There are all sorts of ideas. And those who have visions should consult a physician, as Helmut Schmidt once said. After all, the most important thing is that the business runs efficiently, and wild ideas only get in the way of that. If they nevertheless haunt your organization, here are three surefire ways to kill any innovation right from the start.
For Winston Churchill it was crystal clear that without courage all other virtues would become meaningless. It is not only in society and politics that we need courage more urgently today than we have in a long time; more would also benefit our companies and their employees. We need courage to make traditional organizations fit for the future. The current absolutist-hierarchical building principle has finally served its purpose. In the age of digitalization and knowledge work, our companies require a new enlightenment with a more consistent separation of powers. Immanuel Kant’s motto for the Enlightenment should therefore stand above every gate: “Dare to know! Have the courage to use your own intelligence!”
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 …