‘Be honest!’

‘Open and honest communication is always required if you want to make things better. Even when that might be difficult. Hein can help. ‘It’s a serious matter’, Jules Heijneman admits, ‘but we also laugh a lot in the process.’ In its very first year, hein was employed at big names such as BAM, Schiphol and Siemens. How did that happen?

By Jurjen de Jong

‘Large organizations especially have the professional know-how to see quickly how hein can help them. They’ve been through many phases of improvement and are always on the lookout for new ways to get even better.’

Why is hein the answer for them?

‘We can adapt hein to fit their needs. Hein doesn’t only promote openness, it’s an open concept by itself. For larger organizations, which are virtually always in a state of “constant improvement”, this is very attractive. Hein is more effective when we adapt it to the specific needs of an organization. Sometimes the focus will be entirely on safety, which is how hein got started, but other organizations want a broader focus: learning how to communicate openly and honestly to improve company culture as a whole.’

Isn’t that a cliché? Who doesn’t say that they’re “flexible”?
OK, let me put it more concretely. A few years back, hein was still a boardgame, the “Safety game”, which helped people to speak up about each other’s unsafe behaviour. This game is still an element of what we do, but now it works within a bigger system, and sometimes we even leave it out altogether. We can be a “circus”, as it were, which travels through an organization in every way it can. Hein always includes trainers, but we also involve cartoonists, actors, or our very own hein journalist. We learn more every time we adapt hein to a different situation, which we can then apply to future projects. I’m glad you picked up on our “flexibility”, because, in fact, we go much further than that. Hein transforms permanently.’

So, what are the constant elements of hein?

‘The fact that we’re working to create a more open culture. Time and time again, our clients tell us that openness leads to huge breakthroughs – different ones in each organization. It’s often a combination of better cooperation, higher customer satisfaction, greater quality, more safety, more flexibility, innovation, employee satisfaction, ethical awareness, and you can go on. Some organizations have specific areas in mind and link hein to a specific theme, such as safety or cooperation. In those cases, you’ll find that they make more focused progress.’ (For practical examples, read the interviews with our clients under ‘hein according to’)

‘Hein can be hard-hitting. That’s tricky for some people, but incredibly freeing for others…’

How does hein achieve that?

It might be quite contrary to my message, but I try not to be too open about everything hein entails. There are various elements to hein that work better when they come as a surprise. Of course, we do let a small core team know, the client has to know about everything they can expect. Now, to answer your question: Hein can be hard-hitting. That’s tricky for some, but incredibly freeing for others… Still, it’s never too much to handle, because we also use a lot of humour.’

You sound driven, where does that come from?

It’s grown every step of the way. It started when I was still working as a trainer and wanted to get people to engage in open and honest dialogue, speaking up about each other’s behaviour. I asked myself, how do you get people to do that? Then I met Kim Reuser, an occupational and organizational psychologist just like me. She was trying to find out how to get people to feel responsible for their own behaviour, to the point that that informs their actions. How do you stimulate people to speak up about their own actions, and those of others? To answer all those questions, we created a prototype of hein, as it were, which we then had scientifically tested. The results showed clearly that we were on the right path, and this sparked an enormous enthusiasm.