In a world of constant change, the ability to adapt and self-reflect is not only desirable but essential for managers. But how do you make the transition from a specialized professional to a leadership position that combines both technical and entrepreneurial vision?

To get to the bottom of this question, we conducted an unusual conversation: an interview that was not conducted in the conventional way. Two renowned entrepreneurs and executives, Philipp Deutscher and Jan Hossfeld, share their insights and experiences in an interview moderated by an artificial intelligence.

You can find the first part of the interview under this link, the second here, and the third under the following link.

Today’s part deals with the question of how to understand and improve organizations. This post is part of a 5-part series offering insights into the development of leadership competencies, the importance of self-understanding and the challenges of modern leadership roles.

Understanding organization(s)

  1. What methods do you use to understand the dynamics and structure of the organizations you work in?

Philipp Deutscher: “I see four key characteristics that have a significant influence on an organization: The organizational structure, the corporate culture, The stakeholders and the lived processes. An analysis of the four helps to grasp the company in its entirety and complexity and to understand the causes of certain repetitive patterns of behavior.”

Jan Hossfeld: “I start the other way around. Since I define the structure, I am of course familiar with it. Structures and processes are, by definition, not fluid, but must remain adaptable by clearly recognizable means. Regular evaluation and constant feedback, for example as part of a monthly management meeting, promote understanding and acceptance. The dynamic is something else, it comes primarily from the people within an organization. I have only found one way that works here: Sneaker management, i.e. regularly walking around and talking to people. Structured 1-on-1s, annual meetings and brief exchanges at the coffee machine are the methods that have worked so far.”

  1. How does your understanding of the organization influence your decisions as CTO?

Philipp Deutscher: “When I understand the organization as a system, I am able to find better solutions. Most of the problems that companies have are caused by blind spots in management. This has a significant influence on the corporate culture and, at the end of the day, this determines how the company is run.”

Jan Hossfeld: “Every framework, and nothing else is the structure of an organization, limits and focuses decisions. That is the purpose. If the whole thing is garnished by a corresponding strategy, all decisions should by definition happen within the framework and thus serve the goals of the organization. It is important to note that frameworks are often perceived as exclusively limiting. I think that’s wrong. Infinite possibilities do not lead to good decisions, but regularly to decisions being avoided because the options and variables are too numerous. That’s why a framework is very useful.”

Operational Mastery / Excellence and Innovation

  1. How do you achieve operational mastery and promote innovation at the same time?

Philipp Deutscher: “The two are often in tension with each other. Precisely because one (operational excellence) tends to be driven by numbers and efficiency, while the other (innovation) tends to be associated with free-spirited thinking and creativity. However, it is important to enable both by creating a culture of continuous learning or building teams that are cross-functional. Thinking outside the box and running your day-to-day business properly at the same time doesn’t have to be a contradiction in terms.”

Jan Hossfeld: “Kaizen, the ambition and the mindset that there is always something that can be better, is particularly important to me here. The vast majority of companies don’t become great through huge leaps, but through constant, small steps over a long period of time. Fostering this understanding helps to be open to innovation without giving away the opportunity for small victories.”

  1. Can you give an example of how you have achieved operational excellence in your role as an executive?

Philipp Deutscher: “Operational excellence can mean many things: For example, smooth operations driven by high system availability or fast time-to-market due to low lead and cycle teams and fast release cycles. Agile methods can help. So can process improvements or the introduction of the right KPIs.
At TeamViewer, for example, the introduction of metrics that focused on the stability of the systems and the rapid resolution of incidents helped to raise availability back to the business standard of 99.9% within a very short time and stabilize it there in the long term.”

Jan Hossfeld: “I am very proud of the way our ISO 9001 certification went. Normally, you bring in a consultant, work for a few months and can then tackle the certification. It was different for us. We established processes step by step over many years (this is the bigger step) and honed them (this is the small but constant improvement). As this was always documented, our ISO certification process was different. We had the auditor in-house, passed the Level 1 audit on the spot, had just two hours of rework, and then also passed the Level 2 audit straight away. I am extremely proud of that, because it was a different approach. ISO 9001 was not the goal, but the validation of our work.”

The last part of the interview will be published in a week’s time by Philipp Deutscher. In it, we deal with change and conflict management.

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