Mastering digital changes

by Marcus Reinke (Author) Thomas Fischer (Author) Sandra Lengler (Author)
©2022 0 Pages


Steer your company successfully through the turbulent seas of
digital change with this practical toolkit.

In order to successfully implement changes in a company, a clear and well thought-out approach is required. Especially with changes that are driven by digitization, there is often a lack of awareness of the effects on employees and culture. New technology is used, but not culturally accepted; it is communicated incorrectly, those affected are not included, fears and worries are ignored. There is no real culture of change.

Mastering Digital Changes provides a clear system and structure with specific tools to guide companies and employees successfully through change processes. With case studies to illustrate procedures, processes, methods, and instruments, this book will provide everything you need to successfully implement digital change.

This book...

  • Empowers organizations to successfully manage change that is driven by digitization.

  • Includes practical tools and a clear system to enable easy application of principles.

  • Features helpful case studies to illustrate how the system works.


Table Of Contents


“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn to surf.”

Jon Kabat Zinn

In March 2020, we were in the middle of writing this reference book on change and digitalization when suddenly “everything” changed: the global coronavirus pandemic was and is an incredible accelerator of digitalization and has shown many organizations very strongly and clearly where they can and must digitalize. Digitalization is a wave that no one can stop.

That is why this book is just right now: full of background information on behaviour in change and with successful methods and tools from our practical experience as international organizational consultants and leadership trainers in change management. It will help you to surf the waves of change with and in your organization and to “stay on board”.

We hope you enjoy reading.

2020, the year of the digitalization wave in Germany? More and more companies are using digitalization products to make their everyday lives easier. The COVID-19 crisis has increased the number of Microsoft Teams users to 44 million (Sokolow, 2020). Companies that already use digital tools—be it MS Teams, Google Hangouts or other digital collaboration solutions—definitely have an edge over other organizations and can better cope with the impact of the current coronavirus crisis. Even the German Chancellor works with video messages, Skype and other digital formats from her home office (Kewes, 2020). For German companies, the effects of COVID-19 are leading to a digitalization boost. In these times, it is important to secure performance through digital collaboration from a distance and thus to follow new digital paths of collaborative work.

Digitalization helps us humans to optimize work steps. The e-file in public authorities is currently an important topic. No more copy of a copy—every employee of an institution has access via a cloud-based backup of the e-file (Klein, 2018). Here we are talking about a time saving of one to two hours per case for the employee concerned.

The nature of collaboration is also changing thanks to digital products. Teams working on a project optimize their collaboration by applying agile methods. Here, companies are currently using Jira and other Kanban tools. Even students are working with Trello and Slack in their project tasks. Digital transparent communication with each other facilitates the coordination of tasks and agreements. Our millennials even go one step further and say: why do I need a contact person at all when I can clarify everything with my mobile phone app? This attitude is hitting the banking and insurance sector in Germany particularly hard. Apps like N26, Tomorrow or Clark are taking customers away from traditionally managed companies (Schneider/Kapalschinski, 2019). If “real” communication is no longer desired, employees no longer need to be hired. Chatbots and AI are perfectly sufficient.

So, does this mean that communication is now purely digital? This has been successfully established in the area of legal advice with the www.advodaco.de platform since 2014. Here, the client simply enters their legal concern on the website and then receives initial free legal advice from a specialist lawyer by telephone or online. No time is lost on a personal meeting. The client can choose who to contact from several specialists in the field based on who suits them best. This means measurable cost control right from the start. Will specialist lawyers with a local law firm still exist in the future? Will the client still want face-to-face advice at all? The trend shows that these new start-ups are hugely popular and growing steadily. Digitalization facilitates access to knowledge. This means that the demand for paid legal advice is becoming stronger, especially for highly individual questions, and free of charge for general questions.

Digitalization affects every company but in different ways. Because customer needs are changing, the customer is comfortable booking overnight stays via platforms like booking.com instead of directly with the hotel. The customer cancels their contract via www.check24.de instead of cancelling directly with their previous provider. The customer can order almost everything easily and without hassle from Amazon with up to “one hour delivery” instead of going into town and looking for their product in a specialist shop. Amazon is an absolute pioneer here, with showrooms in Berlin where customers can touch and try on the product beforehand. The order is then placed via the platform. Retailers have reacted and offer their products via their own online shop or even use Amazon or Instagram to additionally market their products. Will there only be platform giants in the future? An exciting question that concerns us all.

Digitalization makes it possible to serve customer needs faster and more precisely. Companies like Free Now are a prime example of this. They make exclusive use of digital expertise. The customer can search for a taxi via the app of the taxi provider. A taxi driver who is currently in the vicinity sees the customer’s request and the destination entered and can accept the request via the app. Payment is then possible without cash using a debit card, credit card, Google Pay or Apple Pay. You no longer have to wait for the receipt in the taxi; the receipt is sent directly to the email address stored. In this way, the customer’s need to get from A to B quickly and comfortably is solved to one hundred percent satisfaction.

Digitalization creates transparency. Customer feedback is immediately visible to everyone else—whether on Free Now or platforms such as Kununu, Google reviews or trustedshops.de. Customers read customer reviews. This influences our decision for or against a product or service offered.

No one can avoid digitalization. Digitalization affects every one of us. Only those workers who have both the digital competence and the other necessary adaptive skills will stay on board. But then with changed digital ways of working. This initially causes concern and fear among the affected employees. Fear is the biggest inhibitor of innovation and creative thinking in the age of digitalization. Fear creates insecurity. Uncertainty is the brake on digital change. Therefore, it is an absolute “must” to activate the change competence in every single employee across the company. The current level of maturity of this change competence plays a decisive role in whether or not the company will still be on the market tomorrow.

This change competence is made up of three pillars: the ability to change, the willingness to change and the need to change. With the help of Figure 1, you can carry out a quick test for yourself, for your team or for your organization.

Fig. 1: The change competence ship (© Sandra Lengler 2019)

How fit are you for digital change? Check your current change competence and write down a number between 0 and 10 for the following questions:

1.How satisfied am I with my own or my team’s or organization’s ability to change? (10 = very satisfied, 0 = not at all)

2.How ready am I, is my team, is the organization for digital change? (10 = absolutely ready, 0 = not at all)

3.How clear is the need for the upcoming changes to me, my team or my organization? (10 = absolutely clear, 0 = not at all)

In the next step, multiply the three numbers, for example 5 × 7 × 5 = 175. This means you have 175 hp for your change at the moment. A maximum of 1,000 hp is achievable. Here you can see at a glance where you need to start promptly: with yourself, your team or in your organization.

The willingness to change, the ability to change and the need for change determine the maturity of your change competence. The ability to deal with digital changes depends on the people who work with you in the team or in your company. So when it comes to mastering digital changes, many companies also talk about cultural transformation.

“Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, says Peter F. Drucker (one of the most influential economists and management thinkers of all time). An organization that faces up to digital changes will not be able to avoid taking the DNA of the company, lived by every single employee, to heart in its digital changes: 80 per cent people and 20 per cent IT.

Depending on the business environment, the sector in which your company is currently operating, there are different numbers of competitors, and different social, technological and economic factors. Especially now in times of the coronavirus crisis, market positions are being reshuffled. You now have the chance to use the waves of the coronavirus crisis for yourself and to communicate the advantages and benefits of digitalization to your employees.

Some companies choose the path of ambidextry. What does that mean? The company ship remains on the existing course. In addition, however, small speedboats are activated. In other words, pilot projects are launched; for example, apps are programmed or other digital solutions are developed that focus on customer benefits. This will strengthen the company’s success in the short and medium term.

Other companies that do not have the time and liquidity to activate “speedboats” are slimming down. Business units are ready to outsource sales. Entire departments are being replaced by digital services. A current trend is centralized digital purchasing platforms. Here, internal stakeholders such as employees or suppliers can bid and order—quasi-Amazon—for their own company. These organizations want to reduce their costs and simplify processes by streamlining.

Other organizations have only recently, in 2020, identified digitalization as a strategy action area. The introduction of the e-file in public institutions is an example of how much public institutions are still at the beginning of digitalization. Here, the corporate culture is decisive for the speed of digital changes (Nadia, 2018). If, from the employees’ point of view, there is no need for digital change, it becomes more time-consuming and cost-intensive to tackle digitalization projects. Through the COVID-19 crisis, these institutions clearly feel that they have done too little in the area of digitalization so far. The digitalization potential in many affected companies is becoming visible. According to the study “Culture First! Learning from digital change pioneers” (Capgemini Consulting, 2017), 70 per cent of digital innovations fail because their necessity was communicated unclearly, not comprehensibly and was not understandable enough for the individual employees, teams or the organization. This is where digital change competence comes in: Clear messages as promptly as possible. Ideally, every single affected target group in the company should feel included.

Our conclusion:

Digitalization has been around for a long time.

It affects everyone.

You have to surf the digital wave before it breaks.

Digitalization is an opportunity.

The coronavirus pandemic gives forward momentum to digitalization in Germany.

How each individual employee feels in times of digital change and what impact this has on the performance of the organization is discussed in the following Chapter 2.

The digital transformation has been here for a long time. It has crept in smoothly and spread silently into all areas of life. It is now all-pervasive and all-encompassing. And with the COVID-19 pandemic, it has also been given a turbo boost. People no longer write letters but emails, they no longer drive with a car-sharing agency but with BlaBlaCar, they no longer arrange to meet friends but participate in activities with other people via Spontacts.

The younger someone is today, the more familiar they naturally are with digital technology. Nowadays, however, almost all older people can also handle computers and the internet well. There is no other way! Only a few don’t want to or can’t.

These new digital technologies are emerging in ever-faster cycles. The subsequent changes are so rapid and fundamental that entire business models are changing through digitalization: People used to conduct face-to-face seminars: with the COVID-19 pandemic, online seminars have taken off. In the past, you booked a taxi: today it could also be an Uber driver. In the past, you stayed in a hotel: today Airbnb is also an option. In these two cases, private property is “generalized” via a digital platform; private individuals make their car or flat available in order to earn money with it. Those who initially thought that this was surely only an economic niche are now being taught better. According to Statista (Statista, n.d.), Uber had a turnover of 14.1 billion dollars in 2019. Airbnb was estimated at 2.6 billion dollars in 2017 and has been in the black since 2018.


