The Blog

Gradual fabrication of thoughts while writing.

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.

On the Cognitive Dissonance of Modern Leadership in Traditional Organizations

To have devel­oped a coher­ent mod­ern lead­er­ship atti­tude is one thing. How­ev­er, to endure the ten­sion between this aspi­ra­tion and the sober­ing real­i­ty of every­day lead­er­ship in most­ly more tra­di­tion­al struc­tures is some­thing com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent. In many cas­es, this ten­sion, known from social psy­chol­o­gy as cog­ni­tive dis­so­nance, can only be resolved by sac­ri­fic­ing one’s own aspi­ra­tions. But there are also oth­er pos­si­bil­i­ties than will­ing­ly sub­mit­ting to one’s fate.

Agility is Team Sport

The end of the year is the time of appraisal inter­views. Usu­al­ly the per­for­mance of the indi­vid­ual is eval­u­at­ed. How­ev­er, the cre­ation of val­ue in orga­ni­za­tions and espe­cial­ly in agile teams is actu­al­ly always the result of team­work. This focus on indi­vid­ual per­for­mance leads to loose groups of mediocre soloists instead of excel­lent team performance.

The Logic of Agility

When peo­ple talk about agili­ty, some rave about cus­tomer ori­en­ta­tion and speed, while oth­ers invoke the self-orga­ni­za­tion and auton­o­my of the team. Most­ly these and some oth­er con­cepts float more or less inco­her­ent­ly in a mys­ti­cal cloud around the cen­tral con­cept of agili­ty. An attempt to put these ideas into a log­i­cal context.

Three Inspiring Stories on New Leadership

What we can learn from the sug­ar con­sump­tion of Gand­hi, from Netflix’s sur­pris­ing resem­blance to a nuclear sub­ma­rine, and from the fright­en­ing team dynam­ics of super chick­ens about new lead­er­ship. On the occa­sion of the X‑Conference 2020 I tell my three favorite sto­ries about role mod­els, respon­si­bil­i­ty and trust — also as video for lis­ten­ing, think­ing and imitating.

Personal Responsibility Instead of Obedience

Lone­ly Christ­mas? How does the Bavar­i­an Prime Min­is­ter Markus Söder actu­al­ly talk to us? I’m sick of being admon­ished like a child, threat­ened and occa­sion­al­ly praised. With this ongo­ing infan­tiliza­tion of mature cit­i­zens, the gov­ern­ment is under­min­ing the self-orga­ni­za­tion and per­son­al respon­si­bil­i­ty that we urgent­ly need for a sus­tain­able con­tain­ment of the pandemic.

The Corrosive Effect of E‑Mail

Fast com­mu­ni­ca­tion with e‑mail should sup­port the actu­al work. And being able to book a meet­ing quick­ly should also be a relief. In fact, how­ev­er, e‑mails and meet­ings unin­ten­tion­al­ly became the core work con­tent of many knowl­edge work­ers because their sim­plic­i­ty replaced and cor­rod­ed struc­tured workflows.

The Agile Transformation and Its Metrics

In ret­ro­spect, I con­sid­er it one of my biggest mis­takes to have always cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly reject­ed met­rics for the agile trans­for­ma­tion. Although I still see the dan­ger of an explo­sion of car­go cult if phe­nom­e­na of agili­ty are mea­sured and reward­ed instead of the essence, I would con­scious­ly take the risk today. For soon­er or lat­er, in every trans­for­ma­tion, there comes a time when the ques­tion is raised very insis­tent­ly as to what all this is meant to achieve and what it brings. And then you have to beat the sys­tem with its own weapons.

Practical Constraints: Resistance is Futile

Every trans­for­ma­tion entails fric­tion with the sta­tus quo. Those who sim­ply accept the prac­ti­cal con­straints that are brought into play dilute the trans­for­ma­tion. The new is then only some­how amal­ga­mat­ed with the col­lec­tive with­out bring­ing about a sig­nif­i­cant change. The trans­for­ma­tion itself is trans­formed and its pro­tag­o­nists are either assim­i­lat­ed or repelled. 

Creatures of Habit

Chang­ing behav­ior and habits is often tedious. The spir­it is will­ing, but the flesh is weak, it is said. And that is exact­ly where the prob­lem lies. Behav­ioral change is not only a ques­tion of will and moti­va­tion, but can be strate­gi­cal­ly bet­ter addressed with a dif­fer­en­ti­at­ed under­stand­ing of human behav­ior. The behav­ioral mod­el of B.J. Fogg pro­vides the basis for this.

On Top of Mount Stupid

Entire orga­ni­za­tions also suf­fer from the Dun­ning-Kruger effect. After the first steps of trans­for­ma­tion and the first insights, they are stuck at the peak of “Mount Stu­pid”, where they enjoy all kinds of car­go cult gross­ly over­es­ti­mat­ing what they have already achieved.

Gap Size and Agility

The cre­do of the start-up cul­ture, “Fail fast, fail cheap”, still has the bland after­taste of slop­pi­ness for Ger­man engi­neers and their man­agers. This typ­i­cal Ger­man fix­a­tion on gap sizes pre­vents agili­ty and slows us down.

