The Times
They Are

The Times, They Are Changin’Periodical 15 // JULY 2016

In a 1988 concert, Billy Joel stood on Red Square in Moscow singing his heart out to show what he could sense: A strong power of disruption that will change the times.

He was right. Some 30 years later it seems history is repeating itself. In fact, almost every day we can feel that the current political, social and economic climate is shattered. Demagogic leaders, terrorism, refugees, Brexit…but also the ongoing crisis of banking, the level of debt, the lack of global growth (other issues sure to come…).
But while the revolution of the last century was driven by ideals to destroy the evil, it seems that we are now desperately looking for powerful forces that can make it up with the ugly.
Change of scenes: Does the corporate world really look better? Well, in fact, many organizations also find themselves in a very difficult stage of maturity. They are struggling with increasing complexity, they are seeking for agility to stay innovative or become digital… and they are longing for entrepreneurship in a maze of bureaucracy and compliance. The typical way out is defined in spin offs, M&A, and extensive controlling. But are those really a cure or just another curse?
There is something obvious that is missing: Culture and values. These are the remedies that really can make a difference. But I’m not referring to mission statements or long-term visions. I’m talking about levers that empower the staff, give a meaning and an orientation in changing times.
Examples? An ideal antidote to bureaucracy is simply the delegation of power. That’s exactly what entrepreneurs had before acquisition or what managers will gain after a spin off. Empowerment often produces better results than would be achieved by streams of directives and reviews. The pride in “why am I doing this” is a great intrinsic motivator and the glue to make every corporate place a one of-a-kind home.
A good case for turning values and culture into success is Rackspace. This Texas-based IT hosting company with a culture built around “fanatical customer support” has become leading in its industry – even in the face of competition from giant Amazon. The employees stand out as being “always-ready, always-accountable, always-helpful” specialists. They act as if it were their own company treating their clients as “fans” rather than customers.
In contrast: After the Brexit referendum, one voter stated that “it’s hard to fall in love with a common market”. There is nothing more to say about the downside of missing values in our times.