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I have been invited to a Diversity Network for an inspiration Keynote / Excellence talk around Change, New Work Style, Trust, Leadership and Networks. My core statement: We CAN change the world, trust me it’s worth trying. I invite you to read my thoughts with additional comments and background… there has been no better time to start… now.

Inspiration to invent a future worth living in!

The future we want, needs to be invented otherwise we will get one, we don’t want (Joseph Beuys)

This quote is intended to be an inspiration to think about what drives us and me personally. Do I have a picuture of a desirable future for me or my kids? Do I go beyond „arguing about today’s issues“ by having constructive discussions on how things „COULD/Should“ be – and taking actions towards such a possible future. This is not just a task for executive boards or politicians, but for every single person – especially leaders.

VUCA – volatile, uncertain, complex, ambiguity

Our known management tools methods and processes are made to build reliability, planability, quality, trust and predictability… they work perfect in stable environments (like a growing forrest) We need to sharpen our axe to be efficient – in many cases after decades of optimization, we have chain-saws already!

VUCA describes our todays volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguit environment (like an ocean). In such dynamic, we need to re-think our tools, processes and methods to stay successfull. Important to know:

the „known“ is not wrong,
the „new“ needs additional experience, maturity and practice
Excellence is expertise in both, knowing when to apply what

Harald Schirmer
What if YOU could change the world?

I often hear – I am to small, I do not have enough power or impact... Let’s put a questionmark on it – Never underestimate the power of moskito – no need to be a lion to make a difference in your surrounding.

Continental’s core values – interpreted

At Continental, our core values guide us, so we should apply them to our tools, methods, roles, processes – and specially leadership style.

Ask Yourself:

  • How do I foster „Freedom To Act“ with my directs, colleagues, actions
    The power of diversity can only flourish, once you allow different perspectives, grant space, reduce control, build trust
  • How do I build Trust in myself and others? Trust grows by rolemodeling it.
    Be aware about your „idea“ of trust:
    • A bank does not trust you, they reduce risks until there is no more trust needed
    • Pure Management built on KPI, ROI, Controlling… does not require trust either
    • „Fullfiled expectation“ is a very low form of trust (you may trust your navigation system, as you learned it really does a good job)… that is not „human trust“
    • Human trust means believing in someone without having full proof, it is a feeling, not the result of a checklist
  • What drives your „winning desire„?  Is your focus on competition against colleagues (to foster your career) or for a collective goal (to enhance our products, services, future)?
  • Solidarity, Loyalty, Diversity, being social, being emphatic, enabling teams/others, celebrating success together… there’s a lot in „For One Another“ – they are all based on respect and appreciation… which you can train like a muscle
You are not „stuck in traffic“ – YOU ARE THE TRAFFIC! (by Trudi West)

You are not „stuck in traffic“ – YOU ARE THE TRAFFIC!

heard from Trudi West

This is as clear as it get’s: What can YOU do, to change being stuck in traffic (behavior, demands, job, situation, dependency, project, department, role..)? Realize that your habits, your way of living and working is not „given“, but can be changed – Covid shows that very dramatic. Sticking to this picture of the traffic here are some questions you could ask yourself:

  • Do I need to take this route?
  • Can I shift my time schedule?
  • Can I use a different mobility device (train, bus, bike, scooter, walk, share a ride, tool, method, format)
  • Do I need to drive at all? (working from home)
  • Would „moving“ enhance my situation?
  • Is this really worth it (spending all this precious life-time)?
  • What could I do with all the time and money I would save?
  • Do I make the world a better place (for my kids) by „being traffic“?
  • Where are my values here? Freedom To Act, Trust, For One Another, Passion To Win?

Translated to common doubts:

Informal exchange does not work virtually?
As a leader it is my job to establish informal exchange, so what can I do: book regular – non task related – individual exchange with your employees, make space for exchange (virtual coffee corner, learning time, digital team building, welcome time in meetings, personal exchange, open door hours) – ask for help to learn that!

