VUCA & Co – was and is already enough to read and hear about it. There are hardly any articles that do not deal with the topics of digitization, disruptive change, transformation, industry and work 4.0 and similar. Innumerable key notes, podcasts and videos are devoted to highlighting the necessity and urgency of change and reorientation. All sources agree that action is needed now.

Small Gallic villages in deep sleep

It seems strange that in our role as Future Guides we sometimes encounter organizations where time seems to stand still. They are still busy optimizing processes. Or they are taking care of filling the position of a sales representative. Perhaps also ensuring that the financing of the new building and its timely implementation is secured.

Digitization? Yes, I’ve heard of it. It will certainly come, but now we have our hands full with the operative business. Qualification of managers and employees and their preparation for the future? When is that going to fit in? Develop a strategy for the future when you are already dependent on your investor and heavily externally controlled? Maybe next year.

This VUCA stuff still has time. It doesn’t go that fast. After all, it’s not the first change you’ve mastered. Back to day-to-day business, that’s where the money is earned.

Time to wake up 

In fact, we still encounter such an attitude in medium-sized companies. Here the “mind” reflects a supposedly (still) intact world and thus confirms that management and some experienced entrepreneurs prefer to stay in the comfort zone instead of travelling into the future. After all, there is still so much to do in the here and now. And what is to come is so uncertain, so little tangible.

That is of course a tragic misjudgment. Because the upcoming change is not carved out of the wood like those of the last decades. It is comprehensive and sustainable. It will cover many, in fact, all areas at the same time. Perhaps no stone will remain on the other. It would be good to be at least a bit prepared.

And at the same time the transformation has already begun. There is not much time left for postponement.

A salutary shock is expected

In this bottleneck situation, we opted for “shock therapy” for a customer. With the aim of moving the “mind” away from its comfort zone and towards a growth zone. The way there, as performance management shows, initially leads through the fear or panic zone. This is where the “mindset” is challenged to the full and hopefully realigned.

What does this look like in practice?

We reach this switch at the customer in question by setting up a “future conference”. The experienced managers are first allowed to settle easy in the comfort zone and gather strength for the subsequent disruption. In the first station, they can reflect on their strengths and become aware of their pride in what already exists.

 

Then we send them on a journey into the future, during which they are confronted with a multitude of potential changes in a short time. Multimedia and relentless. Usually a shock occurs.

We expect this to happen in order to guide the participants through the change curve.

Short-term therapy for the mindset

In the following unit we deepen some topics purposefully with the participants. We put our finger in the wound again. As a rule, the healing impulse does not fail, and rational and emotional acceptance comes about – of VUCA.

Although the managers of the first and second line of companies have already dealt with the theory of VUCA & Co. in many cases, the actual identification with this topic usually takes place here. Then the “mindset” simply must be part of the transformation, too.

Our experience is that it does. It is indeed astonishing that we are always experiencing a change here.

This also supports the next steps: the sketch of the potential northern star or target image of the own organization as well as first ideas for strategic approaches and measures in the area of culture and development.

Back at your desk, you then look at the cube created at the Future Conference, usually accompanied by the idea of “VUCA – time to act”.

That change has to happen in order to ensure global competitiveness and sustainable success of companies is common sense. “Change” and “Change Management” are of every day concern for business practitioners. And still, we are afraid of change, we face it with reluctance. It is just so difficult to move away from the way “it’s always been“.

Although I would consider myself a relatively open-minded person, who many times has actively looked for a change – despite a University degree in economics and law, I decided to seek experience outside my subject area in development cooperation and later worked on communications and training at the United Nations, which led me towards dedicating my competency and experience to a business-consultancy today – I quite often found myself in situations where change scared me or evoked an act of defiance. Looking back these reactions were mostly caused by change I could not influence or did not understand.

Employees that face “Organizational Change“ often react in a similar way. They feel helpless and lack comprehension regarding the necessity for upcoming change. When asked, concerned employees often name miscommunication as a reason for their behaviour.

Thus, I am currently very excited to develop and implement the strategy for the internal communication that accompanies a major global change process at a German premium automobile manufacturer. Overall objective of this strategy is the dissemination of information that emphasizes the benefits of change and the advantages a global Leadership Development Programme has for everyone. The added value of the programme for each person as an individual has to be the key element of all communication.

From the very start the project team has to create a “sense of urgency“ when communicating to stakeholders. Crucial for clear and efficient communication throughout the project is selecting the right means of communication and communication dates compliant with target groups and content. Regular communication (we currently use a monthly blog) is thereby as important as information on the achievement of important milestones in the project implementation. The diversified communication portfolio contains platforms for peer-learning and online-chats as well as face-to-face events that make personal exchange a unique and memorable experience.

To avoid the impression that senior management has yet again come up with a new idea, communication both ways is essential. True communication is conversation, not the presentation and information about a new concept. In the current project, the “conversation” is mostly taking place in so-called “online-communities“. These are internal corporate social networks, which foster exchange between the project team and employees as well as among employees. Traditional hierarchies are broken, corporate identity is strengthened and through their contributions every employee becomes a change-enabler.

Innovative media, like videos and podcasts that help transmit key messages and additional information on a certain subject matter can be exchanged via community. This is essential when it comes to raising and sustaining continued interest in the new programme.

After all “change“ also means to change internal communication and to adapt communication to the change. I like to contribute to this process, as a consultant, blogger and facilitator!

A contribution by one of our guides