Fundamental changes are both joy and sorrow

Such fundamental changes must have an impact on society and the individual. Society, the economy, culture and education are all equally affected by the advance of digitalization. Digitalization has us firmly in its grip and is both a curse and a blessing: as end consumers, we are often beneficiaries, while as workers we often also see the disadvantages of digitalization. Very many people have a computer at home with which they research or work on the internet. We use the advantages of online banking and shopping; we track postal items and save ourselves from having to go to the authorities. But at the same time, we are concerned about the security of our personal data, identity theft or 5G radiation. As an end user, we are happy that we can reserve a vanity plate for our car or apply for a birth certificate online via the internet. As employees of a public authority, we see the risks of such services and worry about our future work.

2.1 The advantages and disadvantages of digitalization

Thomas Fischer

Digitalization brings both advantages and disadvantages in our working and private lives. A whole book could be written about this alone: we would just like to list the most important advantages and disadvantages here.

Advantages of digitalization:

Processes are becoming simpler and faster. For example, you can now take care of administrative procedures or buy cinema tickets spontaneously and at short notice from home. You no longer have to go to a travel agency to make flight and travel bookings, but can do so from the comfort of your sofa. This makes everyday (work) life easier, in some cases considerably so. In the same way, operational supply chain processes are highly digitalized nowadays. Orders and order confirmations are made digitally. In this way, digitalization saves us time.

At the same time, digitalization brings cost savings in both the private and professional spheres. Voice over IP has significantly reduced the cost of telephony. Electronic files, paperless storage of documents and the digital automation of production processes save many companies enormous costs.

Digitalization enables additional profits through new business models. Examples include Airbnb, Uber, the robo-advisor in banking or Parship, for example.

Digitalization creates additional jobs. There are now countless studies on this topic, most of which claim that when job losses and gains are offset, more jobs are ultimately created than lost, for example the IAB forecast by Gerd Zika (Zika, 2019) or the OECD Employment Outlook 2019 (OECD, 2019).

  The creation of new jobs more than compensates for the losses. However, these studies also show that there will be winners and losers in the various work sectors and industries. Employment gains are likely to occur in sectors such as energy and water supply, electronics, IT (software, IT services, infrastructure), telecommunications and vehicle manufacturing. As a rule of thumb, the higher the current salary and the more training an occupation requires, the less likely it is that the job in question will be automated quickly.

New job profiles and professions are emerging that we perhaps could not have imagined 20 years ago. There are now data scientists, drone pilots, search engine optimizers, 3D printing experts and e-sports managers. In the future, there may be job profiles that we can’t even imagine today.

Digitalization enables a high degree of flexibility, for example through new working models such as home office or working time models in which one can save up a lifetime of working time and use and shape it according to one’s own liking.

Thanks to digital technologies, it is now possible to easily network over long distances. With an ever-faster internet, the use of computers and smartphones, people can now connect with others, hold meetings, exchange information and much more from almost anywhere. Today, one can easily hold a coaching session lasting several hours with someone in Düsseldorf from Tokyo. Distances are shrinking and the world is growing together.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalization also enabled some health protection. Through the use of video meetings, it was possible to continue business transactions and entrepreneurial activities without exposing oneself to the risk of meeting face-to-face and thus becoming infected.

Digitalization produces a kind of “everyman/woman effect”. Nowadays, anyone can produce songs and videos, edit their photos like a professional or invent and implement any business model. A hard-working artist and/or businessperson can compose, produce, market and sell music or videos or distribute other products virtually single-handedly, without subordinating themselves to outside interests.

Digitalization can contribute to building and strengthening social contacts. Mobile phones or Skype, for example, serve to maintain and strengthen existing contacts. This became very clear during the COVID-19 pandemic. Countless people benefitted from video meetings during the lockdown and maintained contacts with friends and colleagues via Zoom, Jitsi, Blizz, MS Teams or WebEx.

Disadvantages of digitalization:

Data protection is becoming more and more difficult with increasing digitalization. There is talk of the glass human being, whose personal data can be seen by everyone like in an open book. Films, such as Minority Report, paint a digital future in which people are identified via a retina scan and individualized advertisements are played to them as they walk down a street. Critics fear a considerable loss of privacy here. The sale of private data has now become a business model in its own right.

Digitalization is also associated with the risk of cyberattacks and data misuse. In Germany in particular, concerns about data misuse are very pronounced. Especially contact data, bank data, usernames and passwords are now also stolen by the millions. Even the grandchild trick has now found its way into the digital world. Here, tricksters pretend to be lovers on dating sites on the internet —mostly to older people—in order to get their cash under false pretences. According to a Bitkom study from 2019 (Bartsch, 2019), 50 per cent of internet users were victims of cybercrime in 2018. Sabotage, data theft or espionage cause a total damage of 102.9 billion euros to the German economy every year. However, this figure includes both analogue and digital attacks. The Federal Situation Report on Cybercrime by the Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) estimates the damage caused by cybercrime in Germany at approximately 2.2 billion euros (BKA, 2018).

Although digitalization overall creates more jobs than it destroys, there will probably still be losers and winners. The increase in online orders reduces the number of specialized shops. Travel agencies will become obsolete and bookshops will lose sales until they too have to close their doors forever. All in all, it will probably be mainly jobs with routine activities and the same work processes over and over again that will disappear. On the internet you can already see how high this risk of loss is for your own job: https://job-futuromat.iab.de. In contrast, newly created jobs have significantly higher and more complex demands on employees. Above all, “analytical and interactive professions” are on the rise. However, these cannot be done by simple workers but require a higher level of education. The number of low-wage jobs will not grow or only slightly. Digitalization is ultimately not a job killer, but it will inevitably lead to a transformation of the world of work.

Digitalization is leading to a significant compression of work processes. Whereas processes in the eighties were still determined by the duration of postal communication, today you receive an answer to your mail within minutes in the “worst case”. In the past, people received support in organizing their trips, but today they book flights, trains, rental cars and accommodation themselves. A well-known consulting firm used to have its own department that prepared slides for the consultants. Nowadays, it is taken for granted that the consultants create their own slides. Some heads of complex projects receive about 200 emails a day. Such quantities and such speeds can no longer be handled in some cases. In Germany alone, the number of sick leaves or the number of days of incapacity to work due to mental health problems more than doubled between 2007 and 2017 (Meyer et. al., 2018). Digitalization leads to an increase in strain and stress in working life.

Digitalization produces follow-up costs. Especially today, technologies and software programs have the characteristic of becoming obsolete very quickly, which is why cost-intensive updates or even new acquisitions are necessary. The maintenance costs of systems are rising. For example, in the case of LED lights, it is no longer possible to replace a bulb as in the past; the lamp must be sent to the manufacturer for repair.

Huge amounts of data have to be managed. That costs time, energy and money. Interestingly, by the way, an email also has a CO2 footprint. According to a report by ZDF, researchers at the Borderstep Institute for Innovation and Sustainability in Berlin have calculated that internet use in Germany produces as much CO2 as our entire air traffic every year (Schmidt, 2019). According to a study by the French think tank The Shift Project (The Shift Project, 2019), digital technologies are now responsible for 4 per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Their energy consumption is also growing by around 9 per cent per year. The data volumes generated by video streaming via platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, YouTube & Co. already account for 58 per cent and thus more than half of the data volume on the internet. The energy demand of internet streaming is thus already as high as the entire German green electricity generation in 2018. In this way, digitalization also contributes to climate change.

Digitalization is also an opportunity and an obligation at the same time. It brings benefits but also costs money. A special survey on the KfW SME Panel in 2018 revealed that 28 per cent of the companies surveyed expect increased costs attributable to digitalization (Leifels, 2019). Incidentally, these companies expect increased turnover at the same time.

The “everyman/everywoman effect” produces more mass than class; in addition to professionals, amateurs and beginners increasingly create and distribute content in the digital age. This gives more choice but also a substantial increase in poor-quality content. You only need to look at a few YouTube videos on the internet as proof of this.

Moreover, in some areas, form seems to be becoming more important than content. The main thing is that it is digital. Whether it has substance sometimes seems secondary. Employee surveys are hyped because they are digital. The fact that sometimes mainly stupid questions are asked is no longer of interest to anyone. Computer-based training is “in”. The fact that inferior content is sometimes conveyed in these trainings takes a back seat to the use of the digital medium.

People are spending more and more time on the internet. Time for sporting and social activities is reduced as a result. We replace encounters in the real world with virtual contacts. This has dangerous consequences: not only in leisure time but also and especially in everyday working life. We lose our competence to communicate successfully with colleagues, customers and managers. There is a threat of a restriction and impoverishment of communication and social relationships. Interestingly, many managers of Silicon Valley internet companies, for example, prefer to send their children to Waldorf schools where the use of digital devices is prohibited until the age of ten. The distracting and distractive potential of these devices disrupts important learning processes that involve the development of imagination, creativity and social relationships.


Digitalization will progress inexorably in all areas

All the advantages and disadvantages will not change the fact that digitalization will progress in all areas. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, digitalization has also experienced a forced quantum leap. Many people have had to come to terms with digital communication and use it to maintain business processes. Overall, however, the question will be how this progress of digitalization will continue. Dorothee Bär, Minister of State for Digitalization in the Federal Chancellery, complains in etventure’s Digital Transformation 2019 study, for example, that she gets washing baskets full of letters against 5G, and that for Germans the main focus of many technological innovations seems to be on their dangerousness (Depiereux, 2019). Everyone wants progress, but no one wants change. We are convinced, however, that for most people the desire for new things will eventually conquer the fear of digitalization. But it will very much depend on how we will shape the introduction of new technologies and the transition into further digitalization.

