A Company is Only as Good as its Internal Teams

Using HR and organizational development to solve problems in daily business operations

Southwestern Germany’s strength doesn’t merely lie in generating creative new ideas, but in seeing them implemented. Not to mention sound companies that are governed sustainably and with foresight – meaning they don’t have to shy away from competition. Today these companies have reached an unprecedented degree of professionalism on all levels of business operations. However, in the technology-based medium-sized businesses so typical to the state of Baden-Wurttemberg, achieving an effective organizational culture is still not one of the core competencies of executives and managers. This might seem odd, because like it or not, they are confronted with issues of this nature each and every day. The Steinbeis Consulting Center called Accentus helps companies master these challenges.

Using HR and organizational development tools to professionalize organizational culture is a field that has grown and developed significantly in recent years. There is hardly a company that can claim complete inactivity here – although in many cases, organizational culture is still treated like an afterthought. In contrast to fields like finance, manufacturing, IT and process design, HR and organizational development often only impact indirectly on the company’s bottom line.

So as organizational culture becomes increasingly professionalized, new approaches must also be found which have a direct and immediate impact on the company value chain. The aim must be to leverage the professionalization of organizational culture to tackle acute problems and urgent challenges head-on and solve them quickly.

The experts at the Accentus Steinbeis Consulting Center have introduced a modular technique to address concrete problems in the daily business operations of a medium-sized enterprise. The main difficulty facing this manufacturing company, which now employs more than 70 people, stemmed from its own success. The firm had grown steadily in recent years without any corresponding adjustments in structures, leadership behavior or forms of organization. On a strictly practical level, this led to the following problems:

  • Executives and managers are overstretched
  • Employees are not proactive enough
  • Processes depend strongly on individuals
  • Insufficient oversight and foresight in production planning
  • Deadlines and delivery dates are only met sporadically

After senior management outlined the problems, a short, intensive analysis phase was launched to observe how these issues are reflected in daily business operations. At the end of the analysis phase, a clear con- clusion was offered on whether a resource-effective professionalization of the organizational culture could solve the abovementioned business operation problems. This was accompanied not only by a thorough evaluation of causal relationships and overarching issues, but also a roadmap of specific objectives and activities.

To address the problems in daily business operations, the project team focused equally on personnel, structures and routines. The key to this approach is tackling the challenges precisely when and where they appear in daily work. This inevitably means involving all affected employees. The impact of change on daily business operations can be seen immediately, significantly increasing the speed of reaction and adjustment. Not only are sustainable solutions integrated quickly and smoothly into daily work, but crucial points and errors can be addressed immediately – before they can lead to long-term problems.

In their project with the medium-sized business, one overarching issue identified by the Steinbeis consultants was that the company had simply become bigger in recent years – without expanding operations. The company was still being run like a small family business whose success depends on its director, not like a manufacturing enterprise that enjoys success with the help of its directors.

So change was essential on a structural and cultural level.

  • Sustainable leadership structures: The company needs departmental heads and a defined chain of command. Managers require support as they learn to exercise their leadership effectively within these new structures; management skills must become a full-fledged part of their job description.
  • Sustainable communication structures: Senior management must be able to speak to the company. Employees and managers need times and places to talk about and solve their problems. They must find a way to use these structures to achieve binding agreements and viable conclusions to their discussions.
  • Sustainable processes and workflows: Workflows which were allowed to develop haphazardly must be transitioned into defined processes. If the goal is for employees to work more independently, then the company’s executives must empower managers and employees to take on more responsibility. Previously the executives kept decision-making out of the hands of the employees; now they must find ways to allow them to start identifying solutions independently.

Structural and cultural changes are interwoven – and it is this nexus which creates the immediate tangible benefit for daily business operations and justifies the claim that the professionalization of organizational culture gives the company a competitive edge. Two key aspects set this approach apart: First, the identification of causal relationships and overarching “meta” issues during the analysis phase. And second, the support provided during the rollout of new structures, allowing routines to become established to create sustainable solutions.

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