Digital Decluttering — Get Out of the Rabbit Hole

Thir­ty days with­out social media apps on my smart­phone. Thir­ty days of not enjoy­ing likes on the side and quick­ly answer­ing a com­ment. Why should I do some­thing like that? To redis­cov­er the impor­tant moments of idling, for exam­ple. And gen­er­al­ly for a more mind­ful use of my atten­tion. A report about the escape from the rab­bit hole of the atten­tion industry.

Caution. Future.

How do peo­ple cope with change? In Vir­ginia Satir’s Change Mod­el, the phase of chaos and uncer­tain­ty is cru­cial. This is where the seed for the new and bet­ter sta­tus quo lies, pro­vid­ed that it is pos­si­ble to exper­i­ment with the new and inte­grate it prof­itably on the basis of a feel­ing of psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty. This can be well observed at the moment with the top­ic of the home office. 

Just Sitting Here

What do humans do when they do noth­ing? They think about their social life. So what hap­pens when all idle­ness is more and more clev­er­ly sup­pressed by the atten­tion econ­o­my and its apps on the smart­phone? About the anti­so­cial side effects of the unin­ter­rupt­ed dis­trac­tion through social media.

Leading with Trust

Trust is the foun­da­tion of mod­ern lead­er­ship. Vol­un­tar­i­ly and with all our heart we only fol­low whom we trust. Frances Frei and Anne Mor­riss describe three dri­vers for trust: log­ic, authen­tic­i­ty and empathy. 

Leadership Creates Safety

Trust and coop­er­a­tion emerge in a cli­mate of psy­cho­log­i­cal safe­ty. Where, con­verse­ly, com­pe­ti­tion and fear have been the pre­dom­i­nant themes, strong uni­ty can­not be expect­ed in a crisis.

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.

The Transformation Devours Its Children

COVID-19 is a touch­stone for agili­ty and new work. The cri­sis reveals the true cul­ture of the orga­ni­za­tion unvar­nished. Quite a few bean­bags and foos­ball tables now turn out to be “lip­stick on the pig”, a naive car­go cult at best and the delib­er­ate decep­tion of a Potemkin vil­lage at worst.

The Myth of Short Ways

Spa­tial prox­im­i­ty allows short ways and effi­cient coor­di­na­tion. This nar­ra­tive of the cult of pres­ence sounds plau­si­ble, but it is not true — espe­cial­ly not in large organizations.

Purpose and Trust in Crisis

Remote work and lead­er­ship at a dis­tance is based on pur­pose and trust. Where these are miss­ing, the coro­na cri­sis becomes a cri­sis of pur­pose and trust. One can learn from this — or reboot the pre­vi­ous oper­at­ing sys­tem of the orga­ni­za­tion as quick­ly as possible.

Blog Parade #remoteworks

After weeks of dis­trib­uted coop­er­a­tion it is time to draw a bal­ance. This blog parade is itself an exer­cise in dis­trib­uted asyn­chro­nous col­lab­o­ra­tion, a vir­tu­al ret­ro­spec­tive to reflect on the oppor­tu­ni­ties and lim­i­ta­tions of home office and remote work, in order to iden­ti­fy suc­cess fac­tors and pre­vent us from falling back into the old rut. 

Cynefin and Corona

Although the SARS-CoV­‑2 virus is cer­tain­ly not a wel­come but nev­er­the­less a good rea­son to reflect on how to deal with com­plex­i­ty and deci­sion-mak­ing in com­plex to chaot­ic sit­u­a­tions. The Cynefin frame­work by David Snow­den pro­vides a very help­ful frame­work to this end.

Setting the Right Course in Times of Crisis

Is this art, or does it need clear­ing away? The cri­sis is lead­ing to con­sol­i­da­tion in many places. Short-term earn­ings today are inevitably gain­ing the upper hand over spec­u­la­tive ideas for the day after tomor­row. The art of ambidex­ter­i­ty, how­ev­er, can­not be cleared away for this very rea­son! Diver­si­ty and dis­sent are espe­cial­ly impor­tant now to find the right balance. 

Crisis as an Opportunity

Despite the pre­scribed and advised spa­tial dis­tance, peo­ple move clos­er togeth­er and show more inter­est and under­stand­ing for each oth­er. If we could pre­serve this for the time after the Coro­na pan­dem­ic and do not imme­di­ate­ly fall back into old pat­terns, much would be gained.

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.

Boy Scouts and Coffee Kitchen Officers

Per­son­al­ized respon­si­bil­i­ty in the form of a “sin­gle wringable neck” is the means of choice when it comes to reli­ably shap­ing coop­er­a­tion in orga­ni­za­tions. With each such role, how­ev­er, the lev­el of orga­nized irre­spon­si­bil­i­ty increases. 

Integrity Over Charisma

Good lead­er­ship requires integri­ty more than charis­ma. Integri­ty cre­ates a cli­mate of safe­ty in which peo­ple can thrive, while charis­ma often leads to com­pla­cen­cy and arro­gance and keeps peo­ple small and dependent.

Leadership is Relationship

Lead­er­ship takes place in and through rela­tion­ships — lead­er­ship is rela­tion­ship. We deter­mine whether these are filled with fear or with equal dig­ni­ty, the counter-pro­pos­al to the author­i­tar­i­an edu­ca­tion of the Dan­ish fam­i­ly ther­a­pist Jes­per Juul, which can very well be trans­ferred to oth­er lead­er­ship relationships.