Michael Groß

Michael Groß

  • Dr. Michael Groß became famous as an Olympic swim­ming cham­pion. He has worked as a Mana­ging Partner of Groß & Cie. located in König­stein, Taunus, for 16 years. The consul­tancy focuses on two busi­ness areas: change manage­ment and talent manage­ment. Change manage­ment involves the successful plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion of changes in compa­nies, whereas talent manage­ment enables compa­nies to ensure and further develop their compe­ten­cies. In addi­tion, Dr. Groß is a lecturer at the univer­sity in Frank­furt, teaching digital leadership. The “Hand­buch Change Manager” manual is one of his multiple publi­ca­tions.

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No board member or busi­ness leader can as an indi­vi­dual say – or influ­ence – how his or her own company will look in three to five years. It‘s also unclear how the compe­ti­tion will react or which tech­no­lo­gies will triumph. The only thing that is mostly certain is that there will be compe­ti­tors that no one knows today. Market leaders that seem unas­sailable today could disap­pear from the land­s­cape, like Nokia a few years ago. Even for “digital native” compa­nies that once were market leaders, success can quickly become a thing of the past, as was the story of MySpace or curr­ently Yahoo.

This dynamic through vola­ti­lity and inse­cu­rity, comple­xity and ambi­guity not only shor­tens the plan­ning horizon of tech­no­lo­gical deve­lop­ments in a previously unknown way. Pres­sure also increases on compa­nies and their leaders to attempt to calcu­late the incal­cul­able. The result is in the complex world of today compa­nies can no longer be guided centrally. Many buzzwords are curr­ently being discussed as alter­na­tives: “agility” and “dyna­mism” will be increased by “colla­bo­ra­tion” and “parti­ci­pa­tion”. Methods such as “design thin­king” or “Scrum” will raise the power of inno­va­tion, customer orien­ta­tion as well as speed, and not just in the IT indu­stry.

Company leadership is chan­ging corre­spon­dingly. But the question remains: how?

Rese­ar­chers have inve­sti­gated the status and perspec­tives, the demands and chal­lenges to changes in company leadership. In a study carried out by the Centre for Leadership and Beha­viour in Orga­ni­sa­tions (CLBO) at Goethe Univer­sity in Frank­furt, manage­ment and workers were polled about their thoughts, then they discussed the results with experts and finally with the help of renowned coope­ra­tion part­ners, possible processes for the company were desi­gned and tested.

All custo­mers in focus

In summary, digital leadership shows a consi­stent orien­ta­tion to the “customer” – from inside and out. For a successful outcome to this “user-centri­city”, company leadership should have “a joy for a loss of control”, above all brin­ging toge­ther the right people and crea­ting the basic condi­tions for target-oriented work, but no longer making every deci­sion by them­selves. This posi­tion is based on the convic­tion that comple­xity cannot be grasped and influ­enced in all its facets by digi­ta­li­sa­tion. This sober insight is an important condi­tion for flexibly and agilely taking advan­tage of – instead of merely reac­ting to – the constantly chan­ging demands of compe­ti­tion. The survey has however showed that employees are not very good at evalua­ting the compe­ten­cies of their mana­gers, and in the opinion of the leadership itself there was still much to do in this regard. This is because curr­ently the skills of the indi­vi­dual and the compe­ten­cies in the company are rather lowly valued. At the same time, it was mostly unclear where the needed compe­ten­cies can be increased or expanded.

Digital leadership has to start at the top

Without support of the company’s manage­ment, digital leadership will never be success­fully imple­mented – in this, all those surveyed – inde­pen­dent of branch or company size – were united. Just as united were those polled in saying that the example of promi­nent CEOs in the US or impres­sive “digital native” compa­nies did not provide the impetus toward intro­du­cing or imple­men­ting digital leadership. Only when direct compe­ti­tors had
success with new leadership prac­tices or when the first successes were reco­gnised in their own compa­nies, did those surveyed find moti­va­tion for further deve­lop­ment in digital leadership. Further­more, desire and reality are markedly diffe­rent. While on one side, the topic of digital leadership is consi­dered important for all busi­ness areas now and in the future, it is curr­ently still weakly applied. For nearly half of those surveyed a discus­sion around digital leadership in their own company was “so far not an issue”. Frank Kohl-Boas of Google Germany has spoken out against this lethargy: “It is high time to tackle this topic radi­cally, faster, with more courage and on the basis of its import­ance.”

