Creator or Administrator?
Academics, politicians, and economists alike all say that modern managers and an agile leadership style are required to keep pace with digital change. But what specific skills are needed to actively drive transformation processes at a company? And what do those skills look like in day-to-day use? In its search for answers, INSITE took a closer look at four digital transformation projects – and the managers behind them.
TEXT JENS ROSPEK
If there’s one thing we know for sure about the future of industry, it’s that we don’t know anything. There are more encouraging insights for managers who are set to play a key role in shaping that very future. After all, it is managers and project leaders who are supposed to get “their” companies ready for the dawning age of robots and quantum computers, digital transformation, and Industry 4.0. With ideas, strategies, and technologies that are as sustainable and forward-looking as possible, they’re the ones who are expected to thwart the old and new competition and secure their place at the top. Yet the major challenge is only partly made of metal, silicone, or plastic. It can be controlled by microchip and mobile device, and fed with unlimited amounts of data. Another issue that is at least as prominent and just as enormous is the human factor. Managers are faced with the task of convincing their own staff, from the executive board right down to the shop floor, of the digital revolution’s benefits – and not infrequently the disruption it entails. As a result, they themselves must also change and acquire new skills in order to meet the new requirements. After all, change management doesn’t just affect the workforce, but also yourself.
In the real world, this means it’s no longer enough to throw around buzzwords such as agility, scrum, and design thinking in meetings. If you want to convince employees that such jargon has more advantages than disadvantages, you first have to put them into action. Only those managers who actively practice what they preach in team meetings and Skype conferences really drive change. Or as a study by recruitment site StepStone and HR consulting firm Kienbaum states: “transformational leadership” is required. “As a role model, transformational leaders communicate clear, ambitious goals. They convey an inspiring vision and a sense of purpose in their work that motivates employees.”
But what transforms department heads, CEOs, and other decision- makers into creators? What does it take to not only observe the change or watch it blow past you, but to systematically and resolutely lead your company into the digital age? Studies that examine prototypes of future managers, and analyze various change projects, provide at least a few preliminary clues. “Leadership instead of management” is needed, concludes a survey conducted by HR consulting firm Rochus Mummert. It sounds simple but is definitely complicated. Less hierarchy, less distance between the boss and staff, more empathy and communication, simplified or even completely eliminated approval and release processes – a modern management style has many facets and requires different skills. At least in theory. But how do managers translate the demands made of them into concrete action? How do they approach the (change) projects they are responsible for? INSITE presents four digital transformation projects in more detail below and, in interviews with their respective managers, tries to find out their methods for being creators instead of administrators.