Let's make "real" organisational transformations

This article was originally published in the German language here

AI-generated image (Midjourney prompt: Machines transforming into living organism realistic digital –ar 16:9)

Why “real” – are there any “fake” organisational transformations? I think so. But I am aware that this is a strong value judgement.

From my inspirational and consulting work, I have brought here three perspectives on “fake” transformations. I describe the situations and issues I often encounter and then share some concrete tips to address them.

Since the perspectives definitely overlap, it’s worth looking at the experiences and tips of the perceived “other” perspectives as well. 

The executive board / management wishes


Here I meet the executive board / management (or other decision-making bodies) who want a modern organization. When introducing new concepts (purpose orientation, self-organization, role world, consent decisions, meeting on eye level, transparency, etc.) I hear statements like “we already do a lot of this”, “we also have flat hierarchies”, “we also lead on a long leash”, “we also think in roles”, “our doors are always open”, “our employees are allowed to decide a lot themselves”, “we already have Scrum/SAFe (feel free to use any working technique here, not an organizational model)” and of course some of the myths about self-organization (such as self-referral). And although they already do “almost” everything right, nevertheless no self-organization with self-responsibility arises and the effect of the transformation leaves much to be desired. Especially when it comes to self-responsibility, they then often become desperate. 

« The employees simply do not take responsibility and it needs us everywhere »

On closer inspection, it then becomes clear very quickly that not only are there very different ideas of these modern organizational concepts, but also that often the intention is well-intentioned, but there is a lack of corresponding concrete implementations.

AI-generated image (Midjourney prompt: management employee responsibility surrealistic abstract –ar 16:9)

Of course, there is no patent remedy, because the constellations and stories of transformation are often very different. And it’s great that these teams are already seriously dealing with these issues – let’s just say that! What could help? 


  • First of all, understand the concepts more precisely and compare them with reality and don’t immediately say/think “we do that too”. It is also worthwhile to check with the management/decision-making team what the understanding of these concepts is. And you will be surprised, often the individuals have very different ideas.
  • Identify which parts are already working well (you can be proud of the steps you have taken!) and, for the aspects that are still unsatisfactory, understand what concrete concepts could help to achieve the desired state. It is necessary to make the wishes for or to the organization very concrete with specific measures/changes. From wishing to doing.
  • In workshops with the management, I often find that it is not clear what the goal of the transformation is. There are wishes in the room, but there is no clear common goal. I absolutely recommend agreeing on this common goal – the whole transformation is based on it. The simple yet profound question “What will we have when the transformation is “finished” – what will be concretely different in our organization then?” also helps.

Founder / Patron remains in the center


In smaller companies, I occasionally encounter this type of “fake” transformation. Here, transformation often consists of learned concepts of the founders and a deep conviction to really change something is missing. Letting go is a big issue here. After all, it’s about “my baby”.

AI-generated image (Midjourney prompt: female founder, conviction, why?, paper cutting, –ar 16:9)


  • Make yourself clearly aware of why transformation is an issue for you and your company in the first place. Do you see the opportunities of such a change or is it more about being part of something, since everyone wants to become more “agile” somehow?
  • Growth puts more pressure on adaptability. At its core, transformations today are about the adaptability of the organization. That is the main purpose – to be able to adapt faster to the many changes. As a small organization, this may not be as much of a focus yet, but as you grow, it becomes a success factor. How do I make it possible for the organization to use its sensorium as broadly as possible (all employees have 5-6 senses ;-)) and to constantly adapt to new circumstances?
  • Deal with succession issues early enough and don’t just think about a 1:1 succession. Maybe shared leadership is a great chance to give the company into the hands of further generations? By the way, this aspect is also very appropriate for the perspective “The executive board / management wishes”.

Large companies / corporations: Transformation as a "todo".


I often encounter this kind of “fake” transformation in large companies / corporations. 

Everyone is transforming, so we transform too. More or less as a checklist item or todo – I as a leader have to do this as well. “We are now transformed” is what they say then. Employees then often ask themselves “what is actually different now?”.

This often involves using a lot of new terminologies or making general statements such as “we work according to the Spotify model”. Often this is more of a “new way of wording”, not working.

« New Way of Wording, instead of New Way of Working»

Unfortunately, these terms are then also understood arbitrarily and thereby also used differently everywhere. “We also have chapter leads”. And if you take a closer look, other teams/departments/areas/divisions also have Chapter Leads – just completely different.

AI-generated image (Midjourney prompt: big corporate, checklist, new way, cinematic –ar 16:9)

Or also “we also work with roles” and when you look closer you see that “role” is just a modern word for “position”. Also, the idea that roles should describe work is not understood, but new delimitations/power positions are built up with it. 

Due to the diversity, I then encounter many small-scale transformations, which, however, have little in common and mean a lot of effort for each team/department/area/division. And what is even worse is that this tends to lead to a boundary – a mutual competition of “who does the better transformation?

Often a competition to see who can do the “best” transformation.

These different transformations are then also played off against each other, i.e. it takes a lot of time to convince “the others” of the “right” way. It’s all a lot of effort and business theater – and the poor employees are even less able to collaborate well across boundaries because they all work differently.


  • Define common terminology (glossary) and common rules. These then apply to all teams/departments/areas/divisions. The details can then be developed decentrally and also differently, but the basis, the logic, the system, is the same.
  • Don’t simply adopt any organizational concepts, but rather deal intensively with the ideas behind them. It is worthwhile to form a transformation team that takes a closer look at the different concepts and then decides on something. This takes a lot of time (and nerves ;-)), but it is worth it because then you have created a common basis.
  • Critically question the possibly already created role world. Do we have a common understanding of the term “role” and what is different to the known “positions”? In a real role world, it is no longer possible to delimit everything. The focus is on fulfilling the purpose, achieving key figures and getting the job done, not on eliminating possible (or let’s say feared) overlaps.

You can’t have decentralized, agile, fast teams and at the same time no overlap of activities. 

  • Do not see the organization as a centrally controlled machine. Organizations are living systems and not machines – therefore they cannot be centrally controlled/managed. Organizations can very well be steered by e.g. purpose, metrics and strategies, but leave it up to the individual teams/departments/areas/divisions to shape it and let it go.
  • Compliance with laws, standards, mandates, etc. is not contradictory to self-organization and agility. Various organizations have already shown how this can be combined without any problems. Hassle-free does not mean effortless. It needs creative ideas to use modern concepts effectively on the one hand and to maintain corporate compatibility on the other. It is also worth questioning whether the often “old” corporate concepts (e.g. in the form of rigid processes/IT systems) are still appropriate for today’s working world.

Where are the entrepreneurs, managers, executives and board members who are willing to make “real” transformations? Why? Quite simply, for satisfied and healthy companies, customers and employees!

In conversations with people who want to move their organizations forward with modern concepts, the same patterns and questions come up again and again. Therefore, we as Unic have tried to map the necessary steps in 8 steps to modern transformation (German only). Good luck on this very valuable path to a new working world!

AI-generated image (Midjourney prompt: Working world, 8 steps, Courageous concepts, Organization, photo realistic –ar 16:9)

PS: What’s the deal with AI-generated images?

First, I find this a great way to make articles more visually appealing and play with the new kind of creativity. For this, I also tried to show different styles. Partly fascinating to confuse what is created :-).

Secondly, and in this context even more important, I am, apart from organizational topics, also intensively involved with new technologies – currently, who wonders, especially with artificial intelligence – and there, in relation to the new working world and what this means for our collaboration, a completely new dimension is just opening up. It remains exciting!