2.2 How people react to the introduction of digital change

Thomas Fischer

People react differently to digital changes depending on their personality and experience with digital technology. In addition, it depends very much on whether we want the introduction of digitalization ourselves, can influence it or even control it and see a benefit or advantages for ourselves in it. Basically, it can be said that people have a more negative attitude towards digital changes:

the less positive experience they have already had with digitalization;

the less they wanted this change;

the less they can influence or control the introduction; and

the fewer advantages or benefits they see in it.

In fact, there is also a personality factor here. Basically, according to Riemann (2013) and Thomann (1988), four opposing basic human orientations can be observed. All four basic orientations occur in different forms in every person. These orientations are closeness and distance as well as stability and change. The last two factors also influence our attitude towards change in general and the introduction of digital change in particular. Figure 2 shows the characteristics of the two orientations or types.

Fig. 2: Riemann-Thomann model (own representation)

Ultimately, it is therefore also to some extent inherent in our personality whether we are open to change and thus digital transformation or whether we prefer stability. The tendency to be a first mover or a latecomer also results from these basic personal orientations.


We all go through an emotional rollercoaster process

Regardless of whether we judge the introduction of individual digital changes positively or negatively, in almost all cases we go through a process of the so-called emotional rollercoaster.

2.3 The emotional rollercoaster

Thomas Fischer

The emotional rollercoaster goes back to a model by Elisabeth Kübler-Ross (Kübler-Ross, 2012). As a psychologist, she dealt with the handling of grief and with mourning work. She describes the following five phases of the dying of terminally ill people and the reactions from their environment:

non-acknowledgement, denial and shock;

denial and anger;

depression and suffering;

making decisions; and

adoption and acceptance.

These five phases also seem to be experienced by those affected by the introduction of digital change. The model is called the “Kübler-Ross Change Curve” (Fig. 3) and applies mainly to changes in the business environment.

Fig. 3: The emotional rollercoaster of change (own illustration)

Before the launch:

The introduction of digital changes often does not happen overnight but always requires a conception phase. In this phase, the employees of a company have enough time for speculation. Before the actual introduction of a digital change, most employees have already heard many rumours about what it is all about—so they have a premonition: SAP is to be introduced; applicants are to be able to check the status of their application by means of an app; expert opinions are to be dictated via voice recognition software in the future; or customers of public authorities are to be able to see which employee is currently processing their applications or who is holding them up so long. The speculations are not always positive. Rumours and even wilder assumptions are doing the rounds. However, no one really believes in it yet.

The introduction and the shock:

Then at some point the moment comes when the start of the changes is announced: The robot is bought and brought to the nursing home, the customer relationship system or online booking portal for airline customers is activated or the digital, paperless personnel file is realized. Up to this point, many employees had already suspected and in some cases even known that a digital change was imminent, but only now are most of them realizing what it really means. This causes a shock. An emotional consternation arises, which of course can vary in intensity depending on the person and the situation and leads to a drop in energy levels at first.

It may surprise some that people react with shock in such situations, although the change was already more or less predictable. From our perspective, there are the following reasons for this:

The personality of those affected: According to Riemann-Thomann, those who are more stability-oriented react with stronger negative emotions to the introduction of digital changes.

If you repeat a certain behaviour frequently, a certain routine creeps in. You could also say that habits or a kind of “behavioural comfort” develop. Habits are very practical in many cases and make our lives easier. Our previous way of working is often reasonably successful and is now interrupted by a more or less strong change. Many people do not like this and react with a more or less strong shock. Such a shock occurs not only with changes that we judge negatively but even with changes that are positive in themselves, such as winning the lottery.

Denial and anger:

In the following phase, the upcoming change is initially denied. People do not want to admit it and close their eyes to the change. Statements such as “I don’t believe it”, “It can’t be true” or “It can’t be” are made. This denial can also turn into anger, rage or fury. People are annoyed that they now have to work with a robot, meticulously document their customer visits in software, dictate their expert opinions with software or can only process personnel files on screen and no longer in paper form. These are sometimes irrational reactions that are not based on reason. In other words, one fears disadvantages or that one will have to change one’s habits or simply no longer be able to maintain what is tried and tested. In this phase, the energy level rises temporarily. You try to defend yourself, you argue, discuss, dispute and demonstrate. Often, however, digital changes are so enormous and their introduction is determined and controlled by others that one can resist but not really stop the train. This realization leads to sadness and the energy level drops significantly.

Depression, grief and suffering:

In this phase, those affected mourn the loss of old habits, ways of doing things, social relationships, environments, techniques, and so on. They find it difficult to let go of things they valued in the old tried and true way of doing things. It is difficult for them to let go of things they valued about the old. Sentences such as “Everything was nicer/better in the past”, “I wish we had xyz again” or “It’s a pity that xyz no longer exists” are heard. At the same time, fears about the future arise. People worry whether they will be able to cope well and competently with future demands: How will one cope with the robot; how will one be able to master the new process or the new software; what will it be like to work without paper?

Decision, farewell, adoption and acceptance:

After all, there are decisions to be made. You have to decide more or less consciously whether you want to go with the trend and the digital change or not. You slowly adjust to the new situation. A gradual approach occurs, the willingness to change slowly grows and the energy level rises. You come to terms with the idea that a robot now interacts with nursing patients, that you document your client visits, dictate your expert opinions or work without paper. As you arrange and try out new digital ways of working, an acceptance of the new situation slowly emerges. The new software or the new process is not that bad, you discover advantages and even start to like the new thing. Working in the new digital environment creates new habits that will be the same again the next time a change takes place.

The time it takes people to go through this process is neither predictable nor is it the same for all people. One person goes through the process in minutes, while another takes years. In the COVID-19 lockdown phase, self-employed seminar leaders changed their business models from face-to-face training to online seminars, going through all the stages from shock to denial to suffering to acceptance within a week or two. Of course, relapses or so-called rebounds are also possible. One can relapse from a later phase to an earlier one. We know of people who, even 20 years after the reunification of Germany, have said in certain situations that everything used to be nicer, and even said, “It would be good if the Wall were back.”

In the corporate sector, there is another special feature to be considered in the effects of the Kübler-Ross curve. Since the initiatives and financing for the introduction of digitalization often come from top management, this hierarchical level is often also the first to deal more closely with the upcoming change. Thus, top managers often pass through the Kübler-Ross curve significantly earlier than the levels below them. There are staggered curves across the hierarchy levels (see Fig. 4).

Fig. 4: Shifting the rollercoaster through the levels (own representation)


Top management has often long since been through the emotional rollercoaster

In our experience, these staggered Kübler-Ross curves often lead in practice to the fact that top management has long since entered the acceptance phase, while the employees are just entering the shock phase. Interestingly, top management is often not aware of this and wonders why the upcoming changes are still being discussed. After all, everything is already clear and actually already realized, at least in the minds of top management.

Overall, however, we also believe that not every person has to go through Kübler-Ross’s entire curve with every change. There are also changes that people spontaneously judge positively and that do not cause anger or even sadness. Some people eagerly await the new Apple mobile phone, gladly book overnight stays via Airbnb, have been waiting for a trading app for a long time, welcome the possibility of dictating emails and expert opinions, being assisted by a hologram during surgery, or long to control a cursor by thought transmission. Moreover, phases can also be skipped, just as there can be rebounds. People are very different and do not all react in the same way. Different types of behaviour can be derived from this fact (cf. section 2.4).

The emotional rollercoaster as a tool

The aim and purpose is to visualize where those affected by a digital change are in the change process. On this basis, you can then discuss and analyse the current situation in a digital change process and derive measures from it.

Procedure: You explain the emotional rollercoaster or Kübler-Ross curve to a group of people affected by digital transformation. It is important to convey that going through this curve is normal and natural. The Kübler-Ross curve should be drawn on a flipchart or pinboard for this approach. Each participant should then mark on this curve, for example, with a cross or by placing a dot sticker, where they currently are in relation to the upcoming change. The result is then discussed in the team. The participants discuss how they experience the digital transformation, in which phase of the Kübler-Ross curve they are at the moment, how they feel about the upcoming changes and what they need to get to the next phase of the Kübler-Ross curve or to get through the curve altogether. It is important that measures for further action are also derived from this discussion.

Practical tip: It is recommended to get support from a professional facilitator.

2.4 How people behave in change situations

Thomas Fischer

Different types of behaviour can usually be identified among those affected by digital changes (see also Kraus et al., 2010a and b). People can assess digital changes positively or negatively. In addition, they have a varying degree of need to control their environment. For some, this results in more active behaviour with which they want to control the environment, and for others in more passive behaviour that results from a lesser need for control. Combining these two factors, four behavioural patterns emerge in change situations: the driver, the willing spectator, the denier and the disgruntled wait-and-see (see Fig. 5).

Fig. 5: Behavioural patterns in change situations (based on Kraus et al., 2010 a and b)

These are not personality types, but behaviours that can be exhibited by anyone. It can also happen that one and the same person acts as a driver in one digital change and as a denier in another digitalization. Since we are thinking beings, we can of course also consciously choose any of these behaviours.

Moreover, none of these behaviours is negative or positive per se. Some would automatically think that a driving behaviour is positive and a denying behaviour is negative. However, all these types of behaviour have two sides. It is always the dose that makes the poison. Drivers can also “overdo it”. This happens especially when they want digital change to happen at all costs. Behavioural patterns then emerge, such as “rush to implement” or optimistically talking up changes that are actually not that great. In the same way, refusing behaviour has not only negative but also positive sides. Ultimately, a preserving function also comes into play here because not everything about the old is bad. The behaviour of people when introducing digital changes must therefore always be assessed in a differentiated way and should always take into account the background of the behaviour of those affected.

Here are some practical examples of the respective behaviours:

Drivers: The introduction of a driverless transport system in logistics is promoted by managers with good arguments and people at management level look forward to the new technology. Even if it doesn’t work properly due to software problems, the technology is still praised to the skies.

Refusers: People who, for example, strictly refuse to use mobile phones and also try to discourage acquaintances from using them. Or employees who see only the data protection risks in the introduction of paperless personnel files and flatly refuse to work with an electronic personnel file.

