Collaboration, Digitization

New Work - Technology Meets Cultural Change

Tim Bennemann10/13/2020

Too much stress, too many projects, too many changes—if there is no measurable success, dissatisfaction levels can quickly increase. This underlines the need to find new ways of working together (New Work). After all, many of our current problems can no longer be solved with traditional models of organization, work and leadership. On the contrary, they need new ideas, ways of thinking and structures.

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Various approaches, methods and models of thought are assigned under the banner of “New Work”, which have one thing in common: they all try to deal better with the increased complexity that everyday work brings. What they do have in common are certain characteristics and principles such as

•    Flexibility is more important than planning
•    Data-based experiments are more important than historical knowledge 
•    Customer needs are more important than management wishes
•    People are the focus of all goals and solutions—for example as customers, employees or partners
•    Efficient communication is more important than efficient processes
•    Strengthening the effectiveness of activities through clear visions and target structures
•    Providing more flexibility in organization and products with fast learning in small steps
•    Decentralized, autonomous decision-making powers, where needs become apparent.

It takes more than new office furniture, fruit or a football table to establish New Work in a company. Rather, new tools, working methods or structures such as OKR, continuous feedback, Scrum or Design Thinking need to be introduced.

These tools and working methods can only be successfully implemented and used by changing the corporate culture as well as each individual’s mindset. New Work and agile methods require a lot of communication—and showing some tolerance for making mistakes. So, if the norm is to only communicate internally within the department and for any mistakes to be punished, no one will take up the new rules of the game. Therefore, the corporate culture and mindset needs to be changed—preferably before, but certainly no later than when the new working methods are introduced. In the future, employees, teams, and the entire organization should see:

•    Direction: In the long term, a company will only achieve its strategic goals when they are directly linked to the overall corporate vision. All employees should therefore understand how what they do contributes toward this.

•    Transparency & Open Communication: If your employees know what colleagues and other departments are working on and how they can support them, this strengthens cooperation. At the same time, mutual understanding grows. Transparency can, however, also stir up fears initially—especially if bonus payments have been linked to individual performance in the past. 

•    Inner Motivation: Financial incentive and reward systems themselves do not create a sustainable link between employees and the company. Inner motivation only arises when employees genuinely identify with the company vision and the values they live by and see their daily work as meaningful.

•    Teams Acting on Their Own Responsibility: Self-organized teams require a high degree of trust, cooperation and effective communication as well as clear task allocation. You should be able to approach targets independently without waiting for instructions from your superiors. Managers must be able to demonstrate trust in their teams and set clear guidance in order to achieve goals.

•    Open Error Culture: Agile methods do not rely on planning and 100% mature products, but on prototypes. Errors are therefore allowed, and even desirable. After all, you can learn from mistakes and use the knowledge you gain to improve your own performance. 


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New Work is no joke, but the future. Admittedly, most models cannot be implemented in every occupational field. Nursing and catering services, for example, can only dream of flexible working hours, while shift work for the police and the like is essential. Nevertheless, New Work is possible in a wide range of professions—and should therefore be implemented. When implementing New Work, conservative values and attitudes have to be set aside. Managers must overcome their fear of “loss of power” and abandon classic hierarchical thinking. In this way, they create the conditions their employees need for a productive, healthy and supportive working environment. Companies can thus make themselves ready for the future, however uncertain it may currently seem. Some individual companies are already pursuing this approach holistically. However, it will take time before the mindset of the working world has become truly transformed.

Our continuation webinar "How to Lead Your Teams Innovatively and Digitally in the Age of New Work" on October 22, 2020 at 3:00 p.m. will focus on digital team management and agile project work. 

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Of course, we are always available to you for a personal discussion. Just send us an email or give us a call. Our digitalization experts look forward to discussing your digital ideas with you. 

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Tim Bennemann
Consultant | COSMO CONSULT