Volker Klosowski is a specialist in technical testing and certification. The graduate engineer gained experience in risk prevention and emergency management in a wide range of industries. As a member of international commissions, he dealt with incidents and plant safety.
You have worked in management positions at TÜV Nord and TÜV Rheinland for almost 25 years. What were the important lessons learned for your current role in the WB Risk Prevention Systems Team?
Volker Klosowski: You should learn from your mistakes and never be too shy to talk about them. In exchange with people who usually have smarter approaches than you, you should look for solutions to create a better future. You need good instincts to put together the right teams and you need to get individuals to talk about what they have learned. From this, you eventually derive binding actions. The results should be measurable in key figures and thus verifiable. At the end of the process, you will know exactly whether the agreed goal has been achieved. Last but not least, confidence and optimism are the basis for successful risk management.
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?
Klosowski: My focus is on the systemic approach. I am very strong in analysis, structuring and mastering complexity, as well as benchmarking against similar situations and systems. And then it's about another strength: attack. I tend to be a stickler for the 80 percent approach when it comes to implementation. I don't want to work analytically and scientifically until I can turn 80 percent into 96 percent at some point. At that point, the crisis may no longer be manageable.
Most German entrepreneurs have experienced a pandemic for the first time. What is a key finding for you 18 months after it began?
Klosowski: In the pandemic, we talked about it being a pandemic far too late. We then only had a short time to take countermeasures. That's what makes prevention so valuable. You should have run through risk scenarios in order to be prepared for an emergency. It's like sailing. You have to master all manoeuvres, such as tacking and gybing, and live discipline on board continuously in order to be able to sail safely even in a storm.
What has been the biggest crisis you have had to manage so far?
Klosowski: First of all: I don't like the term crisis at all because it has such a negative connotation. Every challenge that we have mastered, which we once described with the term crisis, makes us stronger, more emotionally stable and more satisfied. I still remember very well the fatal accident of a truck driver who had filled a pressure tank and made a mistake in the process. The tank exploded, killing the driver. As a young engineer at the TÜV, I had to investigate this accident. I was then allowed to write a set of rules, developed products with international gas industry companies, set up training courses, defined management processes in order to qualify people through technology, clean communication and a higher degree of responsibility, and to ensure that such accidents do not happen again through a clean specification of processes.
Unlike us in Germany, you have already experienced a pandemic with avian flu in Taiwan in 2009 and were involved in the development and implementation of organisational concepts and technical instruments.
Klosowski: Taiwanese Customs was a certification customer of TÜV at the time, which I visited as the responsible board member. Our conversation was also about the challenge of how to systematically monitor entry and exit at the international airport during the bird flu. At the trade fair in Frankfurt, the TÜV had previously set up cameras as a gimmick, with which the temperature could be measured via infrared. Today everyone knows this, at that time it was an innovation. We then used this technology for the first time worldwide for continuous temperature measurement at the airport. It also shows that it always helps to think outside the box.
You have been a member of international political bodies, such as the Major Accidents Commission and the Commission for Plant Safety. How is this experience valuable for the Risk Prevention Systems Team?
Klosowski: With the change in the global safety philosophy, the focus at the Commission for Plant Safety has shifted to the topic of prevention. As a result, we have analysed larger mechanisms of action than in the case of pure incidents. I was able to experience this evolutionary change and also help shape it. Above all, I learned about the different methods used by different industries to deal with risks and safety. The chemical industry, for example, works differently from agriculture. For example, when a farmer works with a biogas plant on his farm, he doesn't even know that he may be putting himself in a higher risk than when he visits a refinery. However, the farmer would classify the refinery as much more dangerous than his biogas plant. The technical assessment of both systems may be similar, but humans are often the determining factor for the probability of occurrence of an accident.
You have been with Dr. Wamser + Batra for almost six years. What are your current projects in the WB Risk Prevention Systems Team?
Klosowski: In India, entrepreneurs are currently in risk or crisis mode, but are poised that the market offers great opportunities. Crisis mode says get out of India. But the strategy mode recommends staying. In this conflict, I am now the sparring partner for some entrepreneurs to weigh risks and opportunities. This is also a kind of risk prevention, which I believe is the biggest challenge for managers. As a top management skill, it is no longer enough to master the use of financial ratios. The complexity of the framework and boundary conditions has increased significantly in terms of quantity, speed and dynamics.
WB is not the only company active in the field of Risk Prevention Systems. How do you assess the competitive situation and what is the USP of your team?
Klosowski: With WB Risk Prevention Systems, we are operating in a very young, highly fragmented market. Currently, the meadow is big enough to feed all cows. There is the dairy cow, the meat cow, the organic cow...We are a highly specialised niche provider. Everyone in the team has demonstrably and personally experienced very different crises and risk situations. From this we have gained life experience and courage to face life. We share the conclusions we have drawn openly and honestly with clients seeking advice. We are united by a passion for the topics of risk prevention and emergency management and a great curiosity about how other team members deal with one and the same issue. This approach is unique.
How would you describe the brand essence?
Klosowski: We conduct an honest dialogue at eye level, listen, understand and can look into a set of experiences and develop initial solution ideas from them. We don't say how badly the customer is doing.
If you had to weight methodological competence and experience, which criterion contributes how much to success?
KlosowskiThe experience curve is the most important, methodological competence can be learned. I would weight the criteria with 70 to 30 percent. Methodological competence can also be mastered by the computer. I have also done a lot of work on artificial intelligence. IBM's Watson, for example, can make management recommendations by processing the available data and information faster than the human brain, translating it, clustering it, structuring it, spinning logical threads from it, calculating something further and deriving access forecasts with a certain probability of occurrence. Ultimately, the computer makes a recommendation, but leaves it up to the manager to decide whether or not to go down that path. That's where experience comes in, which no computer can replace. Only people can bring that to the table and that is the value of WB Risk Prevention Systems.