Transformation is what everyone is talking about, because digitalization demands adaptable and customer-oriented organizations. Apparently steadfast organizational principles and behaviors that have been successful for many years must be questioned: away from the local efficiency optimum in the functional silo towards interdisciplinary cooperation along the value stream, away from long-term planning in a relatively stable environment towards sailing by sight in the VUCA storm and away from the pyramid towards the network as the prevailing organizational principle. However, such a radical change only succeeds if the people concerned are not merely “won over” as passive objects, but are allowed to participate with equal dignity in shaping the change.
Not everything that has transformation in neon letters on its cover actually is a transformation. It all starts with the erroneous assumption that agility can boost employee performance just like some sort of concentrated feed. Misguided by this promise of greater efficiency, an agile transformation is then ordered from the top and proven blueprints (Spotify and Co.) are evaluated and rolled out. This ultimately leads to an “agilization” of the existing encrusted structures and processes without rigorously questioning them. In the end there is hardly any transformation left but only agile label fraud: Same same but different.
Who decides and how can good decisions be taken? For a long time, this question did not even arise in many hierarchical organizations. In case of doubt, the decision is up to the boss or a small high-ranking leadership circle, which in the best case features a high degree of diversity and honors disagreement but which in the worst case scenario only consists of claqueurs. As more and more organizations try to become more agile, new answers to the question of who decides and how to decide are of central importance. After all, agility means subsidiarity, i.e. that decisions must be made as decentralized as possible in self-organizing teams. Only how?
Digitalization does not replace humans and it cannot do without them. On the contrary, it is precisely because of digitalization that what is typically human is more in demand than ever before. This refers in particular to our ability to find creative solutions together as independent individuals and to work together effectively and efficiently in teams and organizations. In the past, this cooperation has long been characterized by central control on the one hand and obedient fulfillment of duties on the other. What was not very human for unskilled workers at the beginning of industrialization, but at least productive, has finally become a degrading impertinence in the middle of the information age. New leadership today aims at cooperation that enables independence in the sense of the whole.
Much can be learned from Lean Management: Understanding the value for the customer, then identifying the value stream and optimizing the flow to avoid unnecessary effort and last but not least ensuring continuous improvement. However, the focus should not only be on the application of other and better methods, but also on a different leadership culture. The second pillar of the Toyota Way therefore is respect for people. At the core of Lean Management are the people as its essential success factor. The motto of Lean Leadership is therefore “empowering not instructing “. This principle deserves to be disseminated at least as vigorously as the well-known concepts and methods of Lean Management.