One thing is for sure: The term most commonly used during meetings on the boardroom floor is “team”. Anke Kleinschmit is the woman who keeps coming back to this issue. Her business card reads, “Member of the Executive Board of Research and Development”. Her last business card had a star at the top right – one that matched her car, which is parked in front of the development center in Waiblingen-Neustadt. She exchanged a position in the automotive industry for her role at STIHL; this professional background meant that when Anke Kleinschmit arrived there were very heavy expectations on her. One daily newspaper described her as, “the woman who is intended to secure the future of STIHL.” When asked whether she feels pressured, Kleinschmit smiles and credibly and also modestly says no. “At the end of the day no one can get it done alone – goals can only be achieved together as a team. My task is to provide guidance, and to develop and promote the team. What’s more, we have to lead by example.” With some pride she adds that she is now by no means the only one who has found her way here from the automotive sector. “The premium quality of the products, the great development opportunities, the product diversity and the depth of added value – STIHL is a paradise for engineers.”
A floor-to-ceiling glass panel separates Anke Kleinschmit’s office from the corridor and runs the entire width of the room. It immediately brings to mind the word “transparency”. Some might find it difficult to sit in such a fishbowl, but Kleinschmit has made this transparency a principle. She is an approachable person whose nature is to deal with others with mutual respect and on an equal footing.
Her “uniform” hangs right next to the door: An orange functional jacket that she wears on forest excursions and in the courtyard a few hundred meters from her office. “I need to be close to the engineers and developers and to the product. Do you know how it feels to get a new product up and running together as a team despite major challenges? And everyone has made their own contribution. When the ‘baby’ is then successful, there’s such a huge amount of energy – to a level that most motivational courses just cannot achieve! Team successes are twice as much fun and a powerful drive for us all!”
When she looks back on the first few months at STIHL, where “many good things have already been put into motion,” Anke Kleinschmit sees that one decisive aspect of work organization in particular is changing at STIHL: “We have positioned ourselves independently of drive systems. This means that we are now pooling responsibilities by expertise and no longer by product. In this way, we are laying the foundation for the transformation. In addition, we are achieving a shorter development time thanks to a uniform product creation process.” She adds that software developers, mechanical engineers, electronics engineers, robotics engineers and computer scientists work together in a continuous interdisciplinary dialog in almost all development processes. “On one side we need sensible processes and on the other, of course, we need the right people. The mix has to be right: Some with experience and some new blood.” These people must be able to work in a team and communicate, and have a passion for products and innovation. “I personally love working with engineers. They are generally very honest, content- and fact-driven and solutions-oriented. And that is a great basis for positive collaboration.”
We ask what has shaped her. “My grandfather worked in the forestry office and my father was a hunter and an engineer. His job brought us here to the south. And when I went to school here, subjects like mathematics, physics and biology were my favorites; I performed most strongly in those. That almost automatically led me to study engineering.” She thinks briefly. “And I was a scout for a long time; I even led a group of scouts during my studies. I still enjoy going out in the woods together today. And nature, STIHL’s field of work, has always been part of my life.”
When asked about her entry into the professional world, Anke Kleinschmit remembers that she was immediately “thrown into the deep end” as a young engineer. But there was a team and people she could ask if there was something she didn’t know, she remembers. She still believes in the “deep end principle”. “You just have to trust people and they will grow to meet their responsibilities. In the end, no one is left alone.”
Such a deep belief is sometimes called a “credo” – it is a Latin word that means “I believe”. Anke Kleinschmit is a firm believer in teamwork.