Transparency in the election of the Supervisory Board

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Intro

In a much acclaimed article by Gabor Steingart, the comparison begins with


“The doghouse is for the dog, the board of directors for the cat.”


Hermann Josef Abs (First member of the Management Board, then Chairman of the Supervisory Board of Deutsche Bank in the 60s and 70s of the last millennium). In fact, the function of the Supervisory Board is being given greater focus, currently around the personnel of Paul Achleitner.

We need more transparency

In fact, confidence in the function of the Supervisory Board is no longer at its highest. There are two reasons for this:

The Supervisory Board is often staffed by the old Management Board.
The function of the Supervisory Board was delegated more and more to voting rights advisors.

The most important function (of the many held by the Supervisory Board) is to seek and appoint a reasonable and well-functioning Management Board. As Gabor Steingart explains, this has not always been the case.
A decisive criterion: the search again for the supervisory board itself. And here it is time for a paradigm shift to take place in the large corporations as well. It should be the person on the supervisory board who has proven competence not only in the specialist area of the company, but primarily also management experience behind him: A retreat to a pure cuddling course with the company’s executive board should thus be avoided.
I am not only talking about keeping to the cooling off phase, which is often ignored, but also that it is often appropriate to fill the supervisory board from a third party. The competences to supervise the board can also be acquired elsewhere in the economy.

Especially in medium-sized and family-run companies such a rethinking has already taken place. Here the Supervisory Board is staffed according to other criteria than in large corporations. It is about time that the same applies to them as well: Away from uniformity with the Board of Management, towards a critical body that constantly questions the course of the Board of Management. It also helps that institutions such as the Anglo-American IOD help the function of the Supervisory Board to become more professional.
To this end, the Supervisory Board must be staffed differently. As long as the positions have the appearance of “supply posts”, trust will not be restored.

German version here.

NewWork: Deconstruction of the safety net

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Intro

In the past I have already dealt several times with the topic “NewWork”. My focus here is on how new ideas and concepts can be established in organizational structures. Phrases like “always focusing on customer benefit” are not very helpful if you are established in a company with several 1,000 employees.

Decisions without safety net

Both in projects and in middle management it is becoming increasingly evident that decisions are not only made, but also that a lot of capacity is “burned” in the justification of a decision. This culture of justification (the “backups” in the slide sets) may seem helpful to the project managers and division managers. But they only help the decision maker in case he has really made the wrong decision. And then other mechanisms are needed, not the questioning of the original decision making.

This discipline is due to the organisational structure. The project and division managers have been conditioned over years to act in this way. And so the justification system was optimized over a long period of time.

The dismantling of this culture must take place across all hierarchies: Every form of approaching new working structures must have a stable size: Trust. Without this, it is not possible. In the vast majority of cases, employees at all levels are in a position to make their own decisions in their field of work. A manager or project manager should be able to assess this area. If a wrong decision is made, everyone should work together on the solution and not on the search for the cause. With this one can then go new ways, be it only partially (in projects / in the area) or also generally. Executives and project managers who cannot deal with this are a problem that can only be solved by top management.

The safety nets must be dismantled across all hierarchical levels. This includes senior management as well as other levels such as division managers and project managers. Trust must once again become the centre of work in an organisation. Without trust, we remain in the old models.

Disclaimer: In this article I refer to having to justify everything exactly in advance. I do not question the sense of a functioning risk management system. I still believe that a functioning risk management system is not only sensible, but also vital for survival.

German version here.

Newwork Needs Trust

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Intro

Especially around the topic “NewWork” there are many ideas and tools. Not a day goes by without invitations to “Design Sprints”, people get together to “Dailies” and you are “agile” everywhere. The topic is so omnipresent that even the Hamburg company XING has named XING after it. Recently, someone asked what the most important tool was. I mean: trust!

Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator

Trust!

Actually, it’s a shame you have to emphasize it that way. In the meantime, mistrust has grown in the organizational structures, mainly driven by middle management. This has nothing to do with the inability of the individual, but rather with the fact that it is precisely the abilities in micromanagement that are promoted.

In order to try out new things, it is necessary to promote trust, and in many cases to establish it anew. However, it is not only middle management who cannot do this alone. Trust must be promoted and demanded from above. This includes not challenging the project or division manager to be able to speak at all times. He does not have to know at all times, he has to be able to obtain the information.


