The economy is in transition. Companies have to face new challenges. Jumana Al-Sibai, member of the group management of the automotive supplier MAHLE, explains how to maintain resilience in such situations.

The automotive supplier industry is currently experiencing the greatest renewal in its history. This is nothing new for us at MAHLE. In our more than 100-year company history, we have changed again and again. We know and can transform.

MAHLE has its origins in a small workshop for the development of two-stroke engines in Bad Cannstatt near Stuttgart. The company is now one of the 25 largest automotive suppliers in the world and one of the “Big Four” in the German market. MAHLE products are installed in every second vehicle worldwide.

Climate change, electromobility, the disruption of supply chains caused by the pandemic: a whole series of factors are currently leading to the fact that old certainties no longer apply in an unprecedented form, even in our traditional industry. And the pressure to transform is increasing. How do you set yourself up to be resilient in this context, i.e. what does it take to master changes and crises well? And above all: How do you remain resilient?

Jumana Al-Sibai has been CEO of Mahle Behr GmbH since April 2021

The current challenges of the automotive supplier industry have long since become the “New Normal”. There are some trends and developments to which we must find answers – whether electrification, digitization, autonomous driving, scarcity of raw materials on the world markets, shortage of skilled workers or the important issue of sustainability. The fact is: the German automotive industry is already doing a lot to ensure that Germany continues to produce the world’s best and soon to be climate-neutral vehicles in all segments. Failure is not an option in our industry. The question that worries me is how to manage the change, not whether.

So what to do if your own business model is being questioned? The only way is to reinvent yourself. What this means for us at MAHLE in concrete terms: not neglecting the existing business and at the same time strengthening and building up the future.

This transformation process is certainly a big step for a traditional company. As already indicated, the change has an impact on various areas of the company (strategy, products and solutions, research

Change always starts with ourselves. With me as a manager. And with each and every individual in the team. An open transformation culture is “match-decisive” here. A culture characterized by curiosity, openness, transparency and diversity. Against this background, how do you maintain the resilience of the company?

In this context, I see six theses as particularly important:

Thesis 1: Clearly define the strategic guidelines, keywords product and service strategy – and at the same time leave enough room for flexibility. Companies must successfully manage the balancing act between multi-year strategic planning and adaptability. In addition, companies and leaders need to think and act agile and anchor agility as part of their DNA.

Thesis 2: Turn the team into a team full of sensors – develop a kind of “early warning system” for current developments and future trends. Companies need to use the intelligence and “sensors” of their employees. And then it is important to discuss and track the results accordingly. Structured innovation management, for example, can be based on this.

Thesis 3: Establish a communication culture that promotes resilience. How it works? By openly communicating challenges. openly addressing issues that may cause concern or anxiety. To prevent teams from retreating – and not pulling along anymore.

Thesis 4: Promote the resilience of each individual. Areas, teams and individuals must learn to be adaptable and live with greater uncertainty. This requires backing and support from the management team.

Thesis 5: Curiosity promotes resilience. Lifelong learning and upskilling, i.e. developing new skills, integrating them into day-to-day business and ideally providing incentives. Spread enthusiasm for the learning curve – by creating enthusiasm for new tools and skills or know-how. This can e.g. B. new markets, business models or philosophies.

Thesis 6: As a modern manager, create space for doubts, fears and “thinking differently” and allow diversity in thinking and acting. Because, as already mentioned, we are currently in competition for the best talent. Here we have to find answers to the question of what kind of leadership and what type of manager we need in order to keep, promote and bind the talents of tomorrow.

In order to make a modern company more resilient and thus fit for the future, strategic, content-related leadership in terms of culture and strategy is crucial. Likewise, a modern leadership of employees to strengthen the resilience in the team.

At the same time, a “leader” must be able to lead themselves. Promote your own resilience and take countermeasures if necessary. It is clear that this is a daily challenge for thinking and acting! Isn’t that always easy? Of course! But there is no alternative for managers in times of change. To make change successful.

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