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Room for Improvement: André Maat, Uniper

Top Tips for Success as an Improvement Professional

As Senior Vice President of Operational Excellence at major European energy company Uniper, André Maat has a wealth of experience to draw on and countless words of wisdom to share with his team of improvement professionals as they support projects across more than 40 countries.

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3 practical tips for success as an Improvement Professional

André’s eyes were opened to the world of Operational Excellence almost 25 years ago.  He’s walked where you have; faced the same challenges and celebrated a multitude of successes.  But there’s always room for improvement.  Here, he shares his top 3 learnings to help you boost your skills as an improvement professional.

  • Don’t be fooled into prioritising improvement efforts where people are shouting loudest. Drawing on his mantra “show me the data”, André tells us that even ‘quick and dirty’ facts and figures tell the reality of a situation more clearly than opinion, however passionate that person may be.​
  • Regardless of how skilled or experienced you are as an improvement professional, listen to your customers. Understand what they tell you, and listen to the voice of the process to learn about the things that they don’t.​
  • Drawing on the Plan, Do, Study, Act (PDSA) cycle of improvement, “fail often, fail safe” is another of André’s favourite mottos. ‘It’s hard work and you will fail regularly,’ he tells us, so rather than spending all of your time designing the perfect solution, PDSA smaller steps to achieve incremental improvements before the budget has run out and the energy is gone. ​

"If you talk a lot, you don't listen very well. Don't fall in love with your own ideas, but listen, listen, listen, try to understand what your customers really want, and how you might achieve that with all of your Continuous Improvement tools and structures."

How does Operational Excellence support the business?​

With an organisation-wide mindset of “no matter how good we are, we believe we can always be better”, everyone at Uniper is responsible for challenging and improving the way they work.  Here’s how the sought-after skills of the Operational Excellence Team help:

  • Develop the capability to generate sustainable results
  • Build a culture where opportunities to improve are welcomed
  • Work collaboratively to achieve tangible business results


Better for your people

The secret behind inspiring everyone to bring their best selves to work each day?  Build an environment where “mistakes” are seen as an opportunity to strengthen the system through innovative improvements.

For André, witnessing team members contributing with authenticity and honesty is one of the most significant benefits of the Operational Excellence programme at Uniper.


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Inspired by our conversation with André Maat?

As a business improvement professional, PDSA is the number one tool in your kit bag, so it’s critical that this is well understood and applied.  Join Des Kelly as he covers the method, the thinking, and the application.

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Leadership to drive improvement

To reap the benefits of continuous improvement, a culture where all team members are empowered to identify opportunities for incremental change should be ‘business as usual’.

But if the management team aren’t embracing that mindset and demonstrating by example, why should everyone else?  As André tells us, leaders should not only support improvement, they should actively drive it forward.


Our video series aims to provide inspiration for people who are developing their Business Improvement capabilities.

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