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Clarity – not slogans or communication style – speeds up transformations.

In a world dominated by low attention spans and carefully scripted messages, it’s becoming harder to know what leaders actually believe and represent.

Style over substance has dominated politics for decades. Back in the 1990s, Tony Blair talked about the “The Third Way”, but never clearly defined it beyond abstract principles. Gerhard Schröder copied him with the “Neue Mitte” – the new middle. In this sense, Trump, Bolsonaro and the Brexiteers are (sadly) nothing new, just more extreme.

When we substitute style for clarity, transformations fail.

Last year, a new client asked me to support a senior management team for a year through a digital transformation process. “Sure!” was my reply. Three weeks, two calls and two meetings later, the CEO was still unable to define “digital transformation”. I knew we were in for the long-haul.

In another company, the top team launched Forward to 2021 – a three year, company-wide transformation initiative. As one employee put it “Forward to 2021 sounds like Back to the Future.” Another person suggested it sounded more like a struggling political party, on the fringe of mainstream politics.

Once again, clarity came second, far behind the fancy communications plan for Forward to 2021. Nobody on the top management team could or would define it beyond abstract statements like, “Get close to the customer” and “Quality service through digital channels.”

With Forward to 2021 reduced to meaningless slogans, most managers and employees were already betting that the transformation would fall apart. Without a clear direction, but with an honest desire to do their best, each business unit manager followed their own agenda. What else would they do?

We showed the executive team that a good place to start any transformation is at the intersection of three dimensions:

  • Customer needs
  • Top team clarity
  • Organisational needs

When we understand what customers want; when the top management team sets a clear direction; when managers are aware of the what the organisation needs (i.e. changes to the structure, systems, processes and people) needed to bring that change about… this is the point where clarity emerges and transformations succeed.

Getting to this point is hard work. Above all, it takes ambitious aims, executive courage, trust in others and reality-based dialogs. Striving for that clarity makes the message meaningful. And it makes it stick. For sure, not everyone in the company will like what you say. But the joy is in building and re-building a company that serves its customers well and can transform itself successfully.

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Sie hatten einen direkten und positiven Einfluss auf unseren Umsatz... weil die Mitarbeiter nun viel kundenorientierter sind. Unsere Effizienz ... steigert sich kontinuierlich.

AL Geschäftsführer

Diese Produkteinführung zu verantworten hat mich gelehrt effektiv zu sein. Ich tat das, was mir am leichtesten fiel: Vertrauen schenken und meine Mitarbeiter jeden Schritt auf dem Weg begleiten. Nun habe ich die Chance, dass künftige Produkteinführungen ebenso erfolgreich werden.

MN Vizedirektor - Medical Marketing Europe

Dieser Prozess eröffnete neue Perspektiven darauf wie dieses Team von Senior-Managern funktionierte, bzw. nicht richtig funktionierte. Die Tendenz eines jeden Mitglieds unserer Gruppe, sich als isolierte unantastbare Exzellenz zu sehen – entgegen der zwingeden Notwendigkeit einer Zusammenarbeit zwischen den Mitgliedern – wurde abgeschwächt und die Kommunikation hat sich mehr und mehr "normalisiert".

RS Senior Director

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