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Interview with the team leaders Michael Hess and Andreas Arni.

Michael Hess and Andreas Arni provide an insight into their task area and cooperation in the team.

Evelyne Gänsli, specialist areas Commerce and Communications Systems, Command and Control and Reconnaissance Systems.

Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems and Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems in the Administrative Centre at Guisanplatz 1 in Bern.
(Left to right) Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems and Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems.

What made you come to armasuisse when you did?

Michael Hess: It wasn’t planned – it was more of a happy coincidence. My motives in applying for this job included the exciting description of tasks (content of the task, personal responsibility in commercial project business, variety in a technologically constantly changing environment), the sense of purpose of the work in the Federal Government in favour of the public good as well as a certain personal affinity for military technology and the military environment. Last but not least, the work location Bern and the fair pay contributed to my taking the position.

What do you do as a team leader? What are your tasks?

Michael Hess: My management function, which accounts for about 30% of my workload, encompasses direct HR management: Target-setting processes, staff appraisals, as well as backing, supporting and encouraging staff. I stand up for my team, represent it to my superiors and see myself as the link relieving the head of the specialist area Commerce. At the same time, I work 70% in operations for commercial procurement projects in the specialist area of Command and Control Systems.

Andreas Arni: As the head of the Commerce team FAK, I function mainly as the link between strategic and operative topics. My task area is a mix of commercial manager in procurement projects as well as various leadership tasks (coaching, further development of employees, target-setting agreements, resource planning, etc.). This means that I am just as stretched in my daily work as my team, but about 30% of my workload is dedicated to various management tasks.

What is your everyday work as team leader like?

Michael Hess: Probably even more unplanned than before... (laughs). Every day is different; in addition to plannable meetings, the working day is often punctuated by the urgency of incoming orders and requests. Some of the concerns come from our own project business, others from the staff. I prioritise these continuously and constantly find myself in a back-and-forth between the role of a manager and that of a project member.

Andreas Arni: There is no real typical working day as such. I spend a large part of my working time in meetings and discussions. The actual challenge is to prioritise the tasks properly. In particular when deadline-critical business needs to be processed and my role as team leader is required at the same time.

What has been your biggest challenge on the path from staff member to your new role as team leader?

Michael Hess: The biggest challenge was no longer being responsible only for my own work results, but also for the well-being of my staff. Suddenly, the focus was on individuals with all their facets, demanding a different approach from me in both emotional and empathic respects. The various different characters and interpersonal relationships require a great deal of empathy, sure instinct and the ability to deal with any disagreements that might arise in a sustainable manner.

I experienced the change from staff member to team leader as positive. My long-term experience at armasuisse definitely helped me in this. Likewise, the team was behind me and supported me right from the beginning. I retained my collegial manner and feel that I am taken seriously and supported by my staff.

Andreas Arni: Before I started my new role, I took a very close look at this issue. At the beginning, I was concerned that it could lead to a greater distance in relationships. Fortunately, this did not prove to be the case. In my opinion, it was a big advantage for me that my colleagues, now my staff, already knew my strengths and weaknesses very well. This enabled me to be who I am and remain authentic. In addition, I tried to show, in the team building phase, that I as the team leader am a part of the team. I used team sport as a good example here. Because from my point of view, the role of team leader can be compared very well with that of a team captain.

What is your personal goal as a team leader?

Michael Hess: Staff satisfaction and well-being is the highest goal. In addition, respectful yet collegial interaction with one another is important. Good performance for the benefit of the procurement projects as well as armasuisse can, in my opinion, only be achieved with motivated employees, who can act in a working environment which supports them. For my personal development, I would like to further intensify my experiences in the management area.

Andreas Arni: I want to support and stretch my staff individually, and to encourage them to leave their comfort zone. In addition, they should be able to say, when looking back, that the time at armasuisse was one of the best in their career.

What would you like to achieve with your team?

Michael Hess: Apart from our coherence as a team that I mentioned above, I would like to support the procurement projects as well as the internal strategic projects from a commercial perspective on an optimum basis, together with my colleagues.

