Monday morning at 9 a.m., Wiebke Herguth and her team get together for a heartbeat meeting. They stand together in front of the whiteboard in her office at Viessmann’s headquarters in Allendorf (Eder). “In heartbeat planning, we discuss the goals we want to achieve and the tasks we want to complete in the next two weeks,” says the 31-year-old team leader. “We’ve found that if we keep up this rhythm, we make better progress.” There’s a short update every two days, where the status of the individual topics is coordinated. At the end of the two weeks, the team conducts a review on the Friday to analyze what has been achieved, where there may be difficulties, and who can help to overcome them. “In the heartbeat meetings, we make it transparent to everyone where we stand, thereby supporting each other in team coordination,” says Wiebke.
Understanding what the customer wants
Allendorf (Eder) is not San Francisco. But time has not stood still here – on the contrary. The rhythm has sped up. Even in the family-owned company Viessmann, employees measure themselves against the quality and service standards of Silicon Valley. Heartbeat is just one example of the agile working methods that Viessmann has been using for some time now to respond quickly and flexibly to the wishes of its customers. “Understanding what the customer wants and getting better and better at this is what drives us,” Wiebke explains.
There is more openness, more ease, more transparency.
She joined Viessmann in 2013 as an assistant in Logistics Support Germany and took over as head of the team in July 2017. Logistics is traditionally a male domain. The fact that a young woman is team leader – this too is a sign of the change in the company. When the position became vacant in 2017, “I showed initiative,” Wiebke says, “but the company also encourages us as employees to forge new paths.”
The company culture is changing
Viessmann has always been innovative, otherwise the traditional manufacturer with 12 300 employees would not be represented with its products all over the world today. But the cultural change towards a next-generation family business that is ready to successfully master the challenges of climate change, the energy revolution, and digitalization has been initiated by Max Viessmann – always supported by his father Professor Dr. Martin Viessmann. The then 29-year-old assumed the position of Co-CEO at the beginning of 2018. His father Martin has been Chairman of the Viessmann Group since.
“Today we need ideas on how we can achieve more together”
The changes are well received by the employees. “The change in the company can be felt everywhere,” Wiebke reports. She believes that the working atmosphere was already pleasant in the past, but communication has improved. “There is more openness, more ease, more transparency,” she says. “In the past, every employee did their job. Today, we need ideas on how we can achieve more together. Collaboratively.” No doubt there were people in the company who were skeptical at first, “particularly those who have been with us for decades.” But in the meantime the changes, the different way of dealing with employees, are positively received. “If you are not prepared to change, you don’t stand a chance in any company,” Wiebke is convinced. “Now is the time to make a change, to move towards digitalization.”
What is happening in the company right now is very exciting.
Wiebke is enthusiastic about it. She does not shy away from comparisons with companies like Google, Apple, Facebook, or Amazon. “What Amazon can do – next-day delivery – we’ve been doing that at Viessmann for as long as I’ve been working here,” Wiebke says. That’s seven years now. “If you order from us by 6 p.m. you will have your boiler on the building site by 8 a.m. the next morning – all over Germany.” Viessmann also offers same-day delivery in ten German metropolitan areas. “Customers who order spare parts by 10 a.m. will receive their delivery on the same day by 2 p.m. at the latest,” says Wiebke. If you order by 1 p.m., you will receive your delivery by 4 p.m. “We are often compared to Amazon. But what does Amazon do differently? It markets its service better. Customers are often not even aware that our delivery service is so fast,” says Wiebke.
“Allendorf has its charms”
Logistics – this topic has always fascinated the 30-year-old. “It is the last link in the chain. If you want to provide a good service to the customer, then the logistics have to work perfectly.” Wiebke studied Business Administration in Bamberg – with a focus on Supply Chain Management. She returned to her hometown in Hesse after finishing her studies. “I come from the area, and the name Viessmann has a good ring to it anyway. It was my first choice,” she says. “What is happening in the company right now is very exciting.” Including in logistics. “We are currently continuously improving our processes through digitalization,” says Wiebke.
You don’t have to be in Silicon Valley or Berlin for that, you can do it in northern Hesse, too. After work, Wiebke often goes running with colleagues or plays golf. “I like living here. The Edersee reservoir is not far, I spend time there with friends and family. Allendorf has its charms,” says Wiebke, summing it up.