Willing audience: Employees who join in the introduction of Microsoft Office 365, MS Teams, Homeoffice or SAP and make the implementation contribution they want—no more and no less, just as much as is required.

Waiting in discontent: Staff members who are critical of the introduction of a socially interacting robot in nursing but do not express this publicly and only gossip about it in the kitchenette. Some also simply do not use a new software. We have already seen cases where employees in customer relationship systems simply do not enter their customer visits or mark them with the abbreviation “w. a. i.” (without any incidents). This is called hidden resistance.

The use of the behavioural types as a tool

The aim and purpose is to exchange views in a group on who stands by the upcoming digital transformation and how. In addition, the participants can become clear about how they are perceived in relation to the upcoming digital change. In this respect, there is an exchange about differences in self-perception and perception by others. With this tool, it is possible to identify conducive and obstructive behaviours for the digital transformation.

Procedure: You explain the different types of behaviour to a group. It is important to emphasize that none of the four types of behaviour is fundamentally bad or good and that just about every person has shown each of these behavioural patterns at some point during different changes. Then each participant receives a sheet of paper or a sticky note. On this paper everyone writes their own name. A table with the four types of behaviour is drawn on the back of the card. Then the participants’ cards are passed around in a circle. Everyone now draws a cross in the table on the card that they have received from another participant where they experience the behaviour of the respective person in relation to the current digital transformation. Once the cards have been passed around completely, everyone receives their own card again, on which all the other participants have now marked with a cross how they feel about the behaviour of the person in question in relation to the upcoming change.

This picture on the cards is the starting point for the subsequent discussion. In this discussion, the participants can exchange ideas on how the assessments of the others come about, what lies behind the perceptions of the others, what certain perceptions are based on, what differences there are between self-perception and perception by others and how they come about. This discussion should finally lead to the question of what should be done with the discussed results: How should we proceed and what measures can be derived from the discussion?

Practical tip: With this method, too, it is recommended to be supported by a professional facilitator.

2.5 Involving employees: The integrated change model

Thomas Fischer

The emotional rollercoaster and the four different types of behaviour also give rise to risks for the introduction of digital change. A 2017 study by Harvey Nash & KPMG shows that resistance to digital change is seen as the biggest obstacle to successful digital transformation. Dorothee Bär, Minister of State for Digitalization at the Federal Chancellery, says that digitalization is not first and foremost a change in technology but a change in culture

For the introduction of digital change, it would therefore be enormously helpful to be able to “mitigate” or even control the emotional rollercoaster. This is where J. P. Kotter’s change model (Kotter, 1996) comes into play, which describes eight phases of change management:

1.Present the need for change and raise awareness of the problem.

2.Seeking allies and comrades-in-arms and forming coalitions.

3.Formulate a clear vision and goals.

4.Communicating the change vision and generating acceptance.

5.Ensure employee empowerment and participation.

6.Realization of short-term successes or so-called quick wins.

7.Consolidate and further advance what has been achieved.

8.Stabilize new digital approaches, processes, techniques.

If we now combine the eight phases according to J. P. Kotter and systematically implement them in the course of the emotional rollercoaster, the following recommendation for support with the introduction of digital changes emerges.

Fig. 6: Integrated change model (own representation)

Already in the early phase of a digital transformation, it is important to create awareness of the problems among those affected. As a rule, the best way to do this is to clearly present the figures, data and facts of the initial situation. It is important to prepare those affected for the digital changes by clarifying the necessity and the sense of purpose. No one can bring about change in companies on their own these days. Therefore, you need to activate allies and coalition partners with the “power” to implement changes quickly even before things really get going. In addition, it is necessary to formulate an attractive vision and clear goals (see also Chapter 3, section 3.2). This vision must then also be communicated with the appropriate conviction and motivation. The basic idea is that the shock to those affected will then be much less severe. A vision should always fit the people concerned. We recommend being careful with terminology here. Not every traditional company can tolerate as much jargon as some consultants tend to use right at the beginning of a digital change. A vision must pick up people where they are at the moment.

In addition, opportunities for those affected to participate in shaping the change contribute to a weakening of the depression and grief that occur during the emotional rollercoaster. The so-called valley of tears is weakened if those affected can help shape the digital transformation. Doppler and Lauterburg (2019) speak of the so-called “not invented here” syndrome: what we have not invented ourselves cannot be good. On the contrary, something we were involved in inventing cannot be all that bad. Actively co-creating the future helps us get through grief faster.

Throughout the process, it is also important to secure quick wins. Some people only believe something when they see it or experience it themselves. It helps doubters in particular to go along with digital changes if they have evidence that the change really brings something. This can be, for example, a gain in time, money, security or efficiency. However, if the additional time gained is counteracted by “work consolidation” or even the separation of employees, the positive effect is quickly lost and even reversed. It is therefore important to ensure real and sustainable successes and, above all, to communicate and market them.

The solid line in the graph (Fig. 6) shows how the Kübler-Ross curve develops when the steps of Kotter’s eight phases are used to guide digital change. This creates a clear benefit in the introduction of digital change.

Added value of an integrated change model

The added value of a change model integrated into the Kübler-Ross curve according to J. P. Kotter (1996) is shown in Figure 7.

Fig. 7: Added value of an integrated change model (own illustration)

So change competence clearly pays off here. One benefits on several levels. The organization or the company has the following advantages:

Fewer disturbances occur during operation.

You can become productive again more quickly.

The costs of change are often lower.

You can achieve higher productivity and maintain it.

Friction losses are minimized.

The management level also benefits:

There is less agitation in the workforce.

Dealing with resistance becomes easier.

The integrated change model opens up means and methods for dealing with the emotional rollercoaster.

In addition, there are benefits for the employees:

The phases of J. P. Kotter’s model provide orientation and motivation.

The stress and emotional strain triggered by the digital transformation are reduced.

Especially the mourning phases can be passed through more quickly.


Actively managing the emotional rollercoaster

With almost every introduction of digital change, we go through a more or less pronounced emotional rollercoaster. It is simply part of change. Change competence reduces the negative effects of the emotional rollercoaster. That is why we consider it important to actively manage it with an integrated change model.

In this chapter, the basic framework or systemic change process for introducing digital change is explained in more detail.

Fig. 8: The systemic change process SCP (© Sandra Lengler 2017)

The systemic change process in digital transformation is presented in four stages.

From-phase: The first step is always to analyse the current situation. Because without analysis there is no diagnosis and without diagnosis there is no action. The target groups concerned are illuminated. External social, economic and technological influencing factors are analysed. Internal concerns, interests and perspectives of the affected employees are reflected. As a result, we know what the current starting position is, where the “pain points” are in the organization and where there is a need for action. In addition, it is helpful in this phase to visualize the current maturity level of change competence with the help of the change competence ship from Chapter 1. Companies use very different tools for the analysis phase. We will take a closer look at these in section 3.1 using a case study.

To-phase: In the second step, short-term, medium-term and long-term goals are developed. These depend on the diagnosis. When developing goals, the existing mindset of the employees (culture, values and norms) must also be taken into account. Because if the organization wants to become fit for digital change, the goals and the approach depend on the current fitness level of the organization. In particular, implementing short-term goals in a measurable way has a positive effect on employees. They are encouraged to be on the “right” path. Especially in coronavirus times, people need a short-term perspective, even if at the moment no one really knows what the future will look like in the coming year in the individual sectors. A positive mindset (“together we can do it”) with short-cycle objectives is essential now.

How-phase: The third step is to develop activities and measures and to summarize them in a change architecture. Depending on the existing communication formats in the organization, a customized, target-oriented communication plan is developed. All target groups should feel that their needs, concerns and interests are being met. The definition of the framework, the structural and procedural organization and all developed activities should holistically activate and further develop the organization’s ability, willingness and need for change.

Change monitoring phase: In the fourth step, all previous activities are reviewed to see whether they are or were helpful and beneficial. We look at which measures are useful, which measures can be deleted and which should be added. The whole thing happens in iterative cycles and thus extends over the entire course of the introduction and establishment of digital innovations. How many reflection loops are required depends on the nature of the digital change. New system components are also assessed on the company’s radar. New system components can be, for example, external influencing factors from business, society and technology, such as AI support in the digitalization of accounting processes. Different instruments can be used here to control soft and hard factors. A continuous improvement process (CIP) is initiated. Depending on the lived culture, short-cycle feedback loops within teams, between teams, departments and organizational units help in learning faster from mistakes. Companies establish many different formats here. Sounding boards, bar camps, town hall events, retrospectives, reviews with customers, “fuck-up nights”, WoL circles (working out loud) in the organization and much more support the learning process of the organization and the employees concerned. Here the companies are very creative. Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, for example, many companies also offer purely digital communication formats in order to minimize physical contact.

A change-friendly culture that learns together from mistakes is the guarantor for the sustainable success of an organization. Today’s VUCA world (V = volatility, U = uncertainty, C = complexity, A = ambiguity) and advancing digitalization require the ability to change quickly. Some companies have long recognized this and also have the courage to help shape the VUCA world. Other organizations are struggling.

3.1 From: Analysing the initial situation

Sandra Lengler

At the beginning of the introduction of digital innovations, it is important to get an overview of the initial situation. This starting situation consists on the one hand of the company’s change competence and readiness and on the other hand, of course, of the starting situation of the specific digitalization project. The former is sometimes also referred to as the so-called change readiness, the latter as the starting situation of the digitalization project. This chapter gives a rough overview of analysis tools for taking stock, measuring and analysing the two factors. Two case studies are used to show how different the approach to introducing digital change can be. The approach to introduction always depends on the current maturity level of the digital change competence and the specific initial situation of the respective digitalization project.

After the analysis, one has an overview of the ability and willingness to change as well as even more insights into the need for change. In this sense, the analysis forms the foundation for the subsequent measures. No diagnosis without analysis. No action without diagnosis.

