The end of the classic career: rise, descent, change?

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Career and career are even less "predictable" in times of digital transformation than before. The traditional success model of a steep manager career to the top floors has become fragile. Hitherto impressive hierarchical titles are no longer meaningful and offer no assurance of success. Instead, there are evangelists who even resign from a CEO position. A disruptive change in our thinking about career and success is necessary. The end of the classic career: promotion, descent, change? career path

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Roswitha A. van der Markt Roswitha van der marketRoswitha A. van der Markt is a management consultant and executive coach for HP, Siemens or SAP.


Different digital maturity levels of Company

The world of work 4.0 breaks with almost all the basic rules of previous management and organization theories, but above all with our thinking about "regulated work". For some time about 2-4 years this topic accompanies us now. But where are we actually in this process? We are still a long way from inbound and outbound networked organizational structures, self-organization and democratic governance.

Rigid structures with established hierarche levels, as are still common in most groups, are only slowly changing towards agile project and decision-making structures. This requires a release of old patterns, trained over decades.

The digital maturity of German companies fluctuates considerably - from a few surprisingly hierarchical, even patriarchal, companies through a variety of different forms of the penetration of digital communication and cooperation in teams with participatory leadership style up to to very few companies with democracy, such as Haufe-umantis AG, where managers and roles are elected by the employees themselves.

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The need for change is being seen happiness

For companies surveyed in 7000 countries surveyed, the Deloitte Human Capital Trend 130 noted that the redesign of the organizational structure and thus the adaptation to the needs of digitization and the New Way of Work with 2016% is the top priority followed by 92 % to eliminate leadership gaps and with 90% amazingly high with a focus on corporate culture. The study shows the central problem areas changing to innovative organizations

  • The rethinking and re-design of the management strategy and culture
  • Focus on corporate culture and commitment
  • The coordination and orientation of self-organized teams
  • The recognition and appreciation, the motivation of employees, even without incentive of a manager position, without more power and status.

The Top 3 Innovation Preventers: Fear, Power, Faith

Well, this was a global study on 130 countries. The innovation trend index 2016 shows a different climate in the German economy. More than 35% of German surveyors surveyed said they had already boycotted innovation out of fear. More than half, 54% of the employees of German companies fear a loss of power and only 10% of respondents were able to state that innovation ideas could overcome the hurdle of power at all.

This clearly shows that, in 90% of German companies, innovation is failing at the hurdle of power, for fear of loss of power and status, and only a slight lack of faith in the possible implementation of 11%.

The quest for excellence - our only career model

Why are not we surprised? Why is it so comprehensible and understandable that one does not want to give up power and status? For decades, even centuries, our aspiration, our model of thinking, has been shaped by the aspiration to move upwards.

Success was achieved when you completed your apprenticeship, graduation or diploma as one of the best and was then hired as quickly as possible in a renowned company, which looked after the further education as well as the development of the employees. In the best case, the classic career went linearly upwards, in the same company loyal and integrity step by step the career ladder.

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Top Manager - the "crème de la crème" of the economy?

With the position of top manager, perhaps even a DAX company, you are still today one of the "crème de la crème" of the German economy. That's not to beat, that's success, not only career, but also life-success, because you had to align everything else in life to this top position.

This clear model, which is clear to everyone, is now slowly breaking down, but there are still no crash barriers or lighthouses, such as we can define success and career.

Manager versus expert

For decades, the manager vs. the professional expert career has been played in performance and talent management. A professional career as an expert was indeed respected, also valued, but always only second choice.

Being a senior manager did not only pay off financially, but was also endowed with more power and status. Therefore, many have chosen the way to a manager's career, although they have not felt called upon to do so. Anyone who wanted to be successful, wanted to move and be well looked, had no other option. This success was important not only in the professional field, but also in the family and friends circle.

Executive with bad grades

The fact is that the Gallup 2015 survey showed bad grades to executives: 47% said they had been promoted because they were very successful and very experienced in their previous position without leadership. Leadership competence was hardly decisive for this.

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This system is taking its revenge now. After all, both the selection of high potentials, career models, job descriptions and performance management are all based on these principles. Only the performance of the individual is measured, not one or even several teams.

Help, a descent

Switching from a line position to a project responsibility is still seen by many headhunters and human resources as a "descent" that needs to be substantiated, even if it concerns globally relevant projects of a company. It is still judged by leadership margin and depth.

At Microsoft, managers from other companies had long been forced to accept that they did not receive a great title or status designation. "That's more of a descent in my positioning: Do not I lose image?" Were frequent objections. But at Microsoft, managers of global projects are often more "important" than colleagues with more traditional leadership.

Thinking models of the past of success and career

Not only is digital transformation too slow and too cautious to meet the rapid change in the market, but our thinking models of success and career, leadership and management remain in the past.

Unfortunately, most executives have neither the courage nor the concrete idea of ​​how to implement the widely publicized and radical change in corporate culture. One may also doubt whether they even want. Most large corporations are almost always run by traditional manager types of the last decades. They would lose significant power and contradict the status they had been fighting for years. "Disruptive innovation for the sustainable benefit of companies and society - that is far from being anchored in all leaders". (Stephan Grabmeier, Chief Innovation Evangelist, Haufe-umantis AG)

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Works councils prevent positive change

But even if managers want to, they often have little chance in corporations and some industries. Trade unions and works councils hinder almost any change, so far they have not dealt with the necessity of digital transformation. They have become stuck in the past and are still boycotting job rotation, the necessary further training in digitization and continuous change:

They spy on employees afterwards to see if their actual job exactly matches their job description and snub the responsible manager with the statement: "The man is a mechanic. Why does he have to do digital tasks? He has nothing to do with IT. This has nothing to do with his job description. That may not be; "or culminates in the statement in the presentation of a necessary change program:" But then that is the last change ".

What prevents change

As long as key action bodies in our economy are still so inexplicably and thus dangerously aware of our business ability and also of employability of the individual, neither a radical nor a rapid change can take place.

Here, we are all asked to work on a new, modern success and career thinking.

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  1. Anna Wagner

    Dear Mrs van der Markt,
    I agree with you in all respects.
    In order to drive the change, everyone must participate and no one can talk. Often the problem is already in the root and thus I play on our education system. Many graduates of the economic studies have great gaps in the usual application programs of companies. Digitization should already be done there with extra courses in the areas to prepare the students better. In addition, I believe that universities / universities of applied sciences and companies in the region must work together more closely. At the moment I'm a student and work as a student in a startup company. Before that I have already completed an education and can definitely say that I prefer the expert compared to the manager. Many students do not know this. I often hear from my fellow students that the goal after the study is the managerial level. They want to achieve this goal with very good marks. Many people forget that a manager has more than good marks, and the soft skills are equally relevant. One must develop a leadership personality, because only then do the employees give the necessary confidence for a change. In addition, the company must work to ensure that expert experts have the same status as the position of a manager. Not everyone can become a manager and not everyone is suitable for it. If we then become more open-minded towards something new, there is nothing more to change.
    Not every change is good, but never eternal standstill.
    Best regards,

    • Roswitha A. van der Markt

      Thank you very much, Ms Wagner, I was afraid that even in the universities the "old way of the career" will be propagated. I am willing to discuss this with your fellow students and give you a lot of success.

  2. Thomas Eggert

    The end of the classic career: rise, descent, change? by Roswitha A. van der ... by BERUFEBILDER - Highly recommended I8nzVkCcY1


    The end of the classic career: rise, descent, change? by Roswitha A. van der ... by BERUFEBILDER - Highly recommended 5f524Lw9JC

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