Harald Schirmer - es kommt nicht nur darauf an, was wir tun, sondern WIE wir es tun!

The best hiking boots won’t take HR to Mars!

April 14th 2018 – translation of  this post by Sebastian Kolberg

The DGFP invites you to think about the future of HR in a blog parade. I am happy to participate in the discussion as a basis for the conference on 3-4 May, which will take place in parallel – and in conjunction with re:publica.

DGFPc18 Blogparade


The core question is: Why should someone take HR on a mission to Mars? A beautiful image that makes the digital transformation and the necessary „DenkRaumErweiterung“ (means: „Think beyond the common frame“) clear. My provocative thesis:


The best hiking boots don’t take HR to Mars!


It should be said in advance that we should urgently talk about what our „Mars“ is and what we want to go there for – not as forced people, but as designers with a desirable vision 😉


We are in the midst of a revolutionary, rapid and comprehensive transformation of the framework conditions. To stick with images: We have long since sharpened the axe and developed it into a chainsaw through continuous improvement and innovation – our tools and methods are perfectly suited for the world in which they were created. Unfortunately, there is less and less „forest“ to which these tools fit. Mars is a desert (perhaps also a sea), also in the rocket or the spaceship on the way there neither the water-repellent, superlight but comfortably robust hiking boots nor the chainsaw will do us any good service.

Now the evangelists shout: „Throw away your hiking boots, we want to fly, float, beam“ – only who can do that? There is also the day-to-day business and the processes optimized over the years, which leave hardly any time to start something new at all. Then also everything has become so much and so complicated, oh and budget is unfortunately also none planned 😉


Where are the pioneers in HR,
who, after three failed missile landings.
put all your eggs in one basket and try again?


Where are the HR managers, board members, decision-makers, but also business partners, works councils or lawyers who take real risks? Taking the plunge into something that cannot be calculated by ROI (Return on Investment) or simply measured by KPI (Key Performance Indicator)?


They exist!We often look at Tesla’s large, effective advertising campaigns in space (admittedly, enthusiasm can hardly be better)– and overlook the many small „innovation plants“ that we often crush in the process.


Change always seems to emanate from great events, from „heroes“ who suddenly question the world, do things that nobody would have thought possible… (Everyone knew it wouldn’t work – until someone made it easy). I am convinced that this is only superficially correct – and we no longer really need these hero stories as a society.


Change has been taking place for decades – on a small scale.
With each and every one of us!


We are constantly getting used to things that are suddenly there (SmartPhones, robots, autonomous trains, electric cars 😉 These are the basic conditions that are changing constantly and dramatically fastnowadays due to the high level of networking. If something happens/works/fails or is invented anywhere in the world today… the information about it is known faster than the product is available.


I experience many colleagues who „want to„, but in the end just follow the conclusions of software masks, established processes and the conclusions of the analogous time.


As HR specialists we want to work for and with people, but we quickly reduce this real interest, the human contact or the value-creating support to the form, the given assessment, the apparently alternativeless process. Why? Because a business partner can’t personally look after 200+ employees, can he?


Here I invite you to think „digital“ / „scalable“:

Can 150,000 employees
work together in 
a project and participate?


We prove this here in participation campaigns, or here in global change projects or in daily (virtual) teamwork. This requires different tools, different communication channels and of course a different way of dealing with people, information and processes.


When I ask questions like – „What if we were to do what people really want“, I usually get this answer:


If we would just start with that,
that’s what everybody would want,
and we couldn’t afford it!


That’s when the „business case“ bell rings. „Attention customer threatens with order“ – there is a need, which cannot be covered by conventional processes – no question… but what if there are possibilities today?


What HR longs for is „to be needed„, to get recognition – you can experience this at almost every conference – a constant process of self-discovery.


What does someone look like who is „needed“? Who do we turn to when we need „help“?

  •     Someone who’s available
  •     Someone who has time and interest – to listen
  •     Someone we trustto be able to help us
  •     Someone who’s beenwhere we want to go


„HR as a „trusted irritator“

Trusted: As an organizational developer or personnel developer, I see our future in accompanying employees and managers, discovering and developing potential together (this is nothing new, of course)– but personally, as a confidante or companion on a common path – at eye level!


