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Telekom Strategy Consulting Team

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Transformation: Important, but how to do it right?

Whoever sustainably transforms an area, his product portfolio or the entire company needs more than processes and KPIs for control.

Globalization, digitalization, permanent market changes, extreme competitive and cost pressures demand maximum flexibility - and constantly force new strategies and organizational changes. In short: transformation! But what does transformation mean in a company? Soberly defined, it is a process of change, from the current state to the desired state, according to Wikipedia. Okay, everyone understands. So, continue transforming? 

Fundamental changes

We at Telekom's in-house consulting are also constantly involved in transformation projects. Over the past 15 years, we have supported around 300 transformation projects at the Center for Strategic Projects. There have been major tasks that have fundamentally changed our company. One Company, for example. Who knows that there used to be two separate Telekom companies in Germany for mobile communications and fixed-line communications: T-Mobile and T-Com? Or when we founded Telekom IT, which is our internal IT development and systems house. These were fundamental transformations of corporate structures that took place throughout Deutsche Telekom - and directly affected a large number of employees. 

Did we implement these transformations correctly and sufficiently? In short: to a large extent - if I only consider the goals we wanted to achieve. We designed the organization, described new processes and adapted the IT systems. Business as usual for a consultant. Nevertheless, we keep asking ourselves if we can really assess with a purely business perspective whether we are successfully transforming.


A transformation has various components

Transformation changes social environments 

The economist Christian Deuringer, now responsible for Allianz's Global Brand Management, writes in his book on Organization and Change Management: "Typically, a company has to redefine most of its environmental relationships during the transformation process. Therefore, business transformation represents a decisive turning point in the company's relationships with individuals and with its economic and social environment. 

This brings us closer to the point. Transformations are not just about numbers, data, facts and processes. It is also very much about people and relationships. For employees, every transformation means a change of the working environment, of colleagues, of locations and rooms, in short: transformation changes the social environment. Those who believe that they can implement changes according to plan without the people affected by them will quickly be taught better in practice. 

Change is perceived as a threat

Therefore it is crucial whether a project is successful: How do we make sure that our employees understand what we are planning, why we are changing and what will actually improve? Only then will they commit themselves to the new organization and positively shape the transformation. Those managers who only focus on goals and disregard the psychological side usually encounter resistance from their employees. 

Change management therefore plays a decisive role here. Employees tend to see change as a threat. Their reactions range from absolute helplessness, to expressed and lived scepticism and to open resistance. This in turn has serious effects on the working atmosphere and the organisational culture. Especially when they work in a company that is constantly changing. 

Involving employees and allowing them to shape the company

How do we manage to consider all participants in a transformation? Therefore, it is worth taking a look at the agile development of software and new solutions. Analogous to how we have been doing this very successfully in projects of Telekom IT, T-Systems and Telekom Deutschland. We need to get out of our silos, bring together representatives of all those "affected ones", work together across departments and from the outset not only tap into the input of the entire team, but let them help shape it. Who knows better how a process must change and how we can become better overall than the employees who deal with the processes on a daily basis? 

That's why I appeal to all those who initiate and accompany transformation: Give the direction, but give the "people affected" the freedom to determine the way agile. Focus on agile development methods that don't look for the big picture, but rather bring the first functioning partial solutions onto the market with small steps according to the principle of "Minimal Viable Products". We learn from these MVPs, change directions, choose other paths, correct our procedures and objectives and finally achieve a better result together. 

A company is a complex social entity. Different ideas, opinions and interests meet here and can lead to conflicts. This hinders transformation processes. One consequence: loss of employees. And in my opinion just as dangerous: The inner distancing from the employer.