falling behind everyone else, who is doing their best to advance and keep moving forward.

What are the risks usually discussed when people mention performance excellence?

The risk of technology is always there. In many of the more established companies, there is an age pyramid, with employees aged 50 and over, where it’s automatically assumed that they will not use and will avoid a technology culture, as opposed to a 25-year-old growing up with Facebook and mobile phones. Another risk is that adaption is sometimes slow and only partial. Solutions can’t always be applied everywhere, with groups such as mobile workforces and blue-collar factory workers being left out. How can these groups get access to the technology, and how are they able to contribute to the idea management process? The risk is of ignoring blue collar employee engagement, and missing out on some of the brilliant contributions which they would otherwise make. Additionally, companies should be wary of creating a culture of “Yet another tool” – where management introduces new tools one at a time instead of a widespread system change, leading to user fatigue and lack of engagement/participation. Like we mentioned above, a way of mitigating these risks is a hand-in-hand approach of not only embracing technology, but of also creating a company-wide culture of willingness to adapt to new technology.

What can the audience expect from your panel at BPE USA 2016?

Well clearly, this panel will be the most fun session at the event! The moderator and panellists are all very passionate on the subject of business performance excellence, and you can expect that they will use their rich experience and best practice insights to engage not just each other, but the audience as well.

To learn more about Qmarkets’ participation at the Business Performance Excellence USA event – and watch the presentation delivered by Michael Stilger –  click here

If you’re interested in discovering how Qmarkets can boost performance excellence and support you using our continuous improvement software. Be sure to contact us to request a free demo today.

Click here to discover what leading analysts had to say about Qmarkets’ solution!

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