Work does not get done in Homeoffice?
Is it really the place or is it your leadership style, which results in good work? We are used to measure time and presence to see if people work – to leverage flexibility (or cope with Covid) we should focus more on clear tasks and their relevance and achieved results with their consequences.
You can not control people – they will find a way to cheat also in the office, at their desk. Learning how to lead humans, not manage robots is a good start. Leaders are not born, they develop – don’t worry, just start!

My people can not do this/ are not ready for that?
Question how you see the world. It does not matter if your people can not do it, it is (y)our responsibility to develop them, so they can.

I can not trust my people?
Building Trust is the most essential task for leadership – it might have worked without it in the physical space with direct disciplinary power, but you will not get virtual teams, communities or even networks to achieve outstanding results, without building trust first

Virtual collaboration has negative impact on our culture?
Culture is „how we do things“ or „values and stories driving our behavior“. Sharing and Transparency (e.g. via ConNext or in small teams via Teams) will make values and culture visible while developing them. Role modeling is key – live what you want to see! The way we ask, assign, reply, lead, follow, appreciate, celebrate, critisize, connect, promote, start and end things builds our communication and collaboration culture. Uploading a final document to sharepoint is different to collaboratively developing something togehter. This can happen in closed or open spaces.

Trust is built on giving trust

Example of „values“ put into practice: For our O365 – New Work Style Project, together with our Works Council, we established a „TRUST AGREEMENT“ describing, how we WANT to work together. Our goal has been to build trust rather than reduce risk (by eliminating all features which might be miss-used). Until today our colleagues perfectly demonstrate that this given trust results in great adoption and very positive behaivor. THANK YOU ALL!

Are you a leader or follower?

Leading really means role modeling. Giving commitment (in the sense of „you are allowed to do it“) is a great first step, changing your own behavior, workflows, actions almost needs no explaining commitment. Acting according to what you want to establish is so much stronger, more authentic and offers much deeper insights on what you ask for.

Arguments are weak when it comes to behavior change (see how hard it is to quit smoking, eating healthy, starting regular sports) – same is with business behavior. We often hear: leaders generate followers. That is also a great first step. We need follwowers to build reputation, to leverage our missions, to receive diverse feedback, to drive adoption and create greater impact. The concept of followers is a hierarchical one based on taylorism. If we want to leverage the power of networks, virtual teams, communities or lead in complexity we need to empower our „followers“:

Mature leadership generates Leaders, who can lead themselves, align with others, handle options, leverage their super powers and combine them with others to co-create an design a respectful multi-perspective future.

First slide introducing the GUIDE concept 2012

Change results in resistance. We can not expect to be appreciated, if we try to change „a running system“.
At my first approach to establish a global GUIDE network, former CHRO answered „This will not happen“. Before that happened I quite my former job, left my familiy and 2 year old kid over the week to take over this role in the ConNext project. Persistance and Resillienz was needed and I am still very thankful that our CFO Wolfgang Schäfer gave me his „go“ for the network concept​.

If you really believe in something (or someone),
don’t let anyone stop you!

It is important to understand our systems – they are created to enforce stability (see article about the immune system). Roles are there for a reason and expect people „doing a good job“, expect each one to be „full of work“ so there is no space for „your extra topic“, expect doubts, fears and resistance against new things – humans do not like unpredictability, as it might have influence on their social status, their self esteem (they might become beginners in this change including fear of failing). A good solution here is not just talking about your ideas, but delivering „Minimum Viable Products“ – or as Mr Dueck (IBM) once put it:

If you talk about your baby, they give you the pill
If you put the baby on the table, you get dipers

Gunter Dück

We could proof that our GUIDEs did an awesome job, intrinsically motivated, globally connected, centrally empowered and locally impactful respecting local culture, needs and relevances. But even that first success ended in a dis-allowance to continue after the project. Also no one else gave the commitment to sponsor the GUIDEs, but appreciating their work. We discussed that with the GUIDEs and the network decided „no one can stop us to support our colleagues“ with statements like „This is not a job, it’s an attitude„. For me this has been one of those „once in a life time moments“ of people showing incredible trust and passion.
So we continued – under the radar… for more than three years.