But how will the discrepancy between the desire and the reality, espe­ci­ally with regard to the demands on leadership on one side and their under­de­ve­loped compe­ten­cies on the other, be harmo­nised? The bottom line of the study was that there is no silver bullet to digital leadership, that is, there is no iden­ti­fiable toolkit that is e›ective in every situa­tion. There­fore, we have to ask: what can a company do?

Every begin­ning is agile

This is the aspi­ra­tion for the so-called Think Digital Scree­ning that was worked out in the context of the study from the resul­ting hands-on expe­ri­ence. The goal is make company manage­ment willing and able to value digital leadership and to decide on the processes within the company, processes that are appro­priate for the company’s needs. What is special about this is that an increase of status was already marked by a higher level of agility that would be later reached in the entire company through digital leadership. Think Digital Scree­ning shows for example how manage­ment curr­ently operates in hier­archy-free, self­or­ga­nised teams. In the teams, a task can be, for example, how the company leadership in the future will look in order to able to better fulfil the demands of custo­mers (non-manage­ment employees also parti­ci­pate in this).

Two steps to star­ting

The scree­ning is a very lean method that deli­vers opera­tively useful results in a short time. First, the inven­tory will be looked at as a whole – from the current instru­ments (such as leadership princi­ples, measures for deve­lop­ment of manage­ment personnel, etc.), targeted results (from surveys, perfor­mance evalua­tions, etc.) to formal proce­dures (such as meeting culture, deci­sion processes, etc.). From here possible capa­bi­li­ties will already emerge for the trans­for­ma­tion toward digital leadership. Emphasis is laid on mode­rated group dialo­gues with leadership members who are selected at random. ´In this are simu­lated how diffe­rent teams can orga­nise them­selves in a short time into flexible and agile leadership processes. These focus groups make it possible to evaluate the current prepa­red­ness and ability for digital leadership. Depen­ding upon the company, its size and struc­ture, it is usually enough that a few groups working two hours each decide on the most important manage­ment issues and needs as well as the best options for further progress.

Buil­ding types and scen­a­rios

The scree­ning builds the foun­da­tion for the company to build its own future leadership style. This is because digital leadership will develop and be e›ective di›erently in each company. It is important for each company to create its own model. The ideal type of leadership can in addi­tion be presented as very malle­able, for example through a target­per­for­mance compa­rison for leadership beha­viour. Alter­na­tively, scen­a­rios can be created: The future agile day-to-day of mana­gers will be graphi­cally imagined, again in contrast to their current tasks. ´From this emerge the demands on manage­ment and their compe­ten­cies, and if necessary also the needed changes in struc­tures and processes in the company, for example, how deci­sions are made.

Just let it rip and learn from expe­ri­ence

Every company has to find its own way in imple­men­ting new types and scen­a­rios. In prac­tice, it is often worth it to first create free places or plat­forms, such a think tank. There new methods and forms of coope­ra­tion can be rehe­arsed concre­tely that lead to impro­ve­ments and useful inno­va­tions faster. Mistakes and nega­tive expe­ri­ences are thereby an elemen­tary part of lear­ning. In order for this to work, curr­ently existing hier­ar­chies and struc­tures for deci­sions that exist in parallel to them must not be imme­dia­tely slipped in. Manage­ment has to unlearn the famous state­ments “yes, but” or “I know this already”. Then digital leadership will awaken much undis­co­vered poten­tial in the company and use it success­fully against the compe­ti­tion.

Contact:
Dr. Michael Groß
Groß & Cie
m.gross@gross-cie.com

Michael Groß

Michael Groß

  • Dr. Michael Groß became famous as an Olympic swim­ming cham­pion. He has worked as a Mana­ging Partner of Groß & Cie. located in König­stein, Taunus, for 16 years. The consul­tancy focuses on two busi­ness areas: change manage­ment and talent manage­ment. Change manage­ment involves the successful plan­ning and imple­men­ta­tion of changes in compa­nies, whereas talent manage­ment enables compa­nies to ensure and further develop their compe­ten­cies. In addi­tion, Dr. Groß is a lecturer at the univer­sity in Frank­furt, teaching digital leadership. The “Hand­buch Change Manager” manual is one of his multiple publi­ca­tions.

Want to get to know Michael Groß?

Get in touch

Still curious?
There is more to see here:

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