Companies need to exit the comfort zone. Right now!

“If you don’t wander off the path sometimes, you’ll get left behind on the trail” – statements like this have long been irrefutable truths of the digital transformation. Anyone seeking to be one of its winners must change their company. Must make it more agile, more innovative and more networked. But how is this done?


Reflection is the starting point

To bring about targeted and lasting change in a company, you must first know where to start and the level of maturity you are working with. Where do I stand with my organization – and where do I want to go? What are current and future success drivers and where are there risks and difficulties? What do the backdrop and competition look like? What technological developments need to be factored in? What skills and competences do we require in the company in the future? Only when these questions have been answered and all stakeholders are in agreement on the actual and desired condition of the company will there be a good prospect of an effective change process. However, if we fail to allow sufficient time for this initial stage of reflection, significant potential for successful change will be squandered – the definition of the starting point.


The Haufe Quadrant: a simple orientation framework for stocktaking

To obtain a common appreciation of the condition of the organization we require a central orientation framework which offers a clear definition and a uniform picture of the entire company. For us this orientation framework is the Haufe Quadrant. This model has now been adopted by many companies and has become established as a proven approach in organizational development. Very simply, it illustrates the interaction between the two decisive parameters of every company – people and the cultural process, that is, the organizational design. It therefore offers a new and sometimes surprising way of looking at your own company. And the key insight is that companies don’t generally have one predominant organizational form but several. In every company today we find not only the command and control management approach but also agile networks and employees who operate in “shadow” organizations or who are overstretched. However, not all of these organizational forms are supported because management neither recognizes them nor has the necessary tools at its disposal. As in recent decades, management tools and processes remain focused on command and control structures. And today this is a one-way street. Accordingly, it’s also an illusion to believe that we are “only” exchanging one operating system for another in a change process. In fact, we will have a large variety of systems. The challenge for management is to fundamentally reshape these different forms and to apply new methods. Modern leaders are the architects of the different organizational operating systems.


Recognizing patterns – the first step towards behavioral change

When we reshape our companies – and regardless of the intended magnitude of the change – we are venturing into uncharted territory. This exiting of the comfort zone triggers insecurity and anxiety among most employees for it requires them to be courageous and to question, and if necessary change, their own behavior – yet behavioral change is the be all and end all of every change process. And the same applies here as for the company’s reorganization: if future modes of behavior are to be defined it is essential first to fully understand current thinking and behavior, because understanding behavioral patterns is the first step towards changing behavior!
Furthermore, organizations are made up of people. The shape of the organizational design of a company, the roles played by employees (whether they are shapers or doers) – all this becomes clear when we look at people’s behavioral patterns. Here it helps to ask questions such as “How do we lead?”, “How do we communicate?”, “How do we reach decisions?”, “How transparent are we?” and “What are our decision-making principles?” For by asking these questions we can recognize the behavior behind the individual operating conditions in the company and gain key insights for change.


This post is the first part of a new blog series on the implementation of the employee-focused operating system. Next we will be showing you how we analyze the described behavioral patterns and the actual and desired condition of companies in interactive workshops.



What do you regard as the key success factors for organizational change? And what should not be done in any circumstances? Do you have experiences from your own company?


Photo Credit: jaymantri

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