News from the COO Community: Bert Maat brings a sense of calm

Bert Maat has been an Executive at Boer & Croon since 2010 and has years of experience in management and directorship positions within the field of operations. His expertise lies in Operational Excellence and his result-oriented and unifying leadership style. We talk to him about his recently completed assignment in the aviation industry.

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Hello Bert, thanks for your time. How did you end up with this assignment?

When I became available after my previous commission, Haico Spijkerboer (partner at Boer & Croon) called me and asked whether I was interested in the role of Interim Director of Operations for a large machinery factory in the aviation industry. Given my background at Fokker, I was immediately enthusiastic. I have over 20 years of management experience in manufacturing companies and a background in business administration and mechanical engineering. This assignment fitted like a glove.

What were they looking for?

They were seeking someone who is stress-resistant, is able to maintain an overview, involve stakeholders and get results.

And what had to change?

Customers were dissatisfied with the low delivery reliability. For weeks on end, the quantities being delivered were too low. One customer, for example, really had us in a vice. Every Friday at noon, we received a call to discuss the numbers delivered the previous week and to agree on new targets for the following week. After all, late deliveries brought the entire construction of an airplane to a standstill. We supply aircraft engine manufacturers, such as Pratt & Whitney, whose end customers are Airbus and Boeing. These are engine parts with extremely high-quality requirements and exceptionally small tolerance values.

What have you accomplished this past year?

Deliveries have become reliable and predictable again. The customer relationship is much better. A major breakthrough has been made in focusing on results.

This is because we started to focus on two things: creating an overview for the very complex production flow using Visual Boards and changing behaviour by requiring people to fulfil agreements. Due to the constant dissatisfaction that customers were experiencing, I had to take quick and decisive action. I soon realised that a number of managers had become overwhelmed with work. From experience, I know that you shouldn't just muddle on with your work. Very unpleasant and difficult, but a quick change of a few key players within three months was really necessary. With new, fresh blood from the outside, we began managing the team in a new way. We also started making agreements with customers that we could fulfil. We held sessions with the customers about deliveries, which were prepared by the team. And most significantly: an agreement among the team then became sacrosanct.

We saw the first results after two to three months. Our planning schedules checked out. The customer was pleasantly surprised. That gave the club an enormous boost. People regained confidence and a sense of pride. After nine months, the customers were very satisfied. By practising this method in a very disciplined way, day in day out, the team itself started to embrace it. They saw: this works!

It's great that you were able to accomplish this together. What kind of leadership style do you use here?

Being clear. I am very communicative towards the team and the work floor and am close to the people there. I often walk around there in the morning and keep my ears and eyes open. I think respect for workmanship is important, and knowing what is going on is key for me. But I am also strict and very clear. People have to be able to 'read' me. Working with people is a lot of fun, but you do need to score with results.

Looking back over the past year, what are you most proud of?

I'm really proud of the breakthrough. The new way of working is a fact! It is established. Lack of commitment is now a thing of the past. And customers are complimenting us on the results.

If you could give the reader one tip, what would it be?

I'd like to give two tips. The first tip applies particularly to crisis situations and is the question that you should ask yourself: Do you have the right team? Get the right people on the bus. If you haven't got them, you have to act fast and change players.

The second is to achieve results WITH people. Guide people in terms of behaviour and see what they need. Confront people where necessary. Empower people in what they're good in. A good conversation in a safe environment often works wonders. Only when you know the source of resistance or the obstacle, and there is trust, will someone start taking steps.

Thanks Bert!

"There is a noticeable shift. More results have been achieved, customers are satisfied and the factory now has an overview. That is thanks to the leadership of Bert Maat."