Conversely, employees also have to trust each other to the extent that they can independently approach their project manager or manager when problems arise, without fearing any restrictions.

This also includes promoting empathic values. The best counterexample is a manager who rhetorically asks “He wants a simple answer to a simple question, yes or no”. Thus he delegates decisions to a level which does not want that again.


The tools and tools behind it are secondary: You can do and try out many things that you should. Some things will make sense, some will make sense. Which of these can only be decided individually in the organizational structure and best of all with the help of the employees.

However, trust must be exemplified by top or senior management. If the managers themselves fight with distrust, it will be through the different hierarchical levels. The tools behind this are fashionable and largely irrelevant. The epicentre is: Again more about trust, about managers, about project managers, but also about employees.

German version see here.

Business trips in EU countries – do you know the A1 form?

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Intro

The last days I read an article in the Handelsblatt. This once moved me to deal with the subject of “posting” and social security obligations: The “A1” form. For me, secondment and social security obligations, or proof thereof, were something that would not affect me. But I am also in other European countries from time to time. So if I go on a business trip to London or Vienna, I have to carry such a form with me. Otherwise, fines will be imposed not only on my company, but also on me personally. And that is now being examined.

What is the A1 form?

The A1 form (here a german example) is a three-page form, which describes exactly the person, the employer, and confirms that the social security obligations of each country are respected.

The purpose is to ensure that employees are always socially insured.
You always have to carry this form with you when you are abroad (i.e. even a short visit to a customer or a trade fair, basically a fuel stop with a company car in Austria is enough).

Where do I get the A1 form from?

As of 01.07.2019, the A1 form must be requested electronically by the employer from the health insurance fund of the respective employee. If in doubt, a pension fund may also request the German pension insurance.

How much penalty do I have to pay if the A1 is missing?

Not carrying an A1 confirmation of social security obligation is in France with a hefty 3,296 €. In Austria, between 1,000 € and 10,000 € can be imposed. Other countries require social security in their country for the days in question. The employee is also obliged to do so.


The customs authorities of the individual countries can hope for the help of the hotels: In the meantime, it is regularly stated in the registration certificate of the hotel whether one is travelling privately or on business (in order to avoid tourism packages). It is important to know that the local customs authorities have access to this data and this forms of the Hotels, you are checked in.

Extro

What gives hope is that a joint networking of the social insurance institutions internationally will make the A1 form and thus the “keeping with you” superfluous. At least there is hope. Until then, I can only advise anyone who travels abroad to organise such a certificate.

A Board Needs Diversity

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Intro

A tweet of the Hamburg company Engels und Völkers (a big german Real Estate Company) haunted the media during these days:

Five men talk About Diversity

Reason for the criticism and a small shitstorm on Twitter: International Women’s Day and five men in top management talk about it. Where is the mistake? Can you see it on this Picture?

A Board needs Diversity

An executive Committee or a board in today’s world should and must set a good example for the whole organization: It is understandable that it is not always possible to adhere to 50/50. However, it is difficult for younger clients in particular to comprehend that a board of directors is 100% made up of only one gender (usually men).


In order to achieve a balanced relationship, the management levels of the Executive Board and Supervisory Board must set an example and send out a Signal for the whole company.


However, this should not be done for proportional or even legal reasons. Rather, it should be recognised that a mixed management body is more successful on average. Many countries, including Germany, for example, can learn a lot from Scandinavian countries or Iceland. Quotas can only be a tool and a temporary aid. All in all, everyone needs to rethink their thinking, not just at management level, but at all levels.


In order to promote the goals of diversity, I can recommend the FidAR. Here you will find a petition for all those who are committed to the topic.


There are now also forums and opportunities for networking among TOP women in business. One would be the Global Female Leaders Summit, which takes place every year, currently again in May in Berlin.

Supplement

In the discussion Engel und Völkers is only exemplarily at the pillory. The posted picture also seemed rather cynical with the text and was a steep template for the reactions.


However, Engel and Völkers reacted correctly (at least from a social media point of view):

Not erasing the tweet, not sticking one’s head in the sand, but facing the discussion on Twitter. No one demands to rebuild the board in the next days. But if the realization has prevailed to work on it and to notice the problem at all, already some was achieved.

