In 2008, a team at Google launched Project Oxygen. The aim of the project was to find out what defines good leadership and what behaviors characterize a good manager at Google. Being a data-driven company the team approached this question on the basis of data from employee surveys and the managers’ annual performance reviews. The original eight behaviors have recently been reworked and two new behaviors have been added. At first glance, they still seem quite trivial or, as the New York Times noted in its 2011 article, almost like a gag on the whiteboard in the television series “The Office”. But one must not be deceived by this simplicity. Google has seen positive effects in recent years in terms of employee satisfaction, turnover and performance through incorporating these finding into trainings and through the intense focus on leadership that accompanies the publication. This is reason enough for a second look.
There is plenty of advice on leadership. However, few are as concise and authentic as those of Jack Welch, General Electric’s long-standing and extraordinarily successful CEO. For him, leadership means firstly giving meaning and orientation to people’s work and then ensuring that people can work on it as unhindered as possible. Second, good leadership is generous in making others successful without envy. And finally, good leadership serves people and gives them joy and fulfillment: “Be the Chief Fun Officer!”
Change and change management was yesterday. Today we are doing transformations. A digital transformation for business models, because data is the new oil. An agile transformation for the organization and its processes, because flexibility and speed are essential in times of great uncertainty. Unfortunately often only the name has changed and where it is labelled with transformation it actually contains very traditional – and very tayloristic – change management. That’s why panaceas and blueprints are on the rise: simply introduce LeSS or SAFe or copy Spotify and call this your agile transformation. However, this completely ignores the nature of a transformation as a natural development process of a complex system in favor of a pattern that has so far only worked reasonably well, but is at least well-known and appears well manageable: simply transforming the organization and the people in it like a complicated machine. Accompanied, of course, by all kinds of “change theatre”, because somehow you have to win the people. A successful transformation that deserves this name, however, is based on visions instead …
Leadership is about making others successful. This is the leadership philosophy of Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google. The founder of the drugstore chain dm, Götz W. Werner, gets even more to the point and states: “Leadership is nowadays only legitimate if it is aimed at the self-leadership of the people entrusted to it”. Leadership is therefore an equal function within and for a group of people and always an encounter of adults on par with each other. In contrast to Taylor’s management, which is still too deeply rooted in our hierarchical organizations, leadership means first and foremost asking (the right) questions rather than giving (the right) answers.
This is now the eighth year I’m blogging. I like writing. Writing helps me to get to the point. And by this I mean, really to the point and not just to bullet points on a slide of PowerPoint. Formulating thoughts in such a way that they appeal to the reader and the message reaches the reader is damn hard work. It requires discipline and concentration – for every article, every week again. It is all the more astonishing that Jeff Bezos has banned PowerPoint completely and instead insists on six-page narratives, which are then studied in silence (sic!) by everyone at the beginning of a meeting. If Jeff Bezos and his team utilize their time in this way in the extremely fast-moving business fields in which Amazon in very successful, this can be seen as an inspiration for all of us to tell more and better stories instead of heartlessly enumerating endless lists of bullet points.