The Year of 2020: There Is a Time for Everything

The year 2020 was extra­or­di­nary in many respects. There were many chal­lenges, but also oppor­tu­ni­ties and bright spots. The cri­sis accel­er­at­ed many things — includ­ing my pro­fes­sion­al reori­en­ta­tion. In this respect, the cri­sis real­ly is a pro­duc­tive state, as Max Frisch once wrote.

A year of uncer­tain­ty, chal­lenges and change is com­ing to an end. It began for us as it could not have begun bet­ter: On Jan­u­ary 4, our son Valentin was born healthy and hap­py. Since then, this lit­tle bun­dle of ener­gy has enriched our lives as par­ents and the lives of his two sis­ters Marie and Ella in a unique way. I am incred­i­bly grate­ful for that.

Then came Coro­na. Like so many, I spent most of the year in the home office. I am also very grate­ful for this, because it allowed me to expe­ri­ence our fam­i­ly life and espe­cial­ly the first year of Valentin’s life with an inten­si­ty that I had nev­er known before, despite sev­er­al months of parental leave with our daughters.

A cri­sis like this also has a cat­alyt­ic effect. Some things become clear­er than they were before. For me, Coro­na accel­er­at­ed the process of my pro­fes­sion­al reori­en­ta­tion. Per­haps this cri­sis is the worst time for this, but per­haps it is also the best, because in many com­pa­nies the pres­sure to change towards more agili­ty has increased con­sid­er­ably as a result of the cri­sis. Essen­tial­ly, I agree with Max Frisch: “A cri­sis is a pro­duc­tive state. You sim­ply have to get rid of its after­taste of catastrophe.”

Love it, Change it or Leave it

What we call the begin­ning is often the end. And to make an end is to make a begin­ning. The end is where we start from.

T.S. Eliot

I had nev­er made a secret of my pain of adap­ta­tion in the cor­po­rate world before. I stayed nev­er­the­less because I felt I had a unique oppor­tu­ni­ty to bring about change togeth­er with many fel­low cam­paign­ers and to teach the ele­phant to dance a bit.

Ini­tial­ly, I found hope in grass­roots move­ments such as the Con­nect­ed Cul­ture Club and Work­ing Out Loud, both of which are sig­nif­i­cant con­tri­bu­tions to strength­en­ing an open learn­ing cul­ture as a foun­da­tion for agility.

My focus in recent years has clear­ly been the agile trans­for­ma­tion of BMW Group IT. A few scat­tered agilists from the ear­ly days (anoth­er grass­roots move­ment) and a lot of pio­neer­ing spir­it gave rise to the 100% Agile strat­e­gy at some point at the end of 2016, and for me this marked the begin­ning of the most instruc­tive and reward­ing two and a half years as an Agile Trans­for­ma­tion Agent.

Since mid-2019, the agile trans­for­ma­tion of the BMW Group IT has now entered a phase of con­sol­i­da­tion, oper­a­tional­iza­tion and indus­tri­al­iza­tion. The time of pio­neer­ing is thus over. That is why we now need few­er pio­neers and more set­tlers and, in par­tic­u­lar, town plan­ners, to use Simon Ward­ley’s very appro­pri­ate mod­el. But I am a pas­sion­ate pio­neer, and that is why I must now also be con­sis­tent and find a new pro­fes­sion­al home where this com­pe­tence and pas­sion can once again be put to bet­ter use here and now.

There is a time for everything.

Your time is lim­it­ed, so don’t waste it liv­ing some­one else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dog­ma — which is liv­ing with the results of oth­er people’s think­ing. Don’t let the noise of oth­ers’ opin­ions drown out your own inner voice. And most impor­tant, have the courage to fol­low your heart and intu­ition. They some­how already know what you tru­ly want to become. Every­thing else is secondary.

