Robert Stemmler (Executive MPA 2010) – Windows of opportunity

As Innovation Manager at McKinsey & Co. in Frankfurt, Robert Stemmler leads a team of researchers in 25 locations around the world, bringing together their knowledge and experiences to find new and creative ways of doing business for their clients.

“The next frontier of innovation is not just through your own capabilities, but also through building ecosystems with tech startups and scale-ups. This is what we are doing,” he says. Robert’s teams mine not only the company’s global internal knowledge, but also keep a close watch on local tech startups and innovations, and look for ways to partner with them.

Robert had been working at McKinsey for several years, focusing on how to boost the performance of public sector institutions and state-owned enterprises, when he decided to pursue his Executive MPA, in 2008. “I was 30, and it was just the right time,” Robert says.

He brought both public and private sector experience to the programme, having worked in Europe and the Middle East, where he designed a new mobility programme for an oil and gas company and set up an in-house employment agency for a large public institution. He was especially interested in public finances, the allocation of funds, accountability and performance management, one of the key reasons he chose the Hertie School.

Working closely with Professor of Public Administration Gerhard Hammerschmid, Robert explored the governance of Germany’s three-tiered federal system. “From my perspective there is a major gap in the way the German government operates across three layers – federal, state and municipal, and how it allocates funding and investment and how they manage that for performance – for success,” he says. “There are accountability gaps, management gaps and most certainly performance management gaps.”

Working full time while pursuing his degree, Robert completed the programme after two years, in 2010. Like many Executive MPA graduates, Robert says peer learning was one of the key assets of the programme. “In our group the average age was around 38, and we had 10-plus years of experience,” he says. “Most people had worked in the federal administration, and some were at really high-profile agencies, like the federal aid agency, public health insurance and banking agencies.”

Robert says he still frequently applies some of the key takeaways from peer-driven dialogue and case studies at the Hertie School in his day-to-day work.

“You may not have control over resources, but you can lead by the right moves – by bringing the right coalition together, by exploring win-win, and then capturing the windows of opportunity,” Robert says. “This is what an innovation manager is about.”