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24. Apr 2024

Beyond Transformation Blueprint - Five contributions from the organization that were crucial to our transformation

by Laura von Chamier

Organizational developer, change expert, transformation manager - most people probably think of one of these job titles when it comes to which roles are important for the success of a company transformation.

Think diffferently!

After radically reorganizing our own business model and operating system almost exactly a year ago, we can now say that we are on the right track:
Similar to large construction projects, movie productions or raising children - the result is always a collective effort. Our corporate transformation is no exception.
And it's not always the obvious roles that have been carefully prepared and defined in advance in strategy meetings that are decisive for a transformation. Looking back, it was primarily the unplanned and unofficial contributions of employees who neither actively initiated nor were responsible for the transformation that made a decisive contribution to our sustainable success:

No.1: Dealing with constructions of reality - our translators

Communication in change processes is always a balancing act: you try to tell an authentic story, communicate transparently and comprehensibly and respond to the different (emotional) state of mind of the employees. But no matter how carefully the communication is planned and implemented, it is in the nature of things that ambiguities and misunderstandings arise. According to the motto: the more profound the change, the greater the potential for confusion.
We have not been spared this either. What particularly helped us in this case were people who, driven by their sense of accuracy and consistency, asked direct questions of understanding after announcements in the large group and thus prevented misunderstandings from taking on a life of their own. Guided by their experience and cultural sensitivity, they acted as 'translators' in the discussion groups, daring to share their own interpretation of the respective topic. This in turn encouraged (self-)reflection within our entire organization. Contrary to what one might assume, their translations did not lead to further collective confusion or consolidation of the silent post. Rather, their interpretations have created clarity, especially in times of uncertainty and excessive demands, counteracted counterproductive narratives and ensured that others do not get lost on our path and are literally not 'lost in translation'.

No.2: Letting go as part of renewal - our grief counselors

Transformations always start with an end. Because changing to something new also means letting go of what already exists. In our transition, we dissolved and changed things in which many people had not only invested years of energy, time and passion, but which also gave them a sense of identity. We had to say goodbye to fixed team structures and affiliations. The same applies to previous mandates and responsibilities, as we have abolished disciplinary management roles and decentralized responsibility through role-based work.
In order to create space for the new, it was important to appreciate the old and give the process of leaving a right to exist as well as sufficient understanding and time. Interestingly, people in the organization have organically turned out to be grief counselors. They have given others an open heart and ear and expressed understanding and compassion. Their superpower: they were able to hold the space for themselves and others to grieve and sensitively open up new perspectives.
Without them, we would not have been able to achieve acceptance or cooperation for our change.

No.3.: Role models who dare to try something new - our cooks

A new operating system only really comes to life when the people affected by it fill it with their very own ideas, thoughts and actions and develop it further.
During our transformation, there were people who, like Köch:innen, dared to experiment with the new system and actively created new realities. They looked at the new ingredients and started experimenting with them. For example, the people in our organization who have taken advantage of the new creative freedom by making our working methods more flexible (in terms of time). Guided by their own visions, tastes and powers of interpretation, they have created new dishes and menus that have inspired others to cook them or adapt them to their taste. As role models, they have encouraged others and taken away the fear of trying things out. Through their experiments, they have made it possible to experience how and what can work and what can burn you and under what circumstances.
With their creations, they have actively helped to shape and develop our (operating) system.

No.4: Using resistance as a resource - our accusers

Resistance in transition processes deserves attention and creative appreciation. In principle, resisting forces can be seen as a sign of a stable, self-sustaining system (according to system theory). This is a promising prerequisite for the new system. In addition, resistance can always be seen as a kind of relationship offer, because otherwise the matter would be meaningless for those involved and they would not (want to) expend any energy on it.
So we would have made our transformation less adaptive and ultimately not been able to achieve the acceptance and results if we had ignored this corrective and left the associated potential untapped.
People who pointed out contradictions and inconsistencies in the design, process or communication with courage and integrity contributed to this. They courageously represented views that others also shared but did not express and represented something in the system that wanted to be considered: As 'Anklänger:innen', they gave us valuable feedback and drew our attention to important things. In this way, we gained more than we lost with a culture of diversity of opinion and constructive dissent.

No.5: Respect for the change overload - our municipal constables

We have taken on a lot and turned (almost) all the screws that can be turned in an entrepreneurial system. And at a rapid pace: less than 4 months passed from the first announcement to the system changeover. With our adaptive change approach, we not only continuously introduced new things, but also iterated them without further ado if they didn't work. This not only put our willingness to change to the test, but also the resilience and patience of all of us. Our community constables have made a decisive contribution to ensuring that the transformation has nevertheless worked. The 'historically official' mandate of community constables was to ensure peace and order in a community. In our context, they were people with a keen sense of the current mood and the needs of the people. In particular, they sensitized us to the change (over)load and the emotional state of mind. Their impulses were not only decisive for our communication strategy. They also led us to adjust the speed of our transformation and to consistently question, pause or postpone our initiatives. This enabled us to find a better balance between change and stability in the process and sometimes we reached our goal faster by (artificially) slowing things down.

Appreciation, collective creation and a willingness to adapt with a transformative effect

A successful corporate transformation is driven by vision, continuous (collaborative) work, diversity of perspectives and the desire for a different and better future. It is the product of different contributions and therefore not the achievement of a single person, but a collective endeavor. Its success depends on how courageously those responsible for transformation and company managers value the various potentials, strengths and perspectives of employees and know how to use them as assets for change. It may require additional energy and stamina, but it pays off - at least in our transition: Through strength-based co-creation, we have developed better solutions for the system and moved more quickly to the desired target state. It is therefore worth keeping an open mind, sometimes deviating from the planned and actively incorporating the (unexpected) diverse contributions of employees into the transformation process.

We are happy to receive project inquiries

Christian Seeringer,

Business Partner Brand & Transformation Strategy

Porträtfoto von Christian Seeringer