Challenge Digitization: Not Giving Stagnation

Leadership and Organizational Development

Study Aerospace 2019 – Leadership in Times of Change

Challenge Digitization: Not Giving Stagnation

The digital transformation should by no means be considered a sure-fire success. Even German flagship industries and technology integrators such as the automotive industry, the electrical industry, the aviation and aerospace industry, but also the mechanical engineering industry have not yet been able to show any substantial benefits from the new opportunities. Although the tremendous need for action has been recognized, and here and there and we can in fact celebrate the initial successes. By and large, however, measurable productivity gains and really successful digital business models are the exception. As the study “Aerospace 2019 – Leadership in Times of Change” has confirmed, management teams and top management oftentimes find it difficult to develop their own company in a targeted manner with view

Consequently, there are very few systematic digitization measures, piecework remains fragmented, or the organization begins to stagnate. The aerospace industry in particular, with its already highly complex products and processes, is currently facing a radical change. In regard to products, innovation and life cycles are increasingly under pressure, while requirements relating to safety and reliability are also becoming more stringent. An intelligent networking of products combined with sophisticated algorithms for data analysis, however, also offer new opportunities to significantly increase the use efficiency. In the area of operations, widely distributed IT systems must be harmonized and renewed in day-to-day operations in order to provide reliable and up-to-date data at any time and any place.

It is imperative and urgent that leadership and management be urged, encouraged and, if necessary, given the skills to face the current challenge and to structure their companies based on sustainable business models. These business models may require radical reconfiguration in order to allow companies to move forward into a successful future. This is essential because the opportunities offered by increasing digitization and networking can put success factors of past business models and their controlling leadership philosophies rapidly to the test and devalue them.

So, for those who respond too slowly or not specifically to the changes taking place may quickly lose their competitive advantage. There are no patented remedies to deal with the current wave of digitization, nor are there any instructions on correct leadership in times of disruptive upheavals. However the holistic and dynamic St. Gallen approach, for example, which has been available for a while now, offers a suitable reference architecture and an adequate framework for thinking to combat stagnation. It has demonstrated its strength as a reliable compass for successful navigation, especially in times of change and great complexity.

The current challenges as well as the current findings of the joint study between Staufen and BDLI now finally place the long-known principle of self-organization into the focus of the discussion, this time under the term “new leadership.” In order to quickly adapt to new technologies and needs, they generally aim towards independent change processes. Foreign control, rigid hierarchies, “Command & Control” from top to bottom, rigid measuring madness, etc. must be replaced with processes that rely on self-control and self-structuring. Knowledge transfer, cross-functional and cross-hierarchical collaboration, flat hierarchies, error culture, networks, monitoring and coaching are all keywords associated with this.

On the other hand, within this leadership mentality, there are proven mindsets, methods and tools based on the St. Galler approach, which, thanks to their process, iterative and feedback-oriented concept, ensure commitment, implementation and continuous adaptation. The goal is to systematically teach and train leadership to take on this mentality.

This requires that leadership is continuously developed and filled systematically. Simply setting up a suitable operation room that is staffed depending on the actual “threat assessment”, where key leadership groups and teams can continuously work on corporate development in terms of integrated management, has proven to be an effective instrument in practice.

There are also instruments to systematically indicate a company’s current life cycle phase and what challenges are associated with that particular phase (“reinvent or optimize?”). The St. Galler Stagnation Barometer, for example, is just one of the tools available that can be applied to determine to what extent and in what form there is resistance within the organization to consistently acting against stagnation. It shows what specifically needs to be done to successfully clear up blockages. Practical experience with the instrument has shown how a common tangible understanding of the future and goals can be achieved, how commitment can generated and how such visions can subsequently be broken down into specific strategies and activities, which are then consistently communicated.

In fact, is it primarily about iteratively developing common values and overall objectives using feedback loops, which are then embodied and maintained by upper management, irrespective of any difficulties. This way, the intention of leadership, and thus the willingness to take responsibility, is visible and tangible. This in turn creates confidence among the staff, to themselves also take on responsibility and structuring, thus enabling work in virtual agile teams, open feedback and the means to properly deal with mistakes and errors. This form of de-hierarchized, network-oriented work, yet still guided by jointly created values and ideals for the future, is capable of convincing other staff members as well as customers and network partners. In other words, delegation principles while at the same time a leadership standard by creating meaning. The most significant factors have always been, are and will remain, among other things: courage, will, attitude, passion, appreciation, decisiveness, and assertiveness.

Emphasize the need for integrated leadership principles, make use of the many suitable thought instruments and methods that can be systematically tested and applied by companies and their staff. They help to adequately face what is undoubtedly an enormously complex new concept – both progressively and observantly at the same time

Emphasize the need for integrated leadership principles, make use of the many suitable thought instruments and methods that can be systematically tested and applied by companies and their staff.

dr. christian abegglen, executive director, founding director and president of the board of directors of the st. galler business school

Yumpu Aerospace 2019

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