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Unreal

The state of the world resembles Lars von Trier’s Melancholia. Everybody knows that the catastrophe is coming, and does whatever he or she can think of to be prepared for the unavoidable: many people will die unless a miracle happens and somebody develops a cure. The way our company is dealing with the situation, and the communication I received from my managers, are exemplary. I feel safe and supported by SAP. I have no fear. I am rather curious, and a bit psyched, like when you wake up in a foreign city after a long flight with a jet lag. Like Lost in Translation¬†– another great movie about the sensation of in-betweenness.

By the way: my longed-for family vacation to Japan in May might need to be cancelled. I have no clue if the flight tickets to Tokio will be refunded. Lufthansa offers¬†free rebooking until December 2020, but school will start in September – if it starts. On the other hand, what are a few thousand Euros and a missed family vacation compared to what is happening at the stock market. And what are my potential financial losses compared the existential crisis that shop keepers, restaurant owners, actors and performing musicians are experiencing right now? No income means that many of them don’t know how to pay their rents next month. I am one of the lucky few who can work from home. Thanks colleagues from SAP IT Operations – next to the nurses and doctors preparing our emergency rooms for the unavoidable, you are my heroes!

Isn’t it strange? You change your frame of reference, and all of a sudden something that felt like a catastrophe and a big loss offers you a new opportunity. Until last week I never wanted to work from home, because I need the exchange with real human beings. Nevertheless I stay at home. We don’t have much space, because the cost of living in Munich is substantial. I placed a camping table in the corner of our sleeping room, and my new work place was ready. In a few weeks the cherry tree will blossom in front of my window.

Instead of the regular bike rides to my son’s kindergarten, which was closed by order of local authorities last week, we go for a morning walk to the river Isar. The inspiration to start the day with long walks came from Ryan Holiday’s Google Talk “Stillness is the Key”. I think that Ryan’s 8 Things That Will Make Your Day A Success are an excellent recipe for dealing with the upcoming challenges. Although it’s not always easy to concentrate when a bored 6 year old rummages through your flat I try to do the deep work when I return from my morning walks.

I hope it’s not too far-fetched that I compare changes of my personal work habits with organisational changes happening in parallel. I work for the SAP Intelligent Enterprise Group (IEG). As many other companies we are in the middle of Digital Transformation – we drive it for our customers as well as our own organisation. Our internal Agile transformation is work in progress – after a thorough examination we decided to use SAFe as our Agile framework, so that Agile methods will also cover our process and portfolio levels. The new setup of our Intelligent Enterprise Group (IEG) Organization made me think of three planets gravitating around an invisible sun. The picture of the circulating planets indicates that some grown hierarchies were broken up and we reorganised ourselves around value, as a network of peers with clear responsibilities and close relationships.

From my perspective as a contributor to our SAP internal New Work Movement I am very curious how this organisational setup is going to work in practice. Non-hierarchical relationships between different planets might require additional changes of leadership styles an internal team culture. As Frederic Laloux claims, an organisation can only be reinvented from the top. Fortunately our CEO is fully supportive of both our New Work community and the way we are trying to create sustainable change. And this change doesn’t feel unreal. Self Management is one of the key principles of New Work. Laloux argues that you can run an organisation without the need for hierarchy. We might consider the current situation as a unique and unexpected opportunity to practice self management.

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