The Year of 2020: There Is a Time for Everything

The year 2020 was extraordinary in many respects. There were many challenges, but also opportunities and bright spots. The crisis accelerated many things—including my professional reorientation. In this respect, the crisis really is a productive state, as Max Frisch once wrote.

A year of uncer­tain­ty, chal­lenges and change is com­ing to an end. It began for us as it could not have begun bet­ter: On Jan­u­ary 4, our son Valentin was born healthy and hap­py. Since then, this lit­tle bun­dle of ener­gy has enriched our lives as par­ents and the lives of his two sis­ters Marie and Ella in a unique way. I am incred­i­bly grate­ful for that.

Then came Coro­na. Like so many, I spent most of the year in the home office. I am also very grate­ful for this, because it allowed me to expe­ri­ence our fam­i­ly life and espe­cial­ly the first year of Valentin’s life with an inten­si­ty that I had nev­er known before, despite sev­er­al months of parental leave with our daughters.

A cri­sis like this also has a cat­alyt­ic effect. Some things become clear­er than they were before. For me, Coro­na accel­er­at­ed the process of my pro­fes­sion­al reori­en­ta­tion. Per­haps this cri­sis is the worst time for this, but per­haps it is also the best, because in many com­pa­nies the pres­sure to change towards more agili­ty has increased con­sid­er­ably as a result of the cri­sis. Essen­tial­ly, I agree with Max Frisch: “A cri­sis is a pro­duc­tive state. You sim­ply have to get rid of its after­taste of catastrophe.”

Love it, Change it or Leave it

What we call the begin­ning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a begin­ning. The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot

I had nev­er made a secret of my pain of adap­ta­tion in the cor­po­rate world before. I stayed nev­er­the­less because I felt I had a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring about change togeth­er with many fel­low cam­paign­ers and to teach the ele­phant to dance a bit.

Ini­tial­ly, I found hope in grass­roots move­ments such as the Con­nect­ed Cul­ture Club and Work­ing Out Loud, both of which are sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to strength­en­ing an open learn­ing cul­ture as a foun­da­tion for agility.

My focus in recent years has clear­ly been the agile trans­for­ma­tion of BMW Group IT. A few scat­tered agilists from the ear­ly days (anoth­er grass­roots move­ment) and a lot of pio­neer­ing spir­it gave rise to the 100% Agile strat­e­gy at some point at the end of 2016, and for me this marked the begin­ning of the most instruc­tive and reward­ing two and a half years as an Agile Trans­for­ma­tion Agent.

Since mid-2019, the agile trans­for­ma­tion of the BMW Group IT has now entered a phase of con­sol­i­da­tion, oper­a­tional­iza­tion and indus­tri­al­iza­tion. The time of pio­neer­ing is thus over. That is why we now need few­er pio­neers and more set­tlers and, in par­tic­u­lar, town plan­ners, to use Simon Wardley’s very appro­pri­ate mod­el. But I am a pas­sion­ate pio­neer, and that is why I must now also be con­sis­tent and find a new pro­fes­sion­al home where this com­pe­tence and pas­sion can once again be put to bet­ter use here and now.

There is a time for everything.

Your time is lim­it­ed, so don’t waste it liv­ing some­one else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dog­ma — which is liv­ing with the results of oth­er people’s think­ing. Don’t let the noise of oth­ers’ opin­ions drown out your own inner voice. And most impor­tant, have the courage to fol­low your heart and intu­ition. They some­how already know what you tru­ly want to become. Every­thing else is secondary.

Steve Jobs

Now, of course, the ques­tion is where this place is and where I am specif­i­cal­ly being drawn to. What is clear is that I will build on my expe­ri­ence with agili­ty, with agile trans­for­ma­tion and also with agile lead­er­ship along the lines of my Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship. Whether as an inde­pen­dent keynote speak­er and con­sul­tant or at a con­sult­ing com­pa­ny or in anoth­er cor­po­rate, how­ev­er, is not yet revealed.

Things remain exciting.

What Has Not Changed

The Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship became avail­able in Eng­lish as a paper­back in Jan­u­ary of this year, and both edi­tions are still very pop­u­lar, with over 4,500 copies sold to date. A spe­cial joy for me are the almost 100 reviews on Ama­zon with an aver­age of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Since there is no big pub­lish­er with big mar­ket­ing behind my books, every sin­gle review helps spread the word about the manifesto.

Also in 2020, the year of the tenth anniver­sary of this blog, I pub­lished 50 arti­cles here. True to my mot­to, bor­rowed from Hein­rich von Kleist, of the grad­ual fab­ri­ca­tion of thoughts while writ­ing, I processed what was on my mind in these arti­cles. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, these were top­ics around agili­ty and lead­er­ship, espe­cial­ly in the dis­trib­uted sce­nario trig­gered by the Coro­na pan­dem­ic, which is also reflect­ed in these five most-read articles.

The fre­quent­ly asked ques­tion “How do I con­trol whether my employ­ees in the home office do their work?” is actu­al­ly an oath of dis­clo­sure. It is an expres­sion of lead­er­ship fail­ure based on a deplorable con­cep­tion of man.

Mar­cus Raitner

Video Conferencing Is Not a Solution Either

Now that so many peo­ple are work­ing at home, the ques­tion aris­es how to work togeth­er well remote­ly. Spa­tial­ly dis­trib­uted col­lab­o­ra­tion does not only hap­pen through video con­fer­enc­ing, but also and pri­mar­i­ly requires writ­ten and asyn­chro­nous communication.

[More]

Cult of Presence Narratives: The Captain Belongs on the Bridge

With the first loos­en­ing of the exit restric­tions, in many offices the ramp-up back to the pre-Coro­na cult of pres­ence begins, because real work can only be done in the office and only under supervision.

[More]

The Home Office: What It’s Really All About

Home office is in fact only at first glance a ques­tion of where you work. In essence, it is about equal­i­ty, about con­cepts of human nature, trust instead of con­trol, and fun­da­men­tal­ly about the rela­tion­ship between man­ag­er and knowl­edge worker.

[More]

Leadership at a Distance — Gardener Beats Chess Master

The cri­sis is accel­er­at­ing dig­i­tal­iza­tion. Dis­trib­uted col­lab­o­ra­tion from home rather than togeth­er in an open-plan office is sud­den­ly the stan­dard. But how does lead­er­ship at a dis­tance suc­ceed? Some incite­ments to recon­sid­er from the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Leadership.

[More]

The Five Pillars of Well-Being

In which envi­ron­ment do peo­ple flour­ish and what makes them with­er? And what essen­tial cat­e­gories are there, any­way, to influ­ence this process. Where can lead­er­ship exert its influ­ence? The PERMA mod­el by psy­chol­o­gist Mar­tin Selig­man offers some very good answers.

[More]

Thank You!

My thanks goes to all read­ers and espe­cial­ly to those who gen­er­ous­ly sup­port my work here via Steady, because only this way I can run the blog here free of any advertising.

With this arti­cle I say good­bye for this year and wish rest­ful hol­i­days and a good start into a healthy and hope­ful­ly less tur­bu­lent year 2021.

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