Our Network Organization – we built from scratch

Being nominated as one of the project leads of the O365 migration project – of course, we not just re-built the GUIDE network again, but established a whole network organization with new roles based on what we have learned so far. With more than 4000 awesome colleagues world-wide we worked on evaluation, planning, administration, adoption, learning, communication, training, change, testing…. 

Today Continentals GUIDE network is a lighthouse in the industry, the concept being copied in many international and regional organizations, being lectured in universities, awarded in various occations.

Another example of „Freedom To Act“ and resillience has been CoachNet. I have been working in various Knowledge Management projects, had to consolidate training offers, produce own learning content and align with existing other platforms and initiatives. With the idea of the ConNext based, open community „CoachNet“ the goal has been to refocus from tools and standards to a fluent, evolving home base for sharing, learning and building valuable knowledge relationsships.

CoachNet = Learning from and with each other

Other than a pure wikipage per tool, method, product, customer etc. not just knowledge should be gathered, but people should become visible. Knowledge alone is not as valuable as someone standing in for it, developing it, promoting it, role modeling it.

There has never been a project, a request or even someone asking for it, but lot’s of resistance, demotivation and doubts – for years. Never get demotivated if the time for your idea has not come yet! Be sure to find alliences or buddy’s to watch your energy… no matter what you try – YOU ARE NOT ALONE … learn to ask for help and use our internal and even external networks to learn, improve and give birth to your babies!

Today CoachNet is a lively community, with a daily growing knowledge base, experts, specialists, users and even an established new role – the Knowledge Brokers, who not only manage and aminister content, but do research via Twitter, LinkedIn, UserVoice forums and many other external and internal sources. They closely collaborate with our IT service owners to support each other in the dynamic of evergreen changes. They share best practices, lessons learned, create learining bite sessions, microlearning videos, share experience in blog posts and moderate the „Social Support Forum“, which is highly integrated to the Ticket system via our Artivicial Intelligence MO ChatBot.

CoachNet became one of the fundaments of todays „Social Learning“ approach.

Diversity means respecting individuality and leverages solving complex tasks (Harald Schirmer)

Short sentences are always critical to show the full scope and all perspectives of a topic. They are needed to make people curious, to establish discussions and make others reflect or challenge them. As we are an technology / logic driven organization, which values facts and calculations – with the sentence in the picture above I try to offer that: If we respect individual needs, maturity, pre-requisites, frameconditions… OneSizeFitsAll surely is not a good answer (we have heard that often). Taking that serious, by respecting individuality, we make things more complex – we add options, perspectives, preferences… solving complex tasks / offering fitting answers

We are not educated to deal with „many options“, but we are very much capable by nature to handle complexity. We have been conditioned to make complicated things simple. OnePagers, Traffic Light Status, KPIs, Personas, Training Classes, Elevator Pitch, Communication Plans, Standards, Rules, optimized Processes, JobProfiles… all have in common to simplify diversity.

Human Resources is a term, that reduces humans to things, so they can be managed. When I started to work at HR, this term has been one of my biggest „obstacles“.
Ressource: Work from 8-5 at a place with given tools in a standard process with predicted results for a fixed sallery. Today at Continental, we call HR Human Relations, as we have learned, that on one hand our „products and services“ are no longer complicated, but complex – requiring ownership, values, relationships, de-central decisions and on the other hand, people don’t accept anymore to be treated like things (our reality has changed too much from the „standard family setup“ to multiple life-concepts) I am very thankful that one of the first things Ariane Reinhart did as new CHRO – renaming HR to „Human Relations“.​

The power and beauty of „New Work“ is that by combining the #respect and #individuality with #empowerment and new #leadership style, we get higher commitment, less sickness, better quality, less risks, more responsive answers, higher customer satisfaction, cost reduction and value increase while this establishes a more agile, learning organization, that can drive transformation.

How do you want to learn
How do you WANT to learn?