Companies use very different analytical tools at different levels. At the organizational level, for example, digital employee surveys are used. Nowadays, employee surveys can be implemented cost-effectively with the help of digital platforms such as SurveyMonkey or Tweedback. Other companies where employees also communicate with each other using an app use app-based employee surveys. If specific areas of the company are to be analysed in more detail, expert interviews with individuals, workshops and team surveys are used. Depending on the quantity, quality and, above all, the size and complexity of the project, the duration of the analysis phase can vary greatly—in one case taking only two weeks and in another several months. It is very important not to get lost in the analysis phase and take too long on it, because this often reduces the initial impetus for change too much. In order to obtain usable results from the analysis procedures mentioned here, questions developed specifically for the company are a decisive factor for success. Depending on the type of digital change and the corporate culture, the analysis questions can be very different.

The following tools can be used to conduct an analysis:

stakeholder analysis;

WIIFM benefit analysis (“What’s in it for me?”), which can also be coupled with the stakeholder analysis;

seven-field radar analysis;

the St. Gallen Management Model;

the Golden Triangle; and

further value and leadership culture analyses such as SWOT analyses, employee surveys, organizational diagnoses, and so on.

The aim of all analysis procedures is to obtain a clear picture of the organization’s readiness for change, ability to change and need for change, as well as information about the initial situation of the digitalization project. Based on the results, it is then possible to see in which areas things are going well/not so well, what the causes are and where there is a need for action to advance digital change. Due to the contact restrictions caused by coronavirus (from March 2020), companies are taking the opportunity to introduce digital collaboration platforms at short notice. This will give a positive boost to digital collaboration within individual departments and across interfaces.

3.1.1 Stakeholder analysis and WIIFM benefit analysis

The following section outlines stakeholder analysis in combination with WIIFM benefit analysis (What’s in it for me?).


The stakeholders affected by the change are shown with their degree of involvement. Organizational interfaces are known.

The views of the stakeholders on benefits and harms (who is the promoter/benefactor or the resister/harmed party?) are clear.

Some of the political risk factors become visible.

The chances of success for digital change can be derived.


Even before the start of the digitalization project, a stakeholder analysis provides clarity about the current situation. A stakeholder analysis can also be carried out as part of the preliminary study or when the contract is accepted, so that the findings can still be incorporated into the design of the change architecture. A stakeholder analysis should be regularly reviewed and adjusted if necessary in the course of the digitalization project in order to support the change process.


Identify the stakeholders affected by the change.

Conduct an assessment of the influence of the affected stakeholders on the change on a scale of 1 to 5 (1 = little influence, 5 = strong influence that could immediately stop the project).

Conduct an assessment of the attitude of the affected stakeholders towards the change.

List other expectations/fears in relation to the stakeholders concerned and, if applicable, also from the stakeholders in relation to the digitalization project.

List planned measures.

Why is it useful to work out the benefits for the stakeholders concerned?

Qualitative benefits:

Higher acceptance for the change among those affected.

Higher satisfaction with the digital transformation.

Less resistance to necessary changes.

Quantitative benefits:

Lower costs for the introduction of the change.

Faster realization of the desired benefits, for example, productivity increases, cost reductions, turnover increase potentials, and so on.

Example: Introduction of the e-file at a building authority

Current situation: Until now, all 100 employees in the building authority have been working with a paper file for each case created. The experienced generation at the head of department level likes the paper file. The young and newly recruited employees are annoyed because the paper file is often being processed by someone. The client/applicant calls and doesn’t get immediate feedback on the status but only hears, “Your application is being processed, please best get back to us next week”. It’s time for the digital e-file.

The scenario described is still a reality in some public institutions in Germany, whether in the building office or the district court, in 2020.

Let us now move on to the application of stakeholder analysis in combination with WIIFM benefit analysis. The following list gives an overview of the stakeholders involved:


DM – Division Manager

HOD – Head of Department

SB – Clerk

ESC – Elected Staff Council

DPO – Data Protection Officer.

The following figure shows a part of the stakeholder and WIIFM benefit analysis. It can be helpful to go into even more detail about the analysis of the affected target groups. This depends on the diversity of cultures in an organization and external stakeholders.

Fig. 9: Practical example of stakeholder and WIIFM analysis (own representation)

This example—the introduction of the e-file in a building authority—shows the different interests, concerns and perspectives as well as the benefits of the stakeholders concerned in a well-structured way. The following hypotheses can be derived from this:

1.The willingness and ability to change at division or department manager level is not very satisfactory. Active involvement is important here. A workshop should be implemented promptly, in which the benefits of the e-file can be worked out together and fears and concerns can be addressed and allayed. The top management (head of the building authority, mayor, etc.) has clearly communicated that the change is necessary and will come.

2.The capacity for change of the affected division and department manager is less satisfactory than that of the clerk level. This should be taken into account accordingly when planning training and measures. Employees who have not yet gained much experience with digital tools such as document management or collaboration software usually feel more insecure in dealing with digital technologies than employees who are already more experienced. Therefore, additional effort for the learning process must be planned here. A high level of resistance is also to be expected in the implementation phase. Internal “enablers” (also called “change agents” or “key users”) should be enabled to deal adequately with resistance-oriented employees in the training phase (see also section 3.3).

3.The introduction of the e-file may also be only one of several digitalization projects. It is therefore important that the e-file project is aligned with the current corporate strategy or corporate vision. This point is often forgotten. Without vision/without perspective, change is not possible. This focus is examined in more detail in the section on the to-phase (cf. section 3.2). Here it can also become visible at the organizational level that too many digital changes are currently causing discontent in the organization and that the affected employees may need more time to digest the change and also implement it. Too many changes at the same time can overwhelm affected employees (Koch, 2018).

4.In this case study, it also depends on top management whether the staff council becomes part of the project team or not. In practice, the approach to this varies greatly. If there is a staff council, it is often helpful to involve it from the beginning. All staff council concerns, fears and staff perspectives are thus transparent from the outset. Reacting promptly to the interests of the affected staff is a necessity for project success in times of the VUCA world. If this is neglected, not listening and not understanding only causes frustrated employees who then say: “Everything was better in the past. Now nothing really works. I’ve always said so; nobody understands this new-fangled stuff anyway ...”.

The aim is to jointly secure and strengthen future viability.

5.It may initially take more time, energy, resources and nerves to engage staff at all levels. As many employees currently work from home, engaging many employees at the same time is facilitated by digital working.

Having a strong commitment on the radar from the beginning is crucial to mastering digital change. Give affected employees the feeling that they are being heard and that they can help shape the process. Turn those affected into stakeholders. Master the digital changes together. In our case, it could help to announce and implement a (digital) open space in addition to the (digital) workshops with the division and department manager. Here, all staff levels are addressed and involved at the same time. They can voluntarily help shape the course of digital change in the organization. In addition, these (digital) large-scale events crystallize who actively promotes the digital change process with ideas and commitment and who from the different departments has a “service by the book” mindset and tends to act in a wait-and-see or obstructive manner. Further details on the topics of change architecture and the change process flow are explained in section 3.3.

3.1.2 Seven-field radar analysis

We use another case study to explain seven-field radar analysis. Here, the company is further advanced in the maturity level of digitalization competence than in the case described above. In the first step, the case study is presented, and in the second step, seven-field radar analysis is applied at the organizational level. In the third step, the first hypotheses are derived to show possible initial options for action after the analysis phase. Case study: Kaiser SE, Hanover

Kaiser SE, a fictitious public limited company based in Hanover, is one of the world’s leading suppliers of compressed air products and services. The company employs approx. 2,000 people worldwide, of which approx. 1,200 are in Germany. In addition to the production sites in Hanover and Jena, Kaiser SE is represented in 18 other countries with its sales and service network. The focus is on China and South America (Brazil and Chile). Kaiser SE is managed by Christian and Verona Kaiser and is thus a third-generation family business. The company’s goal is to achieve global quality and technology leadership.


Since 2020, Kaiser has also been offering its customers “CAaaS” (compressed air as a service): The customer no longer has to buy the compressors but only pays for the contractually agreed purchase quantity of compressed air according to graduated price models. The machines are located at the customer’s site—but the risk of failure and the corresponding maintenance (including personnel, monitoring, spare parts ...) lies with Kaiser SE.

In particular, the energy balance is a unique selling point of the solution for many customers as this is where approximately 75 per cent of the total operating costs accrue. Comprehensive data collection on the compressors, the stable AI solution and the many comparative values obtained through market penetration enable “predictive maintenance”, a significant increase in reliability.

The customer service available worldwide was also to be fully digitalized by 2020: All maintenance documents should always be available to the technicians in the respective language on their mobile end devices (laptops and tablets for robust use). Rare maintenance work can be loaded onto the end devices in advance as a training video and is then also available to the technician offline on site in the hall during maintenance. An expansion of remote training through augmented reality is planned for 2022 and requires additional planning.

Since the old ERP system cannot cover many processes in depth and speed, a new ERP system is to be procured. Although the management—above all Mr Kaiser as CEO—agrees that something has to change, a decision on a specific system and whether or not to switch completely to the cloud has not yet been made.

The IT department at the main headquarters in Hanover is also very busy at the moment with the roll-out of the terminals and the training of key users for customer service and, as a key department, is complaining about a very high workload.

At the same time, the management sees the changeover to a new ERP system as an opportunity to review and digitalize many processes and to fundamentally introduce the topic of “lean production/agile management”. They expect further savings potential from this and want to produce closer to the customer’s needs.

The HR department is finding it increasingly difficult to recruit at the moment. Shortage of skilled workers is an issue throughout the industry because the work on the compressors is technically and physically challenging. Many experienced and older colleagues have the technical knowledge but have only been with the company for a few years. Mr Günther (Head of Human Resources Development and Knowledge Management), for example, has been planning the introduction of a knowledge management system for skilled workers for a long time: due to the ever-increasing product range, there are difficulties in keeping the appropriate documentation up to date. The service managers report extra work due to forgotten maintenance documentation, as this is only done half-heartedly, especially by younger colleagues, and there is no time for checking by the team leaders who work themselves. Seven-field radar analysis

First, seven-field radar analysis is explained in a theoretical context and then applied to our specific case.