Irritator: Someone who brings me into a questioning attitude, brings my innovative powerand creativity into flow, shows me self-efficacy, disturbs me in a positive way in my thought patterns, lifts me off the rails through meaningful interventions and shows me outer space.

How about we dare to say:

I want to/can change the world?


„Hybris, arrogance, paranormal delirium? I see this as a matter of definition – and would like to suggest a „healthy“ version of it. Of course, each one of us CAN change HIS world at any time – and this of course has an impact on his environment. A trip on holiday, a move or a change of job are such noticeable changes, sport, nutrition, clothing style, competence development, career – or else:

the Brain Jail
from the limiting restrictions
of what has been „learned“ so far.


LEARNING is the process of findinga successful way to a solutionyourself or together with others (interpreted very freely). But what if – as described above – the basic conditions of this learning path have changed and earlier dead ends suddenly lead faster to the goal, or nobody has gone this way yet?


What if the familiar method
(Running with good shoes)
isn’t getting us in the air/ to the Mars?


What if the good old wood fire doesn’t give us enough energy for the space flight, or if nobody wants to take our methods, processes and tools with them on the flight?


The change-makers, intrapreneurs, innovators… have long since arrived!

 In my opinion, the great heroes of change in our contemporary history are „only“ the visible lighthouses of a „time that has come“.

Anyone who looks into the organization with curious eyes today will find countless employees who have long started to practice New Work, who – even if without disciplinary personnel responsibility – live perfect Leadership 4.0 (e.g. Community Manager). One will find lively networks– self-initiated, without a mandate, bypassing the system, but efficient and successful – and often not valued or against the resistance of their leaders. We are experiencing great works councils here that sign trust-based manifestos instead of limiting works agreements! Even lawyers who, instead of avoiding any risk, offer their expertise as a service „This is how we can do it, instead of – that is not possible, or is forbidden“.


But there is also an even greater number of people who are „dissatisfied“, who realize that a lot is no longer right here and have a HOPE for change! All this sounds to me like the time has come NOW to SHAPE.


If HR wants in the rocket to Mars,
it’s time to find these
self-proclaimed, intrinsically motivated
Change Agents,
to learn from them, to promote them,
to systematize their individual successes
and make them available and experienceable
for the entire organization.


Let us find and strengthen the HR pioneers who try to overcome the ground with self-built planes, because they have the „dream of Mars“ and are actively working on it. Above all, however, they are not slowed down by trivialities such as gravity. Because of course there are facts, experiences and proofs for many things that have never worked before. But that’s exactly why experimenting is so important – to try something WITHOUT KNOWING what comes out of it.


We need the courage again
to do something crazy!


A few examples:

  • giving employees – no matter what prerequisites they bring – the chance to take on a task as a network (German Link only)
  • Instead of regulating or forbidding things to minimize possible risks, to trust colleagues and to grant freedoms – Manifesto (German Link only)
  • As a responsible expert – ask „normal employees“ for their opinion (and respect them)
  • Apply as a cross-organizational network for an award
  • To do something simply without asking for permission beforehand
  • Something to do, even if there is still no benchmark, ROI or empirical values
  • simply think away the VIP status of the hierarchy, and „talk to each other normally“.
  • Take a problem into your own hands, without an obligation, without budget and without approval… simply because it makes sense
  • Saying what you think – appreciative but honest and without apologizing for it
  • Standing up, even if everyone else stays seated
  • Create a community and prove to yourself and others that an idea can work
  • don’t give up if it doesn’t work the first time


Change begins in and with us – person by person… via the open communication channels we easily find like-minded people today, who give us confirmation and energy „I am not alone“ – networks arise from this, then movements… and then the time has come to climb the rocket. Whoever was „there“ to set it up is sure to be taken with them (or take the others with them).

So let’s SHAPE as HR (build the rocket)!



I look forward to the congress and an exchange about these initiatives, to learn from others, to network with crazy people and to shape a future worth living together.


BIG THANK you again to Sebastian Kolberg for taking the effort and translating the original post into English, so it can also be used within other global organizations. Social and Sharing at it’s best!






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