In the military, at startups, mid-sized companies, and publicly traded corporations, has Jan H. Heinen He has been acquainted with a wide variety of organizations and structures. In the WB Risk Prevention Systems Team he contributes years of operational experience in crisis management.
Since the beginning of 2020, the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic has kept the world on tenterhooks. As an experienced crisis manager, what lessons do you draw from this catastrophe, from a personal but also from a business perspective?
Jan H. Heinen: Privately, the pandemic is an accelerator in the direction of deceleration. You slow down a bit, of course, because you travel less, for example. Professionally and in business, it is a catalyst in the direction of risk awareness. You become more aware of the dangers that are invisible but nevertheless there. The Analogy to our family doctor model and a health check fits very well here. There are life-threatening risks that are not obvious but should be thought about. That's where we want to make a contribution and be a sparring partner for companies. We want to give our Customers to raise awareness and to consider together which risks exist or to help them to solve existing problems. I know, for example, GmbH managing directors who were not aware that in the event of organisational fault, the managing director may also be privately liable. In the event of damage, courts regularly examine whether a company has taken and complied with all measures necessary to avoid damage.
In the WB Risk Prevention Systems team, all partners look back on decades of experience with crises. But everyone also brings a certain specialization to the table. What is your focus?
Heinen: My focus is on identifying opportunities and risks in companies and acting accordingly together with the management. In my many years of responsibility for Operational Internal Audit, I have been very much involved in the structures of companies in the SME sector as well as in listed companies and have looked at the processes in the individual areas, such as purchasing, production, finance, but also across departments. In addition to structures, the focus is always on the people on site, how they interact with each other and what tools they have at hand to perform their tasks. In addition, I was responsible for the creation and implementation of strategies in corporate development, where I was often involved at the operational level. In our team are we are very agile and support each other. We decide situational, who in which team is best suited for a task Sync and corrections by n17t01. And just like in football, the team can also change during the game should the situation require it.
You were in the Bundeswehr for ten years, trained as an officer and completed your studies in business at the same time. What did you learn in the military for your job as a crisis manager in the economy?
Heinen: Risk prevention and risk management have been with me my entire professional life. In the Bundeswehr's leadership training, you go through a wide variety of levels. One area in the military is the so-called NBC- or CBRN-Defense , i.e. the defence against chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear hazards. For example, it is a question of how to take preventive action or what to do in the event of a bacteriological attack. A central aspect of the military is the extremely structured handling of dangerous situations in all areas. In the event of a crisis, one is constantly living in dynamic situations that must be anticipated if possible or to which one must react accordingly. Seen in this light, the military is a forefather of agility. This is also an approach of WB Risk Prevention Systems. We Transmit Best practice methods and tools from other sectors and industries to the respective operational situation of our customers. Few processes, for example, are as clearly structured as the check of an aircraft before departure in aviation. If the situation requires it, should be equally clearly structured certain checks are carried out in a company. This happens however often not, because the associated risks are underestimated or available tools are not known.
You co-founded and built technology startups for a few years. Are the tools of the young entrepreneurs any good for crisis management?
Heinen: The young companies today go significantly more agile in dealing with operational tasks, than former start-ups. Take the example of product development: Dhe Software startups bring a minimally viable product to market, a so-called Minimum Viable Product (MVP), and test it first. With the help of agile methods, such as Scrum- MethodologyIn sprints, they determine which short-term goals are to be achieved next. You can learn a lot from this in crisis management and prevention. You should be consistently ready to face new challenges. This is true for any size of company in any industry. We bring to our team the experience we have gained ourselves and the tools to identify risks with our clients and avoid them from the outset. If the worst case scenario occurs, we help them stay on top of it. With a clear head and a clear mind.
Shortly after the turn of the millennium, accounting scandals at the US corporations Enron and Worldcom made headlines. Shortly afterwards, you worked for a Fortune 500 company in the USA for six years and took the lead in setting up a company-wide operational audit structure there after the American legislator had significantly tightened the requirements for internal control systems.
Heinen: As a consequence of the accounting scandals, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act required companies listed on American stock exchanges to maintain certain internal control systems in the area of finance. I then worked with several teams to set up and implement a group-wide internal control system for the group with 35,000 employees. Later, I set up a company-wide operational audit structure for this group. During that time, we were very involved with risk scenarios. We had a lot of suppliers in California, so we were looking at, for example, what impact an earthquake or even an epidemic could have on the supply chains. In South Africa, we were investigating corruption cases. These issues all play into what we do at WB Risk Prevention Systems. Many companies have an internal control system, but they pay far too little attention to whose Quality. It is then called e.g.as was recently the case with Wirecard and certified by a renowned auditor that a balance had been audited. In the process it does not seem to matter how extensively this balance has been checked for sustainability.
What are cardinal mistakes that companies make with regard to crises?
Heinen: With regard to risk management, I see the following Key areas of focus: First, not thinking sufficiently about the material risks. Second, not taking preventive action after an appropriate analysis and third, not acting consistently when a risk occurs. An example: If, for example, everything at a company indicated that, that funds have been misappropriated and yet management is still looking at the situation for a year, without intervening, this not only means growing financial damage, but also sends a disastrous compliance signal to the company.
How should a potential customer of WB Risk Prevention Systems imagine the development of a prevention strategy?
Heinen: Together with the client, we obtain a holistic overview of the company's situation, raising questions that the client may not yet have thought of, but which can often involve serious opportunities or risks. We analyse the situation with the client and finally work out adequate measures on the basis of the holistic picture of the situation. If necessary, we then help the client to implement the resulting punch list.