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Dr. Anke Nienkerke-Springer is the managing director and owner of Nienkerke-Springer Consulting. She is considered a leading expert in communication in transformation processes, top management coaching and consulting.


Future viability despite the crisis: change management - evolution instead of revolution

Company Those who do not reinvent themselves constantly perish - this is the general opinion in management circles. But organizations do not have to reinvent themselves all the time, they have to constantly adapt to become sustainable.

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Success through evolution

“It is not the strongest species that survives, nor the most intelligent, but rather the one that is most likely to change,” said Charles Darwin. This applies not only to the animal kingdom, but also to organizations. From my 25 years of consulting practice, I know that evolutionary corporate development often leads to success more sustainably. For me, evolutionary corporate development means sustainability through adaptation.

It differs from revolutionary development in that companies maintain what has been tried and tested for its future viability. It is about adaptation processes that do not simply discard the existing and the tried and true but disruptively and revolutionarily, but instead build on the existing. The trick is not to overturn the foundation, but to use it as the basis for sustainable development. The cultural change is therefore on the shoulders of the previous strengths.

"Evolution instead of revolution" is possible by constantly thinking about yourself, by reflecting on what has happened so far, with the aim of making necessary adjustments to ensure that the future can be won. The development of the corporate culture is a constant process. In addition to a clearly communicated mission statement, leadership principles and values ​​are the basis for the growth and success of an evolutionary company.

The certain difference: personality

As a rule, the management team in an evolutionary company with personality consists of focused leaders with a high value orientation. While accompanying complex change processes that involve a change in culture, I found that evolutionary companies have a clear competitive advantage that pays off, especially in times of crisis. In an evolutionary company with personality, managers are not only permitted, but are also required to take account of ethical values ​​in addition to economic considerations when making decisions. The mindset of such decision-makers is characterized by the fact that, in addition to economic success, they also want to be able to create long-term values ​​while taking ethical principles into account.

They are aware of their social responsibility, actively exercise it and have a clear attitude. They are concerned with more than just generating profits and orienting themselves on quarterly figures. It is important that such responsible persons develop the competence for strategic far-sightedness and are able to take different perspectives, to reflect and to take appropriate actions. Her maxims for action include understandability, formability and meaningfulness. They are not concerned with change for their own sake. The decisive factor is rather the attempt to continuously improve through clever and far-sighted adjustment processes and thus remain or become future-proof.

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Change management: It is all about the right pace

But be careful: A change that is too disruptive can have just as adverse consequences as a change that is too slow or does not take place. If changes happen too abruptly, too revolutionarily, too prescribed, they are often not understandable for the employees and they are right to ask themselves where the journey should actually go. But what happens if the team is not aware of the scope of the changes and their consequences? When words don't act? What if companies just pour icing over long-outdated and ramshackle structures to celebrate themselves in the old style? Then both employees and managers experience frustration, bewilderment or a kind of cynicism that leaves deep wounds on people.

However, in order to start the development to an evolutionary company successfully at all, in addition to an awareness of constant changes, it also requires alertness for evolutionary principles and for stumbling blocks that are on the way.

Principles of success for evolutionary development

A maxim of entrepreneurship in evolutionary companies is to put people at the center. This includes employees, partners, customers and also suppliers. The ultimate corporate goal: customer satisfaction - clearly defined and measurable. It is also crucial that company leaders become aware that design, comprehensibility and meaningfulness are the three basic principles for developing potential. Furthermore, it is often better to encourage employees and managers to develop their strengths instead of sending them to seminars in which they try to eradicate their weaknesses.

Essential principles have emerged which make a company a future-oriented company and which, when taken into account, drive an evolutionary development. This includes the principle of lifelong learning. This always affects the whole person, it is not just about the professional competence, but also about the methodological, social, emotional and communication skills of a person. Lifelong personality development and development are important pillars on the way to an evolutionary company in which all areas, departments and teams want to and can continuously learn.

In small steps to evolutionary changes

Another principle with which evolutionary development succeeds is that of trying it out. An intelligent error culture or better learning culture is a prerequisite for this principle. It is important that a mistake or failure does not result in a resigned abandonment, but is taken as a motivation to try again. There is the principle of asking on top. What is meant here is not only the competence to listen actively, to give constructive feedback and to master classic questioning techniques, but to advance with evolutionary questions, to question the status quo again and again, knowing that the next development step must be taken.

Because whoever wants to evolve does not stop asking questions. People and companies that have stopped asking questions are “dead”. In addition to the principle of asking, the guiding principle of the evolutionary "baby steps" is helpful. The motto behind it: in small steps for big change. This guarantees that you can actually start and stay focused. The trick is to simply take the first or next step.

Avoid shock and panic in crisis situations

There are pitfalls that reliably lead to the evolutionary process failing. Not every company manages to develop into an evolutionary organization. After all, there are numerous obstacles, blockages, sources of errors and faults, and stumbling blocks along the way. The reasons for a defeat are as varied and individual as the companies themselves. However, when I support organizations in change and transformation processes, I know that certain mistakes are noticeably more common. Anyone who knows these sources of possible failure can take preventive measures in good time so that they do not subsequently belong to the companies that are dying out.

In general, a shock or panic, as we often experience in crisis situations, is by no means expedient. One of the greatest dangers for failure is the fear of failure itself. Like rabbits in front of a snake, companies are shocked by the fact that those responsible are too concerned with the scenarios of failure. Basically, people only want to act and take the next step towards an evolutionary company when there is planning with a XNUMX% chance of success. This is a contradiction in terms, because there is no one hundred percent certainty of success.

Resilience - Design strategies for dealing with unexpected developments

It is better to design strategies for dealing with unexpected developments and to consider and plan for the “actually” impossible. At least as far as we are able to do that. Of course, things can always turn out very differently than planned. Ultimately, however, it is important that those responsible and decision-makers learn to deal with the fact that they know nothing - at least never one hundred percent. Developing ambiguity tolerance makes it easier to deal with difficult situations. What is meant is to take note of and endure ambiguity and uncertainty. With a pronounced tolerance for ambiguity, it is possible to cope with irritation in a productive manner.

Another hurdle is sticking to traditional recipes for success. Maintaining the tried and tested is a positive value in evolutionary companies that strive for adaptation processes. However, it is of little use if nobody dares to question things, "slaughter a holy cow" or cut off "old braids". Sometimes it is important to separate yourself from previous principles and habits that have been successful in the past but have now survived.

Employees - the pillars of the evolutionary corporate culture

But what criteria help managers to choose those employees who support and support the evolutionary corporate culture? Clearly what counts is a person's personality, their talents, ambitions and passion for the task and the company. It is always important for me to feel whether someone is passionate about something or just wants to have a job.

After all, personal characteristics are more important than the certificate of a renowned university. And I am convinced that companies that reflect on their personality and strengths and remain open to new things can look to the future with confidence.

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