Studies and statistics are published again and again, pointing to people’s fear of change. The forerunner of all fears is the so-called “German Angst”, to which at least one book, newspaper and Wikipedia articles are dedicated. The upheaval of digitalization is an additional factor that comes into play to fuel it. Changes in the workplace, which have not always been popular, contribute to this. How can such changes be made so that they are perceived as positive?

I don’t want to go around what is going wrong or demanding a “Californian spirit”, but I just want to be a way of making a process of change easier in the context of digitalization. In such a way that it is perceived by those affected not as a threatening change, but as a relief in their daily work routine. And perhaps some of you will be able to develop an approach from this, how you can turn a change into an opportunity. And no, it’s not just a thought model, but the way we have been following together with our customers since 2007.

Changes and uncertainty fuel fears

If you ask people what they think of management consultants, the majority of them will get a rather negative impression. Advice has a touch of know-it-all and appears from above. This is often not so wrong, because the knowledge gained from experience is to be transferred to another company and much of what was suddenly wrong. Only if additional, expanding processes are to be introduced is this not a big problem. You dare something new, have no sound knowledge of it and buy it for this reason. From the moment a coupling is made with an existing and established process, however, the fears of vested interests are triggered. Then it’s about fear of the unknown, loss of (exclusive) knowledge or just habits.

Let’s now take a piece of software with integrated, existing processes running as recommended by the external consultant and slip it over to the employee, nothing is as it was and in principle everyone else could do it now. To ensure that this doesn’t get out of hand, we are installing a change management system that ensures that the change takes place with as little friction as possible.

Moderation instead of consulting

For our work, it has become clear that consulting – in the classical sense – is not the right approach. Why would we tell someone how to do something better? On the one hand, what works in another company does not have to be the right approach in its own company, and on the other hand it is precisely the know-how in the company that constitutes its added value. Consulting only fits in those areas where there is absolutely no potential or where external knowledge provides new ideas and has a supportive effect.

Once the goals have been set, we define the processes to be redesigned together. Not every participant can and wants to get involved as much as possible and some people lose sight of the goal. Keeping this in focus is the task of the moderator. He is also able to assess or at least clarify the technical possibilities in a process. When modeling the process, the role of the software and its processes is immediately integrated. The future user defines not only his working process, but also the software solution with which he is to work later on. He builds in the features that will make life easier for him later on. Of course, the moderator will of course provide advice by making suggestions, since he knows what is possible. Experience shows that users are becoming more and more creative and develop their own ideas quickly. This also works with several people, especially since they push each other. It is important that the moderator always keeps an eye on the surrounding process landscape and the target.

What works is accepted

Of course, there are many solutions where it is not possible for all future users to participate. However, if the right people are involved in the development of the process, most of the rest of the group feels understood. Apart from that, it is possible to test and adapt the system during the development phase.

Certainly there will be stumbling blocks, because external circumstances do not allow the ideal solution. These can be legal in nature, interfaces to other systems or other processes in the company that need to be taken into account. However, such “bumps” are accepted if they are transparent and do not disappear in a black box. The users have looked beyond their own horizons during the development phase and find new insights and ideas.

Self-organized change avoids reservations

Co-developed processes are supported and, if the opportunity arises, also gladly developed further. Of course, there is always someone standing in the way of himself and it remains a change. This is not necessarily perceived as such. Instead of a change, a self-developed renewal comes into force. This does not have to be persuasive in the long term, since employees see this change as an opportunity to improve their own work situation.

And what’s the snag?

The snag has actually been “introduced” as far as possible since the 1990s with the introduction of standard software in companies. The software has brought standard processes, which could be slightly modified, into the companies. However, these processes have a limited lifespan, as the market and possibly also the business models are subject to constant change. Change becomes a constant companion. In order to master this, the solution to be implemented must be flexible in order not to have to be replaced permanently. Only solutions that integrate into your processes have a real future viability. To get rid of the hook once it was originally introduced, you have to detach yourself from it, at least gradually.


A change is and remains a change and a large part of humanity finds it difficult. However, when implementing new digital solutions, we can say that change can also motivate people if they have the opportunity to contribute their knowledge directly. In the process and in the software solution. So that what is annoying to them, as far as it is possible somehow, is cleared out of the way.

In the article How can digitalization concepts look like? you can read how the implementation is organized.

Photo credits

Fotoworkshop4you / (CC0 Lizenz)


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