Change initiatives inside large organizations face a host of predictable and unforeseen hurdles. How can impact-hungry leaders navigate the landscape and drive transformation? Here’s how a 125-year-old global logistics company created the ideal culture for continuous improvement — and gave the rest of us a roadmap for success.
When veteran human resources executive Chris Buhl took the HR helm in North America for Kuehne + Nagel, a leading global logistics company with 69,000-plus employees in more than 100 countries, he walked in with one big question: How open was the company to the large-scale changes he hoped to lead? He'd mined Glass Door. He'd met with dozens of employees. He'd gotten to know the company and its long history. But still he wondered.
Then he met Lothar Harings, Kuehne + Nagel's Chief Human Resources Officer. And he got his answer.
"I remember thinking: This is the type of leader who knows what excellence looks like," recalls Buhl. "You could not help but hear the passion in his voice as he relayed the journey they'd traveled, the incredible speed at which they'd developed the function. This place was fertile ground for new ideas that would lead to transformation in this region and beyond."
Three years into Buhl's tenure, that transformation is visible. From training initiatives to fitness competitions, from benefits overhauls to cultural programs, from employee engagement to customer satisfaction, Kuehne + Nagel North America looks a lot different than it did that afternoon Buhl and Harings shared their visions.
How does that kind of change happen? What kind of corporate environment did Kuehne + Nagel create that empowered its leaders to successfully drive transformation? And how could your company create such an environment, too?
We sat down with Harings and Buhl and more than a dozen stakeholders across Kuehne + Nagel to discover the mindset and tactics required to move the needle when it comes to organizational change. Focusing on one initiative, we found what amounts to a change-leadership roadmap, a way of thinking and doing that impact-hungry leaders anywhere can follow in pursuit of sustainable transformation.
And it starts with a big move you might not expect.