Sander Stomph faces a phenomenal challenge. Charged with achieving operational excellence at Royal Dutch Airlines (KLM), the Director at KLM Operations responsible for Design Doing and Data Science, continuously strives to improve efficiency, customer service and innovation within KLM’s operations. Dissatisfied with prevailing approaches to operational efficiency and change management, Stomph opted to implement a more customer-centric strategy, adopting design thinking and data science methodologies to develop innovative solutions, products and services.
“We believe that the only way to be successful in delivering our promise to our customers is if we co-create that promise together with [them] and the frontline staff,” Stomph says. “We want to do it in a way that really pleases our customers and also in a way that’s efficient for us.”
With a penchant for business, Stomph obtained his Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and Management at the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences before completing his Masters in Business Administration at the Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam. In 2007, he served as Head of Online Marketing at technology start-up Nimbuzz and then joined KLM as a Corporate Management Trainee. There, Stomph led the restructuring of the airline’s maintenance activities and went on to become Director of Operational Excellence. In 2017, he started the department at KLM Operations responsible for Design Doing and Data Science.
“How do you scale design? It’s easy to co-create with a group of ten people, but how do you co-create everyday in all aspects of the company at the same time? How do you manage that? Does that even work?”
In order to succeed in an ever-changing environment, Stomph is convinced that large organisations such as KLM can no longer rely on a top-down approach to problem-solving. Instead, the airline is working to develop a system that applies design thinking and co-creation in a live operating environment. Through a strategic partnership with Delft University of Technology (TU Delft), KLM created several spaces that bring customers, employees, faculty members and students together to rapidly design practical solutions and scale them up for immediate implementation.
Stomph takes this partnership one step further as a Design United Visiting Professor. Working in collaboration with the Industrial Design Engineering faculty, Stomph aims to further KLM’s design doing capabilities through research and to foster a culture of action throughout the company. At the same time, he plans to share the experience and research findings with different industries and to establish a community of practice with other businesses.
“How do you scale design?” Stomph asks. “It’s easy to co-create with a group of ten people, but how do you co-create everyday in all aspects of the company at the same time? How do you manage that? Does that even work?”
Change is the new normal
KLM’s decision to incorporate design doing into its operations is predicated on the mindset that “X-Day” is coming — a moment in time when change occurs so rapidly that the organisation is compelled to adapt and adapt quickly. When that day comes, Stomph hopes that KLM has done enough to meet the challenge head on.
“Our employees have to prepare for that moment because —when change is going so fast— it’s not feasible anymore to have meetings or to ask your supervisor what you should do, so you have to be empowered. You have to be equipped to make the decisions yourself.”
Personal profile of Sander Stomph
Visiting professor 2017
Director at KLM Operations, responsible for Design Doing and Data Science