Another example: In our project we asked „everyone“ to share their needs and wishes on how to learn.

Often we heard: Do not open this pandoras box – a concert of wishes. I do prefer talking WITH people, not just about them. In the past the only way to accomplish a wider „feedback“ has been a survey. Given quesitons – mostly with pre-given answers to choose from – which limits the possible answers to the creativity of the questionner.

Companies which understood that Enterprise Social Network is the incredible opportunity to get everyones individual feedback, idea, answer, proposal, question are far ahead here. We can make discussions visible – which creates a culture of exchange and learning. The social features „like“ and „comment“ help us to see what is relevant for a bigger group, help us filter and consolidate while reducing effort for managing, archiving and translating into action.

An open discussion itself
already drives change, commitment and adoption.

Harald Schirmer

Another aspect can be seen in technology:

  • to train an efficient robot, it takes clear rules, concrete numbers, given code and a „must follow“ algorithm – the robot should do exactly what we want
  • to „educate“ a valuable AI (Artificial Intelligence) we give access to data sources with a minimum of guiding principles – AI should show us, what we don’t see

For me it seems we have understood, that reaching smarter results, we need to change the way we „work“, „manage“, „learn“… – maybe we should ask ourselfs, do we want people to be robots (knowing they will loose this competition) or if we want to foster human qualities?

The promise of New Work (do what you really really want) – is in the first place a task to find our, what we are really good at, what are our values, how we can/want to contribute to society or the organization. After finding this „Ikigai“ ((生き甲斐) (pronounced [ikiɡai]) is a Japanese concept that means „a reason for being“.), we automatically have big diversity.

For me the future of leadership
is being able to handle / leverage complexity

Our openness, transparency, respect of individual needs, but most of all the incredible power of our GUIDEs, Local Evergreen Teams, Knowledge Brokers, Business Representatives and the awesome project team achieved this project statisfaction and adoption. I am very thankful for all those, who gave me and us the trust for our crazy ideas, new work style and different approaches of getting things done.

We built this trust,
by connecting all our actions to our core values,
to our mission to become most attractive and most progressiv
and dedication to leverage the opportunities of the digital age

– in a human way.

We also failed in our project – like with this concept of an Experience Truck, to offer our locations and Local Evergreen Teams this awesome option to test video conference devices, experience our Artificial Intelligence Bot, learn about virtual communication and collaboration, get to know the GUIDEs, LETs, IT on site, to be proud of what we accomplished. We had the OK for the budget, travel route has been planned, interior designed and partcially ordered.

Than a local discussion started „Some can not afford a new desk, and you showcase this truck?“ We took this very serious, as our message should be „appreciation and respect“ not just „show off“. We stopped this approach, documented everything, so others could use it and started from scratch – this time we sent out „starter packages“ for every location worldwide.

You can’t heal the world?

Of course, it is arrogant to think, we could change the world – right?

If I change MYSELF, others will (have to) react to it. 

BE the change!

What I see then, is a changed world. Remember the picture above – we are not stuck in traffic, we are the traffic. It might take a long time, it might need a lot of effort, and it will not change the hunger in the world. But change starts with me – it shows how hard it is and if we are successful, we have inspiring, real stories to tell – which might inspire others to start their own change, too

How does you network look like? Business Card collection or digital contacts?

We can leverage our change impact by building valuable networks. Not just by collecting business cards, but by digitally connecting to inspiring people, to people in our field of expertise or fields we want to build expertise. By following great autors, leaders, speakers and by developing our own „leadership“ style.

It starts with following, showing appreciation and connecting, it continues with giving feedback and sharing valuable thoughts, questions, experience and results in what we call „life long learning“.

Change and Transformation does not need to be a revolution, disruptive, hard or painful
it can be an evolution which we can influence

Harald Schirmer
YOU can change the world

it’s (y)our choice to be a follower or leader

If you can change yourself, based on an inspiring picture of a desirable future – and build networks of connected people, WE will be able to make things happen, no one might believe today. Trust me, it’s worth it and it works!