London Big Ben House of Parlament

Agile Micromanagement

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Intro

Today I wanted to deal with my (admittedly empirically not relevant) experience about new leadership styles. Especially with young executives I increasingly experience that the style is more authoritarian, but agility and NewWork tries to shape the external image. This is the pendant of pseudo agile for Management styles.

Agile micromanagement?

What is striking? Individual elements from the agile environment are taken up and consciously communicated to the outside world. However, central conditions are not fulfilled. The most important of these is trust.

For NewWork it is not enough to include

😘

in the work instructions

When dealing with new working conditions, it is not enough to just set up a table football table or to use the new “Duzen” [german] to pretend a closeness that is not lived.
Newwork for me (I unfortunately don’t know a central definition) means, among other things, creating new freedom for employees. There are still goals for this, but it is no longer checked on a step-by-step basis what the status is like. The boss (manager…) is there to avoid problems. Conversely, this also means that employees have confidence in their manager.


Newwork also means checking process steps for meaningfulness. Especially in large corporations, measurements and excelsheets have established themselves where nobody knows what they are good for anymore. A manager who has understood this actively questions whether everything always has to be right. A pointless work instruction remains pointless, even if you garnished the mail with “…… that would be totally sweet” during forwarden.

Every organization gets the leadership it deserves

Let’s come back to the entry mentioned “Agile Micromanagement”. In many cases, managers are conditioned in this way: On the one hand, there is the expectation that managers, especially from middle management, are always meaningful. But this is where the will to change lies with top management: this trust must be lived from the highest hierarchies.


The middle management reacts with the hybrid model quasi out of self-defense: On the one hand micromanagement is expected, on the other hand one wants to be agile. Often, by the way, the same management encourages this through some kind of innovation. I would be careful to point out the senselessness as an evangelist: As a rule, you can’t change organizational structures from one day to the next.


Agile methods and NewWork require New Management: The executive as mentor and coach in mutual agreement with the employees. And the epicentre is trust, which can and must only be lived from above. And this can only be exemplified slowly by top management. Top managers have just been deprived of empathic traits and what do we do with toxic executives?

How to handle High Performer

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Intro

Last week I wrote about “Low Performer”. Again as a delimitation: Especially topics that have to do with leadership are complex and individual case studies. In my blog, I just want to aim for a discussion about the topics. I can’t offer solutions that are generally valid.


About High Performer

Even the demarcation is difficult for me. What exactly is a “high performer”? A Google search doesn’t bring any clarity. For me these are people who deliver results disproportionately to the team. But here you have to clearly define the workaholic: Anyone who constantly achieves more because he only works overtime is therefore not a “high performer”.

No worriers


A further differentiation are the consequent doubters, who are often very good in technical terms. They often think about themselves, that without them everything would go down the drain, because they also think about the last red ribbon. These people are often just good, but exhausting for the team.

High performers with social skills…


A dream is the combination of high perception, fast implementation speed and the ability to work with the team. I have such a stroke of luck: A colleague, highly intelligent, extremely fast and takes time without complaint for all colleagues to pass things on.


These are actually the dream of a team member. The only problem is often that these people tend to be “super-solvers” or independently solve other problems at the same time without having to worry about all the implications. But these are actually rather luxury problems.


…and others


Now we come to the more problematic cases: Extremely intelligent people who work fast but don’t just establish themselves in the team. Communicative skills are required here:

The team is crucial: it must be conveyed that the overall result is supported by all. One person alone cannot do everything today

You’re better, that’s all right: It’s absolutely necessary to acknowledge these people that they achieve more. These people also want to be praised.

Encourage sharing: Even if the communicative abilities are not so high, you can tap into the knowledge. Especially if you put young colleagues at their side and involve the high performers as “tutor”, useful structures can develop (However, you have to observe this closely so that the young colleagues are not demotivated).

About “Low Performer”

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intro

I wanted to deal with the topic of team performance today. If you have a team of different people, there is usually a distribution: from “geniuses” to “normal” to real brakes. You can’t escape the normal distribution here. The decisive factor, however, is the overall result, often not the result of the individual, to which everyone contributes.

Low Performer (?)

What exactly is a “low performer”? For me, these are project members who do not deliver frequently expected results. This is often coupled with recriminations and reasons for not delivering. What is important here is that I am not necessarily talking about “shortfalls” in the legal sense, but about people who disturb the team. I personally find the caste of those who refuse to accept change particularly difficult (“We have never done this before”, “Actually, we have to do it first…”).

