Michael De Schrijver

Q&A MichaelDeSchrijver

  • Michael, could you tell us a bit about yourself?

For me, there are 3 important passionate things in life: first of all my wife and 2 daughters, professional satisfaction and never stop learning.

As a background I’m a civil engineer, but, to be honest, I never understood the fun of calculating the crushing values of concrete pillars. I was more interested on how people managed to build a bridge of a skyscraper. How all those tiny elements of the puzzle needed to fit together in order to complete a huge building or structure, in time, in safety and (hopefully) within a budget.

After my studies I had the great opportunity to work in the industrial division of Fiat Group where I got into contact with Lean/Kaizen. It’s there where, while running workshops, I saw, for the first time, the energy and creativity you can get out of small improvement teams. A simple structure, shop floor data, people who know the process, some fresh eyes and a challenging target; it was often enough to drastically change performance on machines.

After that I had the great chance to work various roles and various organizations (industrial, banking, packaging): in large or in small, it was always about creating a compelling vision (why?), providing structure and rigor (how?) and making sure teams could tap into each other ideas (what?).

It’s doesn’t matter if you’re in a bank, a box plant or an excavator plant, the principles of lean are universal and in any case you need to work with people who really, in detail, understand the process.

And improving is fun! It doesn’t matter in which environment you are.

  • How do you define Kaizen?

Kaizen is accepting that nothing is perfect and thus anything, even the smallest thing, can always be improved. Frankly, it’s a quite though thought as it means nothing is ever finished, and something we often don’t like to hear. So we always need the energy or drive to keep going on, relentlessly driving the improvement wheel. But once the wheel is turning, it’s actually fun!

  • Is it true that for the most of us we resist change?

Everyone has a resistance to change. It’s natural as everyone tries to find an equilibrium point in what he does. But we need frequently a crisis or a new target to get us out of that comfort zone. The question is then how and how quick do people respond to this? Probably that’s the million dollar question! It’s my belief that people need a compelling story, they need the skills and the tools and need to see their leaders behave in a certain way.

  • Continuous Improvement, why is it important for us?

For me it’s about survival. When you stop improving, you stop overall. Continuous improvement doesn’t means changing everything. It’s about strengthening what you’re good at and taking out what’s not delivering any value. It’s like a craftsman, always trying to get better. Small steps, great passion, trying to excel.

  • How is Leadership important to the success of the Program Manager?

As a program manager, you’re not leading directly people, but more often you’re preaching change. Therefore, in this role, Leadership is leading by example: if you want to preach continuous improvement, improve yourself also continuously.

Secondly it’s leadership by challenging existing habits: organizations need people that ask “the stupid questions”, just as a small shop floor improvement team needs fresh eyes.

Thirdly, as programme manager, you need to be coaching the official and unofficial leaders within the organization. That means you need to use your personal and people skills to connect with leaders in your organization and interact with them in a two-way direction: use their input, but also provide them with ideas.

Michael, best regards from all the team of AILM.

Thank you!

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