"The sense of togetherness decides"

A learning factory makes companies fit for the digital future

Many companies in Germany suffer from complex and time-consuming processes, although digital solutions could significantly improve processes. But which paths lead to the digital land of milk and honey? For example, a learning factory. At least that's what Daniel Karte, Managing Director of Kerkhoff Lernfabrik GmbH, thinks. We talked to him.

Mr. Karte, the first question is obvious: What is a learning factory?

Our learning factory is a didactic instrument. It illustrates the entire value chain in the company in order to develop necessary change processes in material and information flows across departments. The implementation is guaranteed by the involvement of the employees. We therefore offer a model for mapping business processes and can test possible changes in a protected space. The learning factory is a driver for a successful change process in the company. 

The learning factory takes the people in the company with it and demonstrates the direct influence of the employees on the processes through numerous simulations. This creates acceptance among employees - and trust in particular. The employees work out their own transparency and become part of the common success through positive change. Furthermore, the harmful silo or departmental thinking that is widespread in many companies is broken up, mutual understanding is promoted and the "sense of togetherness" that is fundamental to sustainable success is strengthened. As a result, processes simply become simpler and more efficient.

So it's about process optimization in the age of digitization, right? In the end, the customer should work more efficiently and achieve better results. At first glance, many management consultancies offer this type of consulting. What makes the learning factory special?

It is true that the transfer from analogue to digital is the basis of our work. In fact, the learning factory does not proceed in the same way as a classic management consultancy. As already mentioned, it represents a didactic approach - together with our customers and their employees, we playfully develop the appropriate solutions. The core of our work is training in the management of processes, products, organization and digital change in all industries and branches. Our training concepts fall on fertile ground where one is prepared to improve one's own organization as well as the process and system landscape along the entire value chain.

We map company-owned processes and simulate complex systems. We illustrate what is - and what can be. We lead to self-help and make ourselves dispensable. We turn those affected into participants and provide them with the tools with which they can improve their situation. We do not simply hand over a PowerPoint presentation, but offer a product to touch and play through.

What contribution does the Learning Factory make to digitisation processes? In your experience, how do companies in Germany deal with the digital possibilities so far? Is the famous and sometimes obstructive "German Angst" (German fear) also rampant in this field?

Digitalization needs cultural change and many German companies are still struggling with it. New technologies are transforming business models and processes in many industries. In addition, digitization is changing not only business, but also the world of work and jobs. To achieve this, companies must rethink and redesign. The learning factory creates an important basis for initiating and implementing change processes in companies. It also connects the different types of employees in the company, promotes mutual understanding and team spirit. As you know, not every employee has the speed and willingness to change that digitalisation demands. We also take with us those who are not yet ready.

Keyword "continuous improvement": This is one of your advertising arguments. What is it all about?

"Continuous improvement" means the continuous improvement of product, process and service quality. Our learning factory is the basic building block for this process. The customer receives a learning factory specially tailored to his needs to touch and play through his own processes. This possibility also exists after the consultants have left the company, because the learning factory remains in the possession of the customer and is available for further training at any time. This means that the use of the learning factory is not a temporary project, but rather a continuous project without a specific duration.

They rely heavily on simulations - customers should be able to recognize which practical effects which measures have. How does this work in practice and how do customers react?

First, our team records the "actual situation" in the company, which is the basis. The individual learning factory is then built precisely in relation to the needs and goals of the company. Where do we stand? Where do we want to go? These questions are decisive. Then we go into medias res and first play through the current situation with the customer and his employees. This is followed by what we call an optimization round. This is where the best ways to reach the goal (the "target situation") are discussed and all measures are recorded. This target situation is then simulated in order to show the team what the concrete result of the planning would look like in reality. This hands-on optimization is quickly understood and the fear of concrete changes is significantly reduced.

How long do you usually accompany your customers? It is often said that management consultants want to sell as many days as possible, whether it helps the customer or not.

This is just as different as the design of the individual learning factories. It depends of course strongly on the initial situation and the goals of the customer. Our approach, however, always follows the same rules: We analyse the current situation, develop and build the customer-specific learning factory and conduct workshops. In many cases, the customer wants further modules such as support, training and the development of new focus topics. As a rule, we accompany the customer for between three and five years, depending on requirements.

In your opinion, which success factor is the most important on this path?

The "we feeling" is decisive. With this team spirit, a great deal can be achieved, without it it becomes tedious. At its core, it is always about people - also and especially in the corporate environment. Here we say: Further training is a great asset, employees receive an important professional enrichment for the benefit of the entire company - knowledge becomes value.

Mr. Karte, thank you for this interview.

Author: Markus Matt
chief editor LOHN+GEHALT