What to do?

For me, the decisive factor is always the team, not the manager in the first place (that one, too, but that one further on): Is the team prepared to support the work of the person in question or are there already many refuseniks here? If the team stands behind the member, the manager is challenged to relieve and support the person.

If the team does not stand behind the person, which is more often the case, it becomes more difficult: At this moment the leader is also in demand. A way must be found for this person to establish himself or herself. Here it is helpful to look at the overall result, which can only be achieved if everyone is present. Here you can also make it clear that not everyone has an equal share in the result, and that this is not bad either. Team building must be driven forward significantly.

The team must be sensitized to the extent that all team members are accepted, regardless of their individual performance. Especially these low performers need a lot of support and even praise (perhaps proportionally more than they deserve).

However, there will be an end to this at some point. A central question: When is this point reached? Usually much later than most people are able to believe. Nevertheless, I don’t want to rule out the possibility that in a few individual cases the point of separation will be reached.

It`s all About agile?

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intro

The days I noticed a tweet from Christian Müller (who is on Twitter: #FF!). Discussing on Twitter is sometimes difficult, therefore my “answer” here. Trigger:


Area manager introduces “agility”: – the team leaders additionally take over the function of a product owner – dailies take place once a week – Scrum Master is scheduled with 25% time – tasks are distributed by the team leaders How would you deal with it?

Provocative – but what does it look like?


Pseudo Agile?

The experiences that Christian Müller briefly summarizes here are often repeated in reality. Particularly in large corporate structures, attempts are made to pack agility into old-fashioned release cycles. This is a contradiction in terms. Some companies also experiment with “hubs” and the like.


Agility isn’t just about establishing a table tennis table and flocking together under the cover of a “dailies”.

But how do you establish new ideas and procedures in a large corporate culture? The pragmatic approach of “somehow” then ends precisely in the regulations cited above. One is agile. Somehow.


Often these procedures are not due to the fact that the introducer was stupid or did not understand agile procedures. They are rather actions of self-defense (some exceptions may exist). The attempt to establish new ideas without damaging old structures or established mechanisms.


But why is it? Transformation can only succeed if a culture of trust is established. And that must be lived by senior management. New techniques (be it Scrum or something else) can only work if a culture of trust exists. And this cannot flourish if top management expects every department head to be able to provide information on every detail every second. It is often these expectations that have established micromanagement.


But are the pseudo Agile attempts at re-assembly really only bad? The evangelists will say: Then you can leave it alone. But I think that a cultural revolution can only succeed gradually. And that includes mistakes like misunderstood agility. But they also offer the possibility of the door opener.


So: Do it! Join in, get better!

About the efforts of “innovation hubs”

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Intro

In the meantime, “innovation hubs” have become fashionable among large german corporations: Whether (for example at banks and savings banks) Deutsche Bank with its “Deutsche Bank Innovation Labs”, Siemens with the iHub or Postbank with the “Idea Lab”. Almost every other DAX company joins the ranks here with a department / branch or spin-off. What are the benefits of innovation hubs?

What do “Innoavtion Hubs” bring?

The facilities look at least visually similar: Young people, no dress code, table football or table tennis tables are integrated into the office landscape. The objective is always similar: to develop new perspectives in the product landscape, detached from bureaucratic constraints or generally from the organisational structures that finance the hubs. I have listed a few arguments.

Pros

By releasing organizational constraints, rather unrealistic scenarios are also illuminated, and completely new ideas can emerge. The employees there work without fear: Anyone who has run up against the wall with a good idea in an old hierarchy will hardly be able to comment on something new. The hubs work under the same working conditions as the parent company. Social security helps employees to develop.

Contras

Old employees do not take work results seriously The transfer of ideas into the old world is difficult or even impossible to integrate and the support does not lead to a transfer.

And now?

So there are some ideas for and against such hubs. Should you be established? Some results would also be possible without such spin-offs. But this would require much more personal responsibility to be transferred to the employees and fears of making mistakes to be reduced. For this, however, a new management philosophy is needed, away from micromanagement towards more trust. If this should be possible, the spin-off of the hubs would take care of itself. The long-term success of a hub lies in the fact that the results grow out of the “proof of concept” stage and are also transferred into the real world of the organization. To this end, the support must not only lie in the founding of the Hub, but also in the interlocking of the Hub and the Old World.