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APRIL 2015
 
Employee in Focus
 

PATRICK FEUERSTEIN

ABOUT "CHANGE"


Or: Nothing is more constant than change! And why Change Management will be obsolete in 20 years

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Companies are always making strategic and structural changes to adapt to shifting business conditions. In times of rapid change, good management becomes vital to survival, but the "traditional" understanding of Change Management is no longer enough to handle the transformations taking place. Is that the reason Patrick Feuerstein is so interested in precisely this subject? He is not only surrounded by change in his innovation work on customer projects, but one of his many hobbies, mountaineering, is also very much defined by the ability to adapt and transform. Regardless of whether you are on foot, on a bike or in snowshoes, in Lower Austria, Nepal or Norway, or in hot, cold or stormy climes, in order to handle what nature throws at you it is essential that you adjust quickly to your surroundings, and it is especially important to be well prepared.

"A tour will be successful when you are not only ready for the 'project' itself but also ready for anything that happens along the way," is how Feuerstein described the challenges in both mountaineering and in Change Management to Linda Stifter.

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Change is a necessity


Linda: Patrick, the need for change and the speed at which things change have never been quite as extreme as they seem to be now, and that seems to apply to any industry, even those in "stiller waters" where for example product or performance cycles take several years. Where does this pressure come from?

Patrick: There are a number of things at play here. One of the main "sources" of the pressure, however, is increasing digitization and integration, which result in the permanent availability of information both internally as well as externally. Companies have to respond to that.

Linda: In our everyday consulting work we see that Change Management is typically employed by companies in "situation-specific" circumstances and often perceived as an "annoying accompaniment" related to broader (change) plans.
Patrick: Yes, that is unfortunately true! But the times where Change Management can only be applied on a project-specific basis are definitely gone. Now the focus lies in further developing the skills and competencies of an organization and its employees. This advancement and the associated developments are enormous! Terms like Industry 4.0 or Additive Manufacturing are not just empty words that will become reality at some point in the future. They are already a living reality and with them come accelerated market and customer demands. For companies this basically means the recipe for success today will no longer work tomorrow. They HAVE to change and adapt. If they don't, then their futures are on the line.

Linda: What does it take to be able to implement "enduring", sustainable change in a company? What does one have to pay attention to?

Change is a challenge

Patrick: Reducing FEAR is paramount to change. That can only happen, however, if constant change is the norm. Of course there has to be a framework within which changes can take place and one has to be aware that every change to a business model or every innovative initiative will have effects on the organization.

  • You need a certain amount of ROOM TO MANEUVER so the changes can take hold and remain effective over the long term.
  • It is also decisive in the run-up that a broad management group is established. This will provide the necessary "BACKBONE" for garnering support and affecting widespread change.
  • In addition, the VISION that reflects the end game after change has been implemented needs to be clearly communicated. All affected employees should be given a clear answer to the question: "Why are we doing this?"
  • And finally, there is ONE MISTAKE that must be avoided: celebrating victory too soon! That happens all the time, especially when people get impatient in the final stretch. The last hurdles in (successful) implementation can't be repeated and the overall objective is lost.

Linda: Which aspects of Change Management will change over the next 20 years?

Change is a constant

Patrick: I think we will have to make a departure from seeing Change Management as just a form of "bridging technology". It will be much more focused on getting management to take on their true tasks: developing new strategies and tactics for handling increasingly complex processes and constant change. I am also convinced that in 20 years traditional Change Management won't really even exist anymore. Entrepreneurs and managers will have to lead more knowledge-based companies that are no longer distinguished by the quality of management alone. It will be focused on a culture of COOPERATION and EXPERTISE in order to successfully compete in a market that is constantly in flux.

Linda: Change is a constant – an appropriate "vision of the future" ... And this vision is surely applicable in mountaineering where one is constantly dealing with changing conditions – whether one likes it or not – despite good planning for a selected route.
Patrick: Yes, you have to be very flexible and able to adjust to the challenges and situations in order "master" the transformation. In other words, you have to "be the change".

Linda: BE THE CHANGE is the motto. Thank you for the interview! II

 

 
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PATRICK
FEUERSTEIN

The need for change and the speed at which things change have never been quite as extreme as they seem to be now. Paradoxically, many companies remain true to a renewed understanding of change management and in the process do no justice to the name.

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