Looking at Continuous Improvement Leaders in Operational Excellence

By: Jim Hinderks

Recently, we have continue our interviews with leaders in various operational excellence roles. In particular, we have been focusing closely on continuous improvement leaders. In the second interview of our Looking at Operational Excellence Leaders series, we spoke with Jim Hinderks, the current Global Continuous Improvement Director at Hertz, to gain his insight into what it takes to be a successful leader in the continuous improvement space, as well as the challenges he has encountered along the way.

Could you tell me about your leadership journey?

"When I first joined the Marines, I had a keen interest to serve my country and to be involved in the military. What I took from this experience is that I valued making an impact, whether that was in the Marines or being sought after as a leader in a private line of work. I took the knowledge and leadership skills I developing during my time in the Marines and have used them throughout my career at Motorola and Hertz. For me, leadership is all about putting into practice the leadership skills you have developed across your experiences." 

What essential advice would you give to aspiring continuous improvement leaders?

"Continuous improvement is often project based because there are multiple different things happening at any one time. Two things should always be remember. Firstly, as you're moving through your projects, make sure you have your define phase and that you properly define the problem statement of your project. This whole phase needs to concretely establish the business case of why you're going through with this project in the first place. Secondly, pay attention to the control phase. There are a lot of times when consultants join a project and put in place great practices and technologies, but when they leave everybody reverts back to what they were doing before because there is no control in place. Defining and controlling your projects is vital ensuring that you're driving results as a continuous improvement leader."

What are your biggest successes in leadership?

"For me in particular, I was involved in a number of consolidations across Europe. We had too many locations so we decided to consolidate them into one location in the Czech Republic.It was a hard process; people were losing their jobs and relocating but the process really allowed me to put myself into other people's shoes and to make sure that they all understood the benefits to this move. In the end, we actually managed to get everybody on board with the change and all the steps we took centered on transparency and communication. At any organization, what you're communicating from the top and how you broadcast your vision, mission, goals and initiatives are imperative in these situations." 

What challenges have you faced as a leader?

"Personally, control has been my main challenge because of the layers you have within an organization. You really need to move past this and work to empower your people. You need to trust them to do the right thing based off what you communicated. Issues with control can be solved by taking the time to fully align every team member with your expectations and then simply trust them to go out there and achieve it. Trust is earned, not given. For example, I expect my team to do their jobs and manage their work but as a leader, I need to actively communicate that expectation. You can't just assume that it's going to happen."

What makes a good continuous improvement leader?

"I would say that being analytical, neutral and informed are the most important traits when it comes to being successful. Certainly, there's an aspect of project management and leadership involved as well, you need to remember to  ask and answer the important questions surrounding the projects you're working on. Also for me, you really have to take the emotions out of leadership because you're always in somebody else's space and a successful leader is really able to be neutral and make those data driven decisions." 


Jim Hinderks started his career with 12 years in the Marine Corps but later moved on to work at Motorola where he worked for 13 years in various executive leadership roles in Operations and Global Integrated Supply Chain. He was responsible for North America and Asia Pacific and focused on bringing Process Excellence to the organization as well as developing strategies to establish a footprint in the geographies. He was also responsible for Mergers and Acquisitions for Motorola. Subsequently he spent 5 years with Sanmina Corporation where he was the Vice President of the America's Operations and Supply Chan. Two years ago, an opportunity came up at Hertz where he currently manages continuous improvement initiatives. Jim's role focuses on driving improvement throughout the organization. For example improving revenue, reducing cost and improving the customer experience by streamlining processes and reducing defects. Leading the culture of continuous improvement and teams promoting transformative change.