Fig. 10: Seven-field radar analysis (© Sandra Lengler 2020)

You can use seven-field radar analysis both in individual interviews and together with groups in a (digital) workshop format. The result is clarity about where in the system there are currently conducive or obstructive system components for digital change.

Basically, if certain measures change one of the seven fields on the radar, this will also trigger changes in other fields of the radar. This is why a holistic check is crucial both in the analysis of the current situation and later in the change support. Short-term and long-term measures must be derived and their effectiveness evaluated. Furthermore, external factors influencing the system must also be taken into account.

Helpful questions for a holistic check of your system:

Which external positive and negative factors from society, technology and the economy influence my digitalization project in my business environment?

What are the current and future framework conditions that are conducive and obstructive to my digital changes—both from an internal and external perspective?

What would have to happen for us to cease to exist tomorrow?

How well are we positioned today to counter these risk factors?

Field 1: Goals of digitalization

Many decisions are made at management level and some of them are also discarded. Is there even a digitalization strategy in the company? Coronavirus is currently uncovering a lot of digitalization potential in companies—and with it the fact that some German organizations have not had a digitalization strategy so far.

You may also have experienced that since the start of the coronavirus pandemic in March 2020, many digital tools such as MS Teams, WebEx, Zoom or Jitsi have been made productive or even introduced at very short notice. In part, these digital tools were also first tried out and after short cycles it was decided which of them should now be used and then rolled out to the organization. Nevertheless, the question arises: Do the employees concerned actually know the goals of the digital changes, the necessity for the digital projects? With a simple scaling technique, you can ask the interviewees or the participants in the workshop.

Scaling question: How familiar are employees with the goals of digitalization? (0 = not known, 10 = known to all)

Scaling question: How do employees rate the necessity of digital projects? (0 = not necessary, 10 = absolutely necessary)

Here there will be a number between 0 and 10 as an answer. After the interviewees have written down a number, there will possibly be different numbers here. The conversation among each other can begin. Everyone explains their assessments from their perspective. After this short exchange, all participants in the analysis-diagnosis workshop have broadened their own perspective. Assuming that the results vary between 5 and 9, there is a need for communication. Is the previous communication of the goals to all affected employees sufficient? What else do we need if goals are unclear? What can we do here? What has helped us in the past? Is there anything that could help us today? How do other companies in our sector or even in other sectors do it? Here’s a saying we read recently on LinkedIn: “Learn from your enemy’s (competitor’s) mistakes too.” The first impulses for improvement are derived from this.

Field 2: Framework

In the second step, we look at the current framework. In which structures do we work? Are our working structures fit for the implementation of the digital goals?

Scaling question: How fit are the current work structures for the implementation of the digital goals? (0 = not fit, 10 = absolutely fit)

Here, the affected participants of the (digital) workshop or the interviewees realize that their previous way of working is no longer sufficient for the digital change projects: too little transparency, loss of time due to duplicate file maintenance, opacity as to who is currently doing what in the project, decision-making processes that are too slow. This is where agile working methods come into play—whether Kanban, Jira or Scrum —elements such as reviews or retrospectives, haptic or digital task boards or daily stand-ups. The first step is to look at what exactly could help with which digital project. In IT, Scrum has been established in many companies for more than 20 years. Nevertheless, it is important to find out which other agile elements could specifically help to make the framework fit. For this, the employees’ level of knowledge about agile working methods is very helpful. Because if no one in the company works with agile methods, the first thing to do is to raise awareness and educate them about agile methods. Further optimization impulses can then be derived from this.

Field 3: Technological support

This also leads us to the third step, namely to the question of which helpful IT mechanisms are already in place. What do we need to make the way we work even more efficient? Some companies already work with Microsoft 365 and apps like MS Teams or Planner. Here, all project-related tasks can be digitally mapped in the team. Other companies have been working with Confluence or Slack. There are also companies in which IT has implemented MS Teams on all computers and yet it is not used by the employees. Here we see again the system relevance: If no one explains the benefits that come from collaborating via MS Teams, no one will use it. In IT projects themselves, the departments work with Jira or individual software solutions.

Scaling question: How helpful are the existing IT mechanisms? (0 = not helpful, 10 = absolutely helpful)

Scaling question: How efficient is our current way of working? (0 = not efficient, 10 = absolutely efficient)

At this third point, clarity emerges about which systems are in place and which are actually being used. Here the company can make concrete decisions at the organizational level so that employees in the different business units or cross-functional teams can work together more efficiently and transparently. These decisions depend significantly on the culture—the DNA code—of the company. We will look at this in the next step.

Field 4: Culture

Scaling question: How satisfied are the employees with the lived culture in the company? (0 = not satisfied, 10 = absolutely satisfied)

Scaling question: How satisfied are the employees with the cooperation among themselves, across departments, and so on.? (0 = not satisfied, 10 = absolutely satisfied)

Topics such as solution orientation, dealing with mistakes, cooperation between departments, entrepreneurial thinking and action, leadership culture and others are examined. Here it is important to analyse how the relationships within the teams, departments and divisions are and how, for example, actions are taken across divisions and departments. Does silo thinking prevail? Is knowledge shared among each other? How do staff and managers deal with constructive feedback? Is customer feedback actively integrated into the continuous improvement process (CIP)? Is an innovative pioneering spirit promoted in the company? Do we have a strong “we” feeling in the departments? Are there management guidelines in the company, and if so, how are they filled with life?

The field of “culture” is an essential factor that triggers both speed and a “quasi-standstill” for the digital transformation. The building blocks for dealing with the emotional rollercoaster, the psychosocial process as well as the empowerment learning process for digital transformation are essentially derived from the results of the culture analysis.

Field 5: Reward

What incentive systems do we currently use? Are there other ways to generate benefits for the employees concerned?

Scaling question: How satisfied are the employees with the existing incentive systems in the organization? (0 = not satisfied, 10 = absolutely satisfied)

Especially in tradition-conscious companies, top management is sometimes irritated and surprised that the benefits for employees often consist of more than just a few answers. In the past, job security and financial security were important benefits for employees. These factors have long since ceased to be sufficient for today’s “high potentials” and Generation Z. Because with their talents and skills, they very quickly find new career options elsewhere. Many employees today want much more. A sense of purpose, non-financial recognition and a good work–life balance, for example, are in demand. It is important that incentive systems are designed in such a way that they are based on the benefit for the customer. If there is a benefit for the customer, this should be reflected in the incentive system.

Field 6: Leadership

Scaling question: How satisfied are the employees with the current leadership of the team? (0 = not satisfied, 10 = absolutely satisfied)

Scaling question: How satisfied are employees with the opportunities to make decisions on their own responsibility? (0 = not satisfied, 10 = absolutely satisfied)

Scaling question: How is cooperation in the team regulated? (0 = manager decides and informs employees, 10 = employees decide alone)

Of course, other aspects of leadership can also be asked here, such as appreciation, feedback, communication, information, motivation, support from managers, and so on. The answers to these questions make it visible in the team and in the organization how self-determined employees are in carrying out their tasks. New working concepts can be lived through the digital changes. Thus, the field of “leadership” has a significant impact on the measurable speed of implementation of digital changes.

Field 7: Sources of power

Our last radar field is about the invisible and visible sources of power. You can find out more about the sources of power and which ones need to be taken into account in digital change processes in section 3.3.7.

Scaling question: How supportive is top management and middle management of digital transformation in the company? (0 = not supportive, 10 = absolutely supportive)

Scaling question: How strongly do well-connected people and effective decisions support the digitalization projects in the company and in the system environment? (0 = not satisfactory, 10 = absolutely satisfactory)

Who or what can strengthen the digitalization project?

These questions reveal possible sources of power. It is important to know these both as an internal and external change manager. This is because transparency and awareness of sources of power in the company reduce risks in advance as possible micropolitical stumbling blocks have been identified early on and can be (re)acted upon accordingly. At the same time, knowledge of these can increase the speed of implementing digital changes. For example, the “power of contacts”, that is, well-connected employees, can be used as positive influencers for change.

Conclusion: With the help of seven-field radar analysis, it becomes clear where there are creaks in the organization and where risks for digital change are hidden. In addition, it becomes clear how ready and capable the organization is for the upcoming digital changes and how it perceives the necessity. Some players in the market such as Google, Amazon and many more have always been sailing in the steady waters of digital change. Through COVID-19, almost all companies have now had to unintentionally jump into the deep end.

For both external change managers and internal digital transformation managers, the following questions are particularly important in the dialogue with the client at the beginning:

What benefits does the organization expect from digital transformation?

What has been done so far to implement these or similar digital projects?

How fit is the company at the moment? Are the departments and employees concerned with digital changes?

What is the current vision/mission/strategy of the company?

What is your purpose?

What does digitalization mean for the organization?

How many digital changes have there been in the organization in the last one to two years? Seven-field radar analysis at Kaiser SE – analysis phase

1. Goals of digitalization known: Scale score 7 out of 10

Customer service is to be 100 per cent purely digital in all customer languages on all mobile devices by 2020. The scale number 7 means that the IT department, top management and executive levels know the goals. Nevertheless, the customer service staff do not yet know all the goals. The topic “knowledge management system” has also not been communicated sufficiently to the skilled workers. The introduction of the ERP system is meaningful, but this has not yet been made so clear to all the employees concerned. In particular, the younger employees do not maintain the maintenance documentation sufficiently.

The first hypotheses can be derived from these facts:

It is possible that the benefits of the 2020 digitalization modules for the various target groups have been communicated in a way that is too unclear, too one-sided and not sufficiently comprehensible.

There may be a generational conflict between the older technician colleagues and the younger colleagues on the topic of documentation obligation and importance.

It could be that team leaders do not lead their staff equally and give too little benefit of the doubt to younger colleagues.

2. Framework: Scale score 7 out of 10

The structures of Kaiser SE are classically matrix organized. The work structures are already partly fit for the implementation of the digital goals. However, the customer service employees have not yet been trained. Digital training and VR goggle training are not scheduled until 2022.

