As the new CFO of CENIT Group, you’re taking the time to support CENIT’s talent program. What prompted you to do that?
It’s because I’m convinced that not only our talents, but we as a business will profit enormously from this program!
When starting out in my own career, I myself benefited a great deal from such a high potential program, and it brought me valuable experience in strategic networking.
At the time, I was with PricewaterhouseCoopers, and in an organization with more than 10,000 employees the program gave me relevant connections across a variety of locations and topics.At CENIT, we’re taking the same approach: We combine content-related questions such as conflict management, group dynamics and leadership with opportunities for communication across business units. This offers our young CENIT talent important new experiences and perspectives.
From a business point of view, the initiative also gives us a leg up when it comes to attracting new talent. In our CENIT 2025 Strategy, we state that we want to strengthen our position as an attractive employer. A program like this just has to be part of such an initiative. We don’t just say “having top-notch staff is important to us”. We also invest in their development!
A few weeks after I joined CENIT, Tobias Dittrich, Human Resources Director at CENIT, introduced me to the excellent concept of Talente@CENIT, and I quickly pledged my support.
You’re on board with Talente@CENIT as Executive Sponsor. What exactly is your role?
It’s important to me to make an active contribution. I want to share my experience with typical leadership challenges with the participants, because one day some of our CENIT talent will have to take on these roles themselves.
Therefore, my first contribution was a presentation in which I formulated how I define leadership, motivation and success. I also addressed the issue of conflict resolution, because this is an essential aspect of taking responsibility. I wanted to offer an authentic impression of my work. There’s plenty of how-to pointers out there already, but for my own use I’ve prepared a set of guidelines that I believe really stand up in practice.
We then put these topics to discussion. It was a very inspiring exchange – a virtual one, because of course we were in a web meeting, but a lively one all the same!
A good deal has happened since then, because this year’s Talente@CENIT intake is exploring a complex issue that promises added value for our entire organization. I put this question to them: What could a framework for an effective and efficient Innovation Lab at CENIT Group look like? I’m convinced that a successful response to the challenge of innovation and the related need for fast, effective change management is key to the success of CENIT – now more than ever.
Just what do you have in mind when you talk about a CENIT Innovation Lab?
An Innovation Lab should let teams from different units imagine innovation from the perspective of our customers: What innovations could we devise to better support our customers in fulfilling their mission?
Thinking about this question leads to impulses that can affect our entire enterprise. This means that ideas are triggered not just by our current products and services – simple improvement management is too simplistic an approach.
Actually, the primary goal is to encourage fresh thinking, a shift of mindset. In this case we are not after short-term ROI. We want to nurture a startup mentality in which people in our organization can dare to look at things in entirely new ways and implement new ideas quickly. A CENIT Innovation Lab means an investment in the fundamental empowerment of our innovative capacity.
In your mind, what defines people who can take CENIT – and our clients’ digital transformation – forward in this way? What special skills do you want to promote among the CENIT talent?
Digital transformation is a buzzword with many different dimensions, but they all have one thing in common: That businesses must radically shift their thinking to the customer perspective. Radically! To look at the company from the market point of view, not the other way around – that’s what we’re about. And to spend much more time thinking about what we can and should just leave be.
The second aspect is goal orientation. In consulting, there’s an established term for this: Keep your head down and deliver! This means that from a certain point forward, options are no longer going to be considered by way of a supposedly democratic decision-making process. Instead, we’re going to focus all our energies on bringing the best option to fruition.
And the third characteristic of people who support clients during the digital transformation process is tenacity. Developing an organization, developing a business, is a marathon event. Along the course there are milestones that already give you partial victories, but the entire race lasts longer than a few weeks or months. You have to keep at it, constantly and systematically.
And so how do you manage to stay on track during that marathon, while at the same time getting a strategic and practical grip on innovation?So that you know when you should take a shortcut or maybe a detour? Do you have some pointers from your leadership experience?
I’ve made it my habit to take short summary notes of my thoughts on important meetings or topics. These always include a note on my conclusions and ideas for the next steps. This habit goes way back to my talent program at PwC, where we were encouraged to keep a sort of diary about our insights and encounters. It’s amazing what all you forget after just a week! This exercise helps prevent that and gets you to work on your thoughts. You begin to integrate systematic reflection into your daily routine.
The current CENIT talent program has been running for about nine months now. What are your impressions?
Well, first of all I want to pay Tobias Dittrich and his team a compliment: Talente@CENIT is designed exactly the right way! Training is divided across a series of modules, i.e. the participants get together at certain intervals for one or two days and apply themselves to a specific topic, jointly and with expert guidance. Fundamental – and therefore sustainable – things happen on these occasions, for the talents, but for CENIT as well.
And concerning the encounters I’ve had via this program, I can only say that there’s a really creative atmosphere. These are people who get to the point and confidently articulate what they want to accomplish. This results in positive, engaging discussions that definitely bring us ahead as a company in the digital transformation.
Many thanks for this conversation, Markus!