Steve Jobs

Now, of course, the ques­tion is where this place is and where I am specif­i­cal­ly being drawn to. What is clear is that I will build on my expe­ri­ence with agili­ty, with agile trans­for­ma­tion and also with agile lead­er­ship along the lines of my Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship. Whether as an inde­pen­dent keynote speak­er and con­sul­tant or at a con­sult­ing com­pa­ny or in anoth­er cor­po­rate, how­ev­er, is not yet revealed.

Things remain exciting.

What Has Not Changed

The Man­i­festo for Human(e) Lead­er­ship became avail­able in Eng­lish as a paper­back in Jan­u­ary of this year, and both edi­tions are still very pop­u­lar, with over 4,500 copies sold to date. A spe­cial joy for me are the almost 100 reviews on Ama­zon with an aver­age of 4.5 out of 5 stars. Since there is no big pub­lish­er with big mar­ket­ing behind my books, every sin­gle review helps spread the word about the manifesto.

Also in 2020, the year of the tenth anniver­sary of this blog, I pub­lished 50 arti­cles here. True to my mot­to, bor­rowed from Hein­rich von Kleist, of the grad­ual fab­ri­ca­tion of thoughts while writ­ing, I processed what was on my mind in these arti­cles. Unsur­pris­ing­ly, these were top­ics around agili­ty and lead­er­ship, espe­cial­ly in the dis­trib­uted sce­nario trig­gered by the Coro­na pan­dem­ic, which is also reflect­ed in these five most-read articles.

The fre­quent­ly asked ques­tion “How do I con­trol whether my employ­ees in the home office do their work?” is actu­al­ly an oath of dis­clo­sure. It is an expres­sion of lead­er­ship fail­ure based on a deplorable con­cep­tion of man.

Mar­cus Raitner

Video Conferencing Is Not a Solution Either

Now that so many peo­ple are work­ing at home, the ques­tion aris­es how to work togeth­er well remote­ly. Spa­tial­ly dis­trib­uted col­lab­o­ra­tion does not only hap­pen through video con­fer­enc­ing, but also and pri­mar­i­ly requires writ­ten and asyn­chro­nous communication.


Cult of Presence Narratives: The Captain Belongs on the Bridge

With the first loos­en­ing of the exit restric­tions, in many offices the ramp-up back to the pre-Coro­na cult of pres­ence begins, because real work can only be done in the office and only under supervision.


The Home Office: What It’s Really All About

Home office is in fact only at first glance a ques­tion of where you work. In essence, it is about equal­i­ty, about con­cepts of human nature, trust instead of con­trol, and fun­da­men­tal­ly about the rela­tion­ship between man­ag­er and knowl­edge worker.


Leadership at a Distance — Gardener Beats Chess Master

The cri­sis is accel­er­at­ing dig­i­tal­iza­tion. Dis­trib­uted col­lab­o­ra­tion from home rather than togeth­er in an open-plan office is sud­den­ly the stan­dard. But how does lead­er­ship at a dis­tance suc­ceed? Some incite­ments to recon­sid­er from the Man­i­festo for Human(e) Leadership.


The Five Pillars of Well-Being

In which envi­ron­ment do peo­ple flour­ish and what makes them with­er? And what essen­tial cat­e­gories are there, any­way, to influ­ence this process. Where can lead­er­ship exert its influ­ence? The PERMA mod­el by psy­chol­o­gist Mar­tin Selig­man offers some very good answers.


Thank You!

My thanks goes to all read­ers and espe­cial­ly to those who gen­er­ous­ly sup­port my work here via Steady, because only this way I can run the blog here free of any advertising.

With this arti­cle I say good­bye for this year and wish rest­ful hol­i­days and a good start into a healthy and hope­ful­ly less tur­bu­lent year 2021.

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By Marcus Raitner

Hi, I'm Marcus. I'm convinced that elephants can dance. Therefore, I accompany organizations on their way towards a more agile way of working. Since 2010 I regularly write about leadership, digitization, new work, agility, and much more in this blog. More about me.

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