Further hypotheses can be derived here:

It is possible that the existing digital systems are not yet being used sufficiently.

Employees may not be sufficiently involved in decision-making processes.

3. Technological support: Scale score 8 out of 10

Currently, the change to a new ERP system is to be started. This central enterprise solution would facilitate cooperation with the customer and also within the organization.

Perhaps there are currently too many individual solutions and systems with which the different departments work.

There may be concern about migrating data to the new system due to potential overload.

4. Culture: Scale score 7 out of 10

Currently, there are many experienced technicians and young employees working at the site in Germany. The older employees have already experienced many changes in their professional environment. They are used to performing physically demanding tasks at the compressor. They have no understanding when younger colleagues leave their workplaces unclean on time at the end of the shift or when documentation is incomplete. They also do not accept feedback. The sickness rate of younger colleagues is on average 20 per cent higher than that of experienced colleagues. There is little leadership and feedback from team leaders. The tone is rather harsh. If at all, there is only critical feedback and hardly any positive feedback.

It is possible that the team leaders lack leadership skills.

It is possible that there is currently no team spirit or a lack of clear commitment in the teams.

The HRD officer may not even be aware of these leadership problems among the technicians.

5. Reward: Scale score 5 out of 10

There are currently no incentive systems at Kaiser SE. Neither executive nor employee salaries are linked to performance. KPIs are discussed at top management level. Salaries are fixed. There is no variable component linked to the company’s targets.

There may be a lack of transparent performance criteria for all staff and managers.

There may also be no money for external IT service providers who could assist with the migration.

6. Leadership: scale score 8 out of 10

In some departments, such as IT in Hanover, the employees already work completely independently. On the other hand, the younger employees in customer service and compressor maintenance need much more feedback from their team leaders. The onboarding process may not be right here either. There is no mentoring programme. There is still too little demand, with younger colleagues needing more support. The older employees do their work very well. It’s just that the existing expertise is not sufficiently passed on to the younger colleagues. That causes resentment on all sides.

It is possible that staff members have a different understanding of cooperation.

It is possible that the expectations of the staff have been communicated unclearly.

7. Sources of power: Scale score 7 out of 10

At the moment, top management disagrees about which IT system is the most suitable and whether it should switch completely to the cloud. This lack of clarity is causing unrest at various levels. All the important decision-makers, such as the head of HR and also the head of IT, support Mr Kaiser’s plan. The younger employees would also love it if the documentation were exclusively digital. Everyone can see immediately who has worked on what and where. The only colleagues who feel a slight unease here are the technician colleagues who will retire in the next two to three years. They are also knowledge carriers. That is why we are currently thinking about how we can possibly address this issue in a more timely manner in order to keep the knowledge in the company.

Perhaps the experienced skilled workers do not want to share their knowledge because they are afraid for their jobs.

It is possible that the experienced skilled workers only want to transfer the knowledge orally, as they do not think they are sufficiently prepared to work with the new technical programmes.

In summary, we were able to identify the current system picture using Kaiser SE as a case study. Hypotheses can now be derived from this. These hypotheses help to establish a diagnosis. From this, the first ideas are then derived as to which adjusting screws could be used to improve the organization. Seven-field radar analysis at Kaiser SE – diagnostic phase

In the past and currently, there has been insufficient investment in human resources and organizational development.

This leads to insufficient leadership competence at team leader level in 2020, such as in the area of compressor maintenance.

In addition, the lack of a reward salary structure ensures heterogeneous behaviour between the experienced and younger employees.

Team commitment is insufficient.

Knowledge is not shared enough. Silo thinking is present.

A lack of decisions at management level is causing unrest in the operational IT area in Hanover.

The objective of the company’s digital steps is not clear enough to all employees.

Both the benefits for each individual and for the teams have not been properly communicated.

From these findings, the first impulses can now be derived that will help the organization to take the next digitalization steps with the employees concerned. If we also imagine the company under COVID-19 conditions, the following fields of action arise:

1.Create awareness for the Digitalization Strategy 2020.

2.Concretely make the benefits visible for all target groups concerned in different communication channels.

3.Raising awareness among managers and empowering them through tailor-made training on the topic of “Leading through Change”.

4.Identify enablers who can be used as digital ambassadors and, as such, later empower colleagues in their departments in the use of digital tools.

5.Create voluntary initiatives for digitalization projects.

Conclusion: With the help of seven-field radar analysis, various improvement fields are identified. If one of the improvement fields is worked on in the system, this in turn has an impact on the other system fields in an organization. That is why it is important to conduct timely reviews of what has been done. Because acting and reacting quickly ensures the future viability of the organization in the digital world.

Carrying out an analysis and diagnosis of the initial situation and the change competence and readiness of the company is at the same time always already an intervention. Usually, the results of the analysis and diagnosis phase are reported back to the management and also the employees of the respective companies in mirror workshops. The feedback and discussion of such results usually triggers something in the people concerned, of course. Sometimes we experience a lot of agreement in such mirror workshops—the results were already unconsciously somewhat clear to the people concerned. This is basically a good sign because it shows that the analysis and the diagnosis are correct. At the same time, it is a bad sign, because one can of course ask oneself why nothing has been done yet. We then usually discuss this in such results presentations. This discussion is not always easy. Sometimes, however, we also experience a great deal of consternation and even resistance during the presentation and feedback of the results. There is wild discussion, denial, trivialization, or methods and results are called into question. This is also a good result. Because where there is concern, there can also be an awareness of the need for change. In any case, it is important that the results are not glossed over but presented clearly. In addition, at the first sign of resistance, one must not immediately relativize, but rather steadfastly explain and explain the results. In this way, an awareness of the problem can arise through confrontation with such results. With a twinkle in our eyes, we wish you much success in this.

3.2 To: Create an attractive vision and strategy for digitalization

Marcus Reinke

Why is the vision so important for successful change? Why isn’t the strategy that was developed in top management and exists with comprehensible figures and PowerPoint slides as a link on the company’s intranet sufficient? Why don’t we continue as before? Why should we change—everything has been going well until now?

The question word “why” occurs particularly often when people cannot directly grasp the meaningfulness or usefulness of something. Children in particular often ask “Why?” because they want to understand something they do not yet know and often cannot know. We respond to the question with understanding and are even pleased that our child is so inquisitive and curious. We accept our role to explain things to the child with our knowledge and thus guide them. We are especially proud when we observe our offspring explaining things to other children the way we explained these things to them. Obviously, our explanation or the benefit of a behaviour was so tangible and easy to remember that the knowledge is gladly passed on.

Later in life, the why is asked but the what for is the focus of the question. A why is always directed into the past, looking for the reasons and causes. The what for looks for a desired state in the future, a meaning: what we want to achieve and what benefit we expect for ourselves or others. In English, both are often translated as “why”, as in the well-known Golden Circle by Simon Sinek (Sinek, 2009). It is true that both meanings are valid—only from different perspectives. Depending on the context, the Why describes the cause or the benefit.

The striking statement “Start with why!” can be understood both as an invitation to “question change” and to “start with the benefits” of a change. The benefit should be transported in a vision for the change in such an activating and meaningful way that the employees not only understand why it is important—but also for what purpose.

The changes triggered by “digitalization” in particular need to be underpinned with a meaningful and comprehensible vision for two reasons:

The buzzword “digitalization” triggers fears among many employees: Loss of a job due to a robot, chatbot or artificial intelligence and “You don’t hear many good things about other digitalization projects—why should that work here now?”. Here, a vision should take away the employees’ fears and show that the idea is a sensible extension and that no one in the company needs to be afraid of the consequences.

Even the superficial change triggered by the use of new communication or collaboration tools, such as MS Teams, can be the basis for fundamentally questioning traditional processes and structures. This leads to a much bigger change than “just” using new software: Processes change, responsibilities shift, collaboration is redefined ... These are very positive effects if planned and implemented properly, and they should be used to deliver new momentum and more opportunities to the company. Here, the vision shows that the opportunities are consciously seized and security provided for the process of the planned change.

So when employees question the succinct statement of the head of department, “that everything here is now becoming more digital, because you have to adapt to the market and the customers and become faster, as everyone knows ...”, with the legitimate question “What’s the point of all this?”, this is a sign of curiosity and interest. Now the manager must come up with more than “Because it was decided in management, I just said so.” With this (unfortunately) still often heard “justification for the benefit”, many employees have been offended and promising change initiatives have already been endangered in the bud.


Important: Clearly communicate why and what for

The employees, that is, those first affected by changes in the company, often lack a clear rationale and a meaningful goal of the change: the why and above all the what for! These must be communicated consistently and comprehensibly at all levels. This reduces uncertainty and builds understanding.

In his change management classic Leading Change (Kotter, 1996), John P. Kotter describes this third step as essential for change. The way a good vision works is that it describes a truly desirable picture of the future and at the same time communicates to people (staff and managers) why it is desirable to shape the future in this way.

Many companies in traditional industries do not have a “conscious vision” and thus get through day-to-day business in a stable and secure manner. Everyone knows what to do and the employees are happy about bonuses after good business years. Other companies have developed such a comprehensive vision that it can be found somewhere in the company’s guiding principles on the homepage without really being noticed or repeatedly communicated. This may still be appropriate for the status quo but quickly reaches its limits in dynamic change.

What makes a good vision for change?

A change vision must be sufficiently clear, understandable and motivating. It should depict a picture of the future or a desirable state in the future that is worthwhile for the employees, even if the first steps are hard. It should fit the strategy and culture of the company and be developed together. If the vision is well formulated, it supports the company and all employees in decision-making, for example (“How does this project/topic help us achieve our vision?”). Initiatives by employees who want to actively contribute with their own suggestions and ideas in achieving the vision pave the way and are encouraged to take action. All departments are given a uniform, large and desirable goal—this facilitates interdepartmental actions and silo thinking is loosened.

People can change their behaviour for two reasons: Threat by a danger from the outside (instructions, new structure, pressure in the market, “suffering pressure”) or reward by something good from the inside (more success as a company, more fun in doing, “personal benefit“). The psychological effect of the positive incentive is clearly stronger than the fear-driven approach to mastering a threat.

