How does our company remain sustainable in times of rapid changes driven by digital transformation? Thinking about it is our job as managing directors and partners. But how do we remain fit for the future as managers? I think by constantly developing ourselves personally, by daring to try new things and always taking new perspectives and challenges.
This conviction drove my decision to take on the challenge as managing director of Saint Elmo's Tourism Marketing and complete an MBA at the same time. Not only to refresh and expand my knowledge, but also because the MBA is an ideal opportunity to work on your personal motivations and potential – in particular through the intensive exchange with managers from other industries and with lecturers who trigger you to reflect on yourself and to ask yourself. Where do I stand and where do I want to go?
It quickly became clear where these questions would take me on my journey to the MBA. Over the course of the scientific examination of the topic of economy and leadership of the future, two aspects emerged that concerned me the most: the factors of people and corporate culture.
Where are we now?
Today the world of work is changing like never before, and digitalization is shaping new rules of the game. Modern parameters of the work culture are agility, flexibility and mobility; in addition, there are core competencies critical to success, such as speed and innovative ability.
At the same time, new work aims to radically change the corporate culture. As described in my article “The Journey to New Work”, such a change always has to start at the management level, which is why new management strategies are needed. One aspect is particularly important in these new leadership strategies: The focus is no longer on methodology, but on people. Because today, people are the decisive added value factor in economic competition – or as my personal motto says: It's all about people.
These challenges are reflected in the agency industry in particular as factors critical to success because the company's success is based almost entirely on the skills and performance of the employees. The industry is characterized by its fast pace, fluctuation is higher, as a result, the durability of knowledge and experience is limited. At the same time, however, the industry demands the continuous development of innovations in order to survive in a competitive field. If people are not shown as a resource in corporate accounting, there's an increasing gap between the market and book value of a company. What's most clearly visible and noticeable in the service industry.
Human beings as a decisive value creation factor
My suggestion is to add the human assets item to the assets on the balance sheet. Human assets – not to be confused with the economically oriented term human capital – include all of the performance potentials that are made available to a company by its employees.
This approach is in no way about reducing people to a mere economic factor. But particularly for agencies, it will be imperative in the future to include people as an important value-adding factor in the balance sheet. Because these values are currently disregarded in the existing economic system and can only be shown to a limited extent “voluntarily” or at all by using alternative economic models.
However, the most pressing task of companies in the consulting industry is to create a new corporate culture that focuses on people, on the basis of which human resources are strengthened and the company can be successfully managed through the digital transformation. This needs rethinking in the age of the knowledge-based society as well as visibility and new valuation approaches because people and culture form important values in the company and are essential success factors.
Participation as the key to a successful digital transformation
It's obvious that the assessment of human assets and also the development of a new corporate culture is an individual matter, which is only possible on the basis of the specific circumstances in the respective company or, if applicable, within a specific industry – and that this can only be done in cooperation with the employees to attain a satisfactory result. That's why my journey through the MBA turned into a journey for the entire team at Saint Elmo's Tourism Marketing.
In order to allow all employees work on our corporate culture and strategy for the coming years, we initiated a participatory strategy process in the company. Divided into four subject groups (flag, client, employee & portfolio), all employees, from junior to managing director, were able to contribute to the strategic process. In order to make the stages of our journey clear and understandable for everyone, we created a map and defined stages in the form of islands: The route started on the island "Departure" – there it was about planning and preparing the expedition. On the island "Discovery", we devoted ourselves to analyzing the current situation: Who are we, how do we work, do we have a common culture, why do we exist? The island "Reflect" (including team composition) was followed by the island "Develop", where we worked out our strategy together with the help of design thinking methods. On the island "Coming Back", we finished our journey.
In this way, a manifesto was created which should keep us on course in the coming years and which we will continue to work on and in small working groups every quarter on the strategy and its fields of action. Three key messages emerged that formulate the credo of Saint Elmo's Tourism Marketing: 1. We create values and valuable things for everyone involved. 2. We accept responsibility. 3. We move and strengthen people.
Thanks to this participatory strategic process, I was not only able to do research on the "living object" on my journey through the MBA, but we were also able to "contribute" the knowledge gained directly to the team.
End and beginning of a journey
My journey to the MBA has been successfully completed and has brought me many instructive and important insights. It was a journey out of the comfort zone and demanded a lot from me. The double burden sometimes brought me to my limits and resistance to this attitude and statement are part of my journey.
The fact is that the most important drivers of success are people and corporate culture is a fact that is often met with skepticism and reluctance in business and science. It was all the more important for me, and will continue to be, pioneers who think ahead and exemplify a new, future-oriented approach to business and leadership. In the video below, a few such thought leaders and doers have their say.
On my trip to the MBA, I saw for myself how important people are for the success of a project. Without my great team, I would not have achieved my goal. But this journey was just a start. My MBA was an important development step for me personally, but also for Saint Elmo's Tourism Marketing. We want to consciously pay more attention to this relevant topic in the future and work with the team to make the company fit for the future. That's why we are now embarking on the next stages of this journey together.
Sure, this sometimes radical, but necessary development is not a sure-fire success, but rather a learning process and life's work. In the management team, we always have to live it together and strengthen the sense of community in the team. We have to be courageous, dare to experiment and accept winding up in a cul-de-sac from time to time. This long-term project takes time and enthusiasm, and it needs the willingness to participate – and on the part of the team, personal responsibility.
We're taking it on and continuing our journey. It will be shown where the next stages will lead us, the ways in which we will achieve our goals and the obstacles we will encounter. The continuation of the Travel Diary is coming soon. I’m looking forward to it!