Home » Issue 21 21-2020 » Inside HORSCH » A network for the future

A network for the future

For HORSCH, the consolidation of a network structure is more than just the implementation of a trend. Cornelia and Philipp Horsch talk about the ideas behind the decision to take this step.

terraHORSCH: To change part of the structure of a company normally is a mammoth project. What made you – as a family and as the deciders – take this step?
Philipp Horsch: We are a company that is focused on and driven by our products and the customers. For several years we have been dealing with how to implement our very own DNA even better in the company despite the growth. About two years ago, first thoughts made us restructure our product groups as Business Units and to push the company even further from there. This is not new for us – it is how we always have been ticking. But it is time to develop further. Our benchmark still is the optimum customer focus. In October 2019 our family met for one weekend to work on this idea. And we developed a general view that we felt was coherent. We focused on the origin of the company, the background and on what made us strong. Based on all this we finally took the decision to consolidate a network structure.
Cornelia Horsch: By the way, our last big restructuring measure dates back ten years. At that time HORSCH was a completely different company than today. The reasons are for example our growth, the internationalisation or the new challenges we get from the markets. This is why we saw the need for a new structure: reinvent ourselves, reconsider things completely and establish something new. And we have a yearlong experience with this topic. It is in our roots to reconsider things and not simply go on developing a product further.

terraHORSCH: What were the first concrete steps and what is the current state of this process?
Philipp Horsch: We have extended our operative executive team that so far has consisted of seven people. We assign the tasks to more individuals: the number has increased from seven to twelve. At the same time we integrate the product groups as ProductUnits into this new leadership team. Thus, 17 people represent the operative management of the company who work together in a network. In addition, there are Cornelia and me and, of course, my brother Michael and Theo Leeb. We are moving away from a traditional organisation chart and hierarchical thinking towards a network organisation. This will be implemented step by step in all sectors of the whole company. The decision that our five products groups are now represented in the company management clearly shows that we change from a merely functional organisation structure to a network structure where, due to this step, our very own product and customer focus is quite clearly confirmed outwards as well as inwards.
Cornelia Horsch: Now we are right in the middle of a change process which will take several years. You cannot implement something like this overnight. We act on the assumption that especially the culture transformation process will take quite some time. For really all executives and project managers will be involved in learning the new leadership behaviour. There is an external company that accompanies us and goes with us through all these changes until we take matters into our own hands. For after all we also feel that society and the requirements of the employees with regard to a modern employment change and develop further. In this respect, too, we want to reinvent ourselves in a modern way. The young generations demand new organisational forms and especially a modern organisational culture. We want our employees to enjoy their work – our customers will benefit from this. Thus, we want to become one of the most attractive employers for our staff in our sector and at our sites. We are starting in Germany and will then establish the network structure in our international subsidiaries.

terraHORSCH: Now the HORSCH customers and sales partner might think: “This sounds great, but what will change for me?”
Cornelia Horsch (smiles): Actually nothing changes towards the outside. It is a measure to make sure that the direct, close and individual contact with customers and sales partners can remain on this high level – despite the growth of the company.
Philipp Horsch: We are undergoing a time of great changes, so-called disruptions, that do not only challenge us enormously in the agricultural sector but in all areas of life. We are looking forward to them and we see incredible opportunities especially for our line of business! But we are well aware of the fact that we have to realign our company. Let’s be self-critical: With regard to many points (structure, thinking, attitude etc…) we are still in the past century – this will not be enough in the future! There still is room for more – for the benefit of our customers and sales partners! We want our company to be well prepared for the new challenges, we want to take an active part in shaping and we do not only want to react etc… And all that needs far-reaching changes, especially in our heads. This is what we are striving for. It will also have a visible results for our customers and sales partners.
Cornelia Horsch: Customers, employees and society – these are the three aspects that count. To summarise it: We finally want to prepare ourselves in an optimum way for the future for the next decades. We want to pass through them with ease and a lot of new ideas and innovations and we never want to be under pressure.
Philipp Horsch: Like we already said: What we are doing corresponds to our roots and our origin. However, if you look at the whole picture it is revolutionary anyway. For network is a hyped term, but it is a fact that there are hardly any organisations that really work out as a network today. We do not want to slide into more and more hierarchy, more and more structures, more and more rules etc… We keep up our agile thinking and acting and we want to develop further.

terraHORSCH: How do the employees currently experience this process? They surely have lots of questions?
Cornelia Horsch: The good thing about it is that it is exactly that: a process. Already in summer, on the occasion of a virtual staff meeting we informed our whole staff that we were going to start a process towards a network. Now all responsibles from the leadership team undertake the task of informing and taking along all colleagues. The good thing is that we have always worked in a cross-departmental way. Our employees have always identified themselves by what they are doing and not by their position. This is most important. It guarantees that they like their job and enjoy what they are doing.  We continue to inform our employs directly via our intranet or via video messages.
Philipp Horsch: By the way, the new network structure can be illustrated excellently. The organisation charts in our company do not consist of lines and columns, there is no top and no bottom! We show our organisation as networks – with the customer right in the middle – which can change quickly according to the tasks and requirements. Yes, it is a challenge for all of us, but we are entering this change process confidently and we are looking forward to seeing how it will change us sustainably.