Round Table

Walking in someone else’s shoes

ZOOM MED: The ZEISS Agenda 2020 states that we need to develop into a networked company. On a scale from 1 to 10 (one being the best), how well have we managed to break down silos at MED?

Cornelia Braun: I would give us an optimistic 3. But I feel that it depends on the given situation. I believe that if we want to improve, everyone has to invest. Always ask the question: what is the value added if we collaborate?

Joe Redner: I agree, the answer is relative. If I look at our progress from a long term perspective, say 10 years, I’d say 3. There is a much more dynamic interaction between the business sectors and the SSCs. There is also a lot more dialogue and more desire to interact than there was a decade ago. I still see great untapped potential in collaborating between the SSCs themselves.

Guillaume Gasc: I feel we are about halfway there and are certainly not done yet. We are more team-orientated than other organizations. We have become more agile. But when it comes to challenging topics, we still tend to “hide” in our silos.

Ludwin Monz: We have some very good examples of highly efficient and effective teams that are working across departments and locations. Then again, I still see silos in some functional departments. It is important to eliminate these silos. Executives play a special role here.

ZOOM MED: What do we need to do to become a networked company?

Joe Redner: From a sales perspective, it is important to visit the country you’re trying to support. Otherwise you can’t truly understand the dynamics. It’s hard to understand the intensity of customer orientation found in Asia, which has a different flavor to what one sees in Europe or North America. By the same token, get to know the local teams in person during these visits. It facilitates communication and paves the way for strong working relationships.

Cornelia Braun: It’s just as important to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. It’s about seeing things from a different perspective and trying to learn what it’s like to be on the other side. Besides managing our internal relationships, we also have to manage our customer relationships. It’ all comes down to trust. And trust breaks down silos.

Guillaume Gasc: I agree. To elaborate a bit more on the aspect of “walking in some-one else’s shoes”: We often experience silo thinking in cases where team members face an unfamiliar situation or difficulty. A higher frequency of cross-rotation between jobs would help, e.g. working at an SSC and working at an SBU gives you very different in-sights and perspectives.

ZOOM MED: What else makes the perfect team?

Joe Redner: One characteristic of some of the best teams is that team members monitor and drive one another to excel. They are very much in sync. They are self-driven, they pull one another along and push each other forward. When you get that sort of in-teraction, success is almost a given.

Ludwin Monz: I would like to add the aspects of shared goals. The teams have to actively address this issue. What’s more, this is based on an open and collaborative team culture, which includes sharing information and supporting each other.

Guillaume Gasc: I agree. I see diversity as a basis for team success. Our customers are diverse, so different cultures, backgrounds and perspectives can only help to make customers happy. Diversity means enabling greater creativity. For a perfect team, I also see a culture of trust being crucial; we still have work to do in this respect.

Cornelia Braun: Yes, indeed. We need a deeper understanding of feedback culture, too. And we have to learn to push each other to achieve a shared goal. Take the Olympics, for instance: the acceleration of the right mindset pushes whole teams to success through a kind of a winner mentality. This is an area where we can improve. I’d like to see everyone contributing to this: becoming a successful team is a decision that every single person has to agree with. Ultimately, it’s the attitude that makes or breaks a team.

ZOOM MED: We touched on diversity: How can it help us?

Joe Redner: I find more and more that diversity in backgrounds adds strength. We tend to hire people from within the ophthalmic segment or the hospital segment, but actually some of the best sales and marketing people come from entirely different industries.

Cornelia Braun: What I really like about the ZEISS team is its diversity. I see a broad range of expertise in the teams. We have hired recent university graduates as well as experienced candidates. This diverse structure makes us stronger than very homogeneous teams.

ZOOM MED: How do you see competencies changing in your area of responsibility?

Guillaume Gasc: “Empathize with” and the ability to understand others” are very important skills, not only for me but also for my team. It’s more than just expertise that we’ll need in the future. This is one of the most important criteria for me.

Joe Redner: I agree. As an organization, we need to think more about how we can make customers more successful or how we can save them time. We talk about solutions and it’s very clear that this is the direction in which we want to go. Still, translating that into a discussion with the customer requires a certain mindset. We have to get comfortable viewing situations from the customer’s perspective as we approach the market and speak to customers.


ZOOM MED: How do we ensure that our teams have the skills we’ll need in the future?

Cornelia Braun: This is one of the most important topics we have to address. We started an in-depth discussion about strategic competencies, e.g. what is needed in the future to realize our future product portfolios and our future customer service? Today we have to figure out which competencies we’ll need tomorrow – quite a challenging task.

Ludwin Monz: In this context, it is very important to understand the future requirements of our markets as well as any technological changes which might occur. Against this backdrop, we are defining our strategy and deriving the skills we need. Equally important, however, are soft skills like communication skills and conflict management.

ZOOM MED: Dr. Monz, can you tell us anything about the rumors related to a hiring freeze at the Medical Technology business group?

Ludwin Monz: To be very clear: no, there is no hiring freeze at MED. However, the headcount increase over the last fiscal year did happen much faster than we were able to generate revenue growth. We cannot afford this in the long term, which is why we’ve adapted our approach. As a rule, we agree on a setup that we can afford and then we proceed with the implementation. However, the figures are smaller than one area or another would like.

ZOOM MED: The Executive Management team at MED, the G4 group, decided to set up a strategic initiative for TEAM. Why is this necessary? What results do you expect to see?

Ludwin Monz: All our initiatives rely on our TEAM for implementation. We therefore need to actively develop our company culture, improve the skills of our management teams, help our team members to develop within the organization and plan for the skills sets needed in the future. These comprehensive tasks require a dedicated initiative.

Guillaume Gasc: I see a risk of a strategic initiative focusing on TEAM becoming disconnected from the business. How is this aspect addressed?

Cornelia Braun: You are absolutely right: It cannot be a detached initiative. And it won’t be. Human Resources (HR) monitors the business. Therefore, whatever we do outside of HR is closely linked to the business itself. So for example, if we look at talent management, we start off by putting a strategic workforce in place where a clear link between the business strategies and future-oriented knowledge and competencies is being established.


ZOOM MED: How do you allow your team members to strike a good work-life balance?

Joe Redner: At the end of the day, work is a big part of our life. If you’re having trouble at work or you’re unsatisfied with something, you take that home. I think this can weigh very heavily on one’s personal life, so the job of a leader is to provide a good plan that’s well-known, makes sense and that people can follow. If you enjoy what you do and experience success, then you don’t take that much baggage home, which helps maintain a healthy work-life balance.


ZOOM MED: Closing question – how do you personally maintain a healthy work-life balance?

Guillaume Gasc: (laughs) There is room for improvement if I look at my personal balance. However, I do sports such as cycling. And since last year, I have been in a jazz band. I play the trumpet and often take the instrument with me on my business travels.

Joe Redner: I like to work. When I am not working, I like to read or ride a motorcycle.

Cornelia Braun: It’s worth trying to strike a balance, but for me personally this is a big challenge.  I´m a big fan of aquatic pursuits, and I just love being by the sea. I enjoy spending quality time with my nearest and dearest.

Ludwin Monz: A work-life balance does not mean either/or. My work is an important part of my life. However, I ensure I make time for my family and for the activities that are important to me. This needs to be actively managed, it’s doesn’t just happen by chance.

ZOOM MED: Thank you all very much for your time and for such an interesting discussion.