Andreas Arni: The workload has steadily increased over the last few years. It is thus a central task in our Commerce teams to strive for a tolerable workload balance for each individual and to share the workload amongst us all.

Each of us should recognise the purpose of their daily activities, perform their work with pleasure and be proud to be able to generate added value for society.

What is particularly important for you in your team? What do you place value on?

Michael Hess: I place great importance on mutual appreciation, respect and an open and direct tone with one another. I also expect everyone to take on personal responsibility to the extent permissible, to show common sense and even to critically question decisions and facts, as well as offer constructive criticism. Last but not least, the formal quality of work is very important to me as a perfectionist.

Andreas Arni: I place particular value on honesty. As a leader, I rely on open and direct information from my team, so that I can react in time. We also maintain a culture of dissent in the team. Everyone should have the courage to contradict and be allowed to express their own opinion. Each voice is important, should be heard and taken seriously. Because only together, and thanks to the versatility of each individual, can we move forward as a team and be successful.

If you had a free hand, what would you change in terms of optimisation?

Michael Hess: Currently, an awful lot is being optimised and changed in our specialist area. This is very important, however, I also believe that more consideration should be given to the current resource constraints.

Andreas Arni: The pandemic, which has been going on for more than a year, has already provided a considerable amount of optimisation. This is because we currently cannot avoid placing more trust in staff and not want to control them. I hope that this positive development will remain in place after the pandemic.

In addition, we should not lose sight of our core task of procurement and need to improve ourselves constantly in this regard.

How do you reconcile family and job (work-life balance)?

Michael Hess: Very well. This is one of the reasons why I have been working for armasuisse for so long. I see it as very positive that I am able to work at a rate of 80% in a management function. I consider it very rewarding to spend more time with my two small children and it provides a good balance to my everyday office life. In addition, the home workplace increases flexibility and makes it easier to coordinate family and work.

Andreas Arni: In our area, we are relatively flexible and can largely organise our working hours ourselves, which I greatly appreciate. My family also helps me quickly forget the working day after work hours and I can additionally recharge my batteries playing football with my friends once a week.

With the will and courage, as well as a healthy portion of perseverance, an awful lot is possible.

                                                                                                                   - Andreas Arni

Where do you see yourself in 5-10 years?

Michael Hess: I’m not able to plan so far into the future. However, I continue to see myself in a varied, exciting, dynamic and challenging working environment.

Andreas Arni: armasuisse has a very flat hierarchy and therefore I would not venture to make any predictions. It is certain however, that I want to continue to develop, which does not necessarily mean that I have to move up the hierarchy. Our employer offers a variety of opportunities for further development, and with the will and courage, as well as a healthy portion of perseverance, an awful lot is possible.

Brief profile Michael Hess

Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems; Tom Hug, team leader of Commerce Reconnaissance and Monitoring Systems; Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems and Claus Köhnen, team leader of Commerce Computer Systems/Dep H FAKo in the Administrative Centre at Guisanplatz 1 in Bern.
(Left to right) Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems; Tom Hug, team leader of Commerce Reconnaissance and Monitoring Systems; Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems; Claus Köhnen, team leader of Commerce Computer Systems/Dep H FAKo.

Michael Hess has a university master’s degree in Business Administration. He joined armasuisse as a project controller in October 2007. He has been team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems since January 2019.

Brief profile Andreas Arni

Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems; Claus Köhnen, team leader of Commerce Computer Systems/Dep H FAKo; Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems and Tom Hug, team leader of Commerce Reconnaissance and Monitoring Systems at Guisanplatz 1 in Bern.
(Left to right) Andreas Arni, team leader of Commerce Communications Systems; Claus Köhnen, team leader of Commerce Computer Systems/Dep H FAKo; Michael Hess, team leader of Commerce Command and Control Systems; Tom Hug, team leader of Commerce Reconnaissance and Monitoring Systems.

Andreas Arni is a Swiss Certified Business Economist HF and was previously employed in the private sector. He joined armasuisse as a project controller in May 2012. He has been team leader of Commerce Communication Systems since January 2019.