The human factor: How transformations succeed

Britta Daffner has been working in the technology and data industry for over a decade. Her credo is to drive innovation and digitization in companies through technology and modern leadership. At IBM, she is the Practice Leader in Data and Technology Transformation. She is also involved at a political level in the DIHK Committee for Digitalization and ICT and, as an executive coach, supports leaders who want to make a difference in the corporate and business world 

The pressure on companies to execute strategic transformation continues to build. What impact does this have on leadership?

Most German companies are expecting fundamental transformations to take place in the next few years – everything from process structures to business realignment. Digitization is changing not only companies, but entire ecosystems. No company is invincible, and there is now a consensus that standing still leads to a gradual loss of competitiveness. Business leaders therefore have no choice but to align their company with the changed market conditions through strategic redesigns and innovations, or even to actively shape them.

At the same time, we see that unfortunately around 80 percent of transformations still fail. What is the reason for this? In fact, it is the executives who bear a large part of the responsibility. Therefore, in order to be or remain successful today and in the coming years, leadership must be strengthened and shaped in the direction of the desired transformation.

How should leadership look and perform in order to make a transformation successful?

One factor in particular is crucial for a successful transformation: employees. Depending on the extent of the changes, a transformation can change the way every single employee works - and in the worst-case scenario this can lead to disorientation, frustration and resistance.

It is therefore very important to create a unified set of goals and an honest commitment to change at management level. After all, upper management is the point of orientation for the entire workforce. Credibility and thus trust can only be achieved in the organization if consistent messages are sent to the team.

In addition to this prerequisite, leaders of today and tomorrow must be bold in breaking new ground, have a good understanding of technology, and put people at the center. This final point is particularly important. After all, change requires managers to be highly sensitive to the different needs and motivators of employees. You need to take them along with you in this process and also inspire them to rethink and change.

In October, you are launching the shine.Circle - an innovative leadership training program. What is your motivation behind it?

I believe that we need far more doers in companies, people who take responsibility and shape change. These may be managers with personnel or departmental responsibility who want to inspire their employees and take them with them, or talented people who want to direct their own ideas and passions into the company.

It is these doers that the shine.Circle supports. In five modules over six weeks, we work on practical skills that help bring about change in companies, and are also necessary for them to advance their own careers. For example, we work on raising our own energy levels to inspire others, creativity, and the ability to rethink for ourselves and others. We discuss how to communicate more effectively with people on an individual level and recognize what motivates them, how to use different characters in the right way, and how to communicate your own ideas in a way that inspires. Finally, it is about how to deal with resistance and how to build a sustainable network of relationships, internally as well as externally.

More information about the shine. Circle can be found at Over on the website you can register or organize an introductory conversation with Britta Daffner.



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