It is similar with changes in companies: fear concentrates the energies of the employees on pulling their own heads out of the noose instead of working together on something good. Silo thinking and especially hedging thinking become bigger instead of smaller. A change project with the benefit “Only if we manage this hard step into digitalization will we not lose our most important customers and still be able to exist as a company in three years’ time” can ensure that the best minds in the company look for other options for their work at an early stage. And you need these good minds in your change project as promoters and drivers of change.

A positive and attractive vision speaks of opportunities to be seized (towards something good!). An emotional presentation of a good opportunity is much more likely than a threat to make employees want to do something new:

“When these opportunities have been shared and the change has been successfully implemented, everyone in the company benefits because ...!”

The fact that the company will still exist in x years when these difficult steps have been taken is not discussed. It is taken for granted because in the future the vision is to become reality and for this the strength of each individual in the company is needed. Through positive energy, the employees will invest more energy in the desirable vision, because they themselves benefit from it. They feel connected to the vision and want to be a part of it. It is precisely this momentum of individuals, this momentum of groups that is the key to success in change in the fast-paced VUCA world. And this dynamic is significantly achieved through a comprehensible and attractive vision!


Formulate vision and vision statement

A vision is a formulated idea of change that can be told and explained in about three minutes, with the opportunities to be used, the benefit, how it can be achieved and what the first steps on the way are.

A vision statement is a concise and very reduced version of a vision, often to be understood in a corporate context as a striking statement and very rough idea of “Why does the company exist?” For example, Google’s vision statement: “Organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”

For a change project, a vision statement in our case study Kaiser SE could sound like this: “New Work @Kaiser – Shaping our mobile working world of tomorrow together.”

3.2.1 The six core elements of effective vision

To ensure that a vision is not frowned upon as a disengaged and unworldly management idea in the company, six simple elements must be observed. A vision becomes effective when the following aspects are fulfilled (see Fig. 11):

Fig. 11: The six core elements of effective visions (own illustration)


The vision paints a clear picture of what the future will look like after the successful change in the company. The right amount of imaginable details of the vision must be found. Too little information leaves too much room for assumptions; too much information and detail limits the scope of the picture too much and overwhelms the audience in the visualization. On the other hand, staying in a language that is understandable for all employees helps the imagination a lot—especially with digital topics. Avoiding dry technical language or “consultant-speak” ensures credibility and acceptance at all levels. In the case of a vision à la “We want more benefits for our main user group through coordinated events in sales and more accountability at shop floor level on site at the customer ...”, no maintenance employee at our Kaiser SE in Hanover, for example, will understand what is meant. More understandable is (same example): “The feedback from our experts on the machines on site at the customer is very important for the sales team. With your expertise, you recognize exactly what the customer needs. Thanks to the new system, your suggestions will then be incorporated more quickly and easily by the sales team into proposed solutions that will better help our customers.”


The vision addresses the sustainable and long-term interests of as many stakeholders as possible. Visions that only cover the interests of shareholders lead to little enthusiasm among those involved: “The people up there have an idea and now we are supposed to implement it...”. In order to find out what interests and desirable ideas the employees and middle management have, these levels must already be involved in the creation of a vision. Only a broadly desirable vision will light a fire for change in many stakeholders. If, for example, service staff often have to play the “dustbin” with customers because production managers are upset about poor processes/availability at Kaiser SE, this can be very disruptive in the long run. However, this often does not even reach the department level, as it is dismissed as “we can’t do anything about it”. Thus, this employee issue cannot be identified in the management brainstorming as a desirable goal for a specific employee group and is not reflected in the vision or a change story.

With interviews (see section 3.2.2) by a working group, this can be found out quickly and embedded in the vision as a “benefit” for a whole group: “Through the new interfaces in the ERP, customers’ requests are shown directly to the respective team leaders and service staff as an announcement. This simplification means an enormous time gain for the customer and significantly reduces internal coordination. You have less work in planning and the customer knows much faster when you are on site to help them!”


Effective visions for change are actionable and thus activating. Just like a SMART project or annual goals, a vision must show realistic goals for change that departments and staff can orient themselves to. Fixed annual or five-year KPIs should by no means be set in the vision. Nevertheless, these should be derivable from the vision, or the vision should be able to serve as a guideline for the company’s goals to be achieved.


The focus of the vision should be clearly recognizable and formulated accordingly in order to serve as a decision-making aid in the company. This helps later on when comparing the plans and projects with the vision to determine whether the plan is going in the right direction.


Focus example

A vision in our case study Kaiser SE could be summarized as: “New Work @Kaiser – Shaping our mobile working world of tomorrow together.” It is about new forms of work and mobile collaboration in order to position oneself as an attractive employer. This is important for the HR sector in order to be more successful in recruiting, for example.

In a fictitious meeting of the sales department of Kaiser SE, future projects are discussed. The question arises as to whether the project “Replace all desktop PCs at the workplaces in the internal sales department with thin clients” serves to achieve the vision “New Work @Kaiser”. Of course not. The use of a mobile solution is the focus of this vision (keyword “mobile”). This paying into the vision as a flex-work approach (i.e. working from home, in the office or in a coworking space) is easily possible. When comparing the project with the vision, it should quickly become clear that the topic has a sensible justification (reduce costs, simplify maintenance) but is not the focus of the current HR vision “New Work @Kaiser”. This is about flexible working, which is simply not possible with the small thin clients as they are fixed to the workplace.


Despite the clear focus, a vision should be so flexible that alternative action and individual commitment are possible and in harmony with the vision even if framework conditions change. At first glance, this seems contradictory to “focused”, but in the VUCA world it is not possible to do otherwise in a meaningful way. It is not very motivating or credible if the complete vision has to be adjusted every three months because the framework for it has changed slightly. In the fictitious vision (“New Work @Kaiser”), for example, only the idea for mobile and secure working is mentioned—but no one commits to a system or a provider.


Only a vision that is easy to communicate is willingly carried forward. The previous five points of an effective vision must be able to be depicted in a few sentences. If the vision ends with a pictorial comparison that fits the culture of the company and the employees, it stays longer in people’s minds and is often quoted. A “catchphrase” develops, that is, a kind of slogan for the vision, for example, “Shaping our mobile working world of tomorrow together” or “Less district league thinking, more Champions League action!”. Again, it must fit the content and culture of the company, otherwise it will seem contrived and have little chance of lasting success.

3.2.2 Develop a change vision

Creating a change vision is a simple process with complex content and outcomes. It may therefore—depending on the change project and the size of the company—require several iterations, coordination and various workshops. In our view, the process presented here is the minimum for an agreed vision that effectively achieves its purpose.

Fig. 12: Developing a vision for your change (own illustration)

You have analysed the initial situation in detail and, based on this, created a comprehensible awareness of the problem. You can easily present the benefits of the change from different perspectives. This gives you a solid basis for formulating an attractive vision for your change project. The following procedure for vision development has proven successful in our consultations:

1. Preparation:

Goal: To know what is desirable from the point of view of employees and managers and to use it for an attractive vision.

To find out what actually motivates the employees, they are simply asked a few open questions. The answers already provide the inspiration for our own formulations. In this approach, we are methodically guided by design thinking: questioning the customers/users, who are the focus. And the employees are more or less the customers who are supposed to “buy” the vision of change. They will only do this if they believe in it and see sense in it. Because no one buys a product that offers them no benefit or that they are not convinced about.

If possible, the questioning is done directly by members of the leadership team because the original sounds and quotes are crucial for further action: What did the employee/manager actually say? Quotes have the advantage that they are not altered by the listener’s filter and, when summarized, may produce a completely different message/opinion. In order not to miss any important information, the staff members should be interviewed by teams of two, consisting of:

a questioner—nothing more (actively listening in conversation!); and

a scribe—writing down answers and observations (quotes are important!).

This has the great advantage that the questioner can concentrate fully on their counterpart through active listening. This conveys seriousness and appreciation and ultimately creates trust in the conversation. Trust has a great influence on honesty and thus on the usability of the answers. The interviews with employees and managers from important (affected) departments should be announced transparently, ideally with an appointment. The duration is stated as five minutes, but in reality the interviews often last about 15 minutes.

For example, you can ask the following questions:

What do you like about your company/your department/your job/the customers/the product/the digital techniques in the company?

What drives you to do your best every day?

Where do you see the company in three years/in five years, also in terms of digitalization?

What opportunities do you see along the way?

How are obstacles dealt with?

What is your general opinion on digitalization?

If a wish fairy came along today and granted the company/department a wish, how would you know that this wish had come true? If it was a wish about digitalization, what would it be? What will be different tomorrow?

Let’s assume that “artificial intelligence” is successfully introduced here in the company to provide support—what might that look like and what would be different for you then?


Practical tip: Active listening for trust in the interview

Non-verbal attention response (concentration on the interlocutor: maintaining eye contact, nodding).

Verbal attention reaction (react to statements verbally, but value-free: aha, okay, hmm).

Enquiry (questioning generalizations or vagueness: “What exactly do you mean by ‘everyone’, ‘always’, ‘the process’”?).

Summarizing/paraphrasing (repeating what has been received in one’s own words: “I have understood that ... Is that correct?”).

Verbalize (put emotions into words: “What comes across to me is that you are very upset about this”).

2. Workshop with the leadership team – two to four hours’ duration


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2022 (September)
digital change digitization business managing change business coaching


  • Marcus Reinke (Author)

  • Thomas Fischer (Author)

  • Sandra Lengler (Author)

Marcus Reinke is Managing Partner of an international implementation consultancy and is also a trainer, business coach, speaker, and consultant on agile digitization.

Thomas Fischer is the founder and owner of a business and investment consultancy and works as a change manager, trainer, and coach.

Sandra Lengler is a program manager for a business coaching company and the managing director of a strategic consultancy business. In addition to her business and strategy consultancy work, she is also an accredited motivational consultant.


Title: Mastering digital changes