Roland Dürre
Saturday March 2nd, 2019

Turn of an Era: The End of the Digital World ?

What will happen when the digital era comes to an end?

Im Jahre 2019 habe ich nach einem Jahr Pause wieder am Biike-Camp in Sylt teilgenommen.

After one year of abstinence, I again took part in the Sylt Biike-Camp in 2019. The Biike Camp takes place on Sylt annually, along with the traditional Biike-Brennen. It is a huge meeting of entrepreneurs, counsellors and leaders. It is organized by Tedic, the brothers Krickel first founded it around the turn of the millennium.

This time around, the motto was The Turn of an Era. Again, it was more than worth the effort to go there. I was invited to give a presentation on the second day of the event. They had suggested the topic:

”Entrepreneurial Leadership in the Post-Digital World”

I will write down my presentation in the following paragraphs. I started by introducing myself, then I tried to analyse the title in two columns.


 

Personal introduction
Since, on the first day of our meeting, it became clear to me how very much most of us (including myself) are formed by the car, I started by introducing all the cars that I ever drove in my life. In other words: I related my former car and current bike culture. 
🙂 And in the process, I also discovered a few things about myself.
Then I mentioned the computers I use (Mac and Chrome, no Windows).
So I have double mobility – MIV (motorized individualized traffic and on the network). Both tells a lot about the life of a white old man.
And, of course, I also had to speak of my personal history. I told the audience about duerre.de and if-blog.de and mentioned that I consider myself a late founder (I was 34).
With respect to my InterFace history, I referred the listeners to the Wikipedia entry on InterFace AG.


In order to be able to react to the content of the other presentations with the highest possible degree of flexibility, I abstained from using slides with content. Instead, I mostly worked with Wikipedia.

It was my plan to tackle the topic “entrepreneurial leadership in the post-digital world” in a dialectic way. In other words, I wanted to analyse the individual terms post, digital and world (column 1) and entrepreneurial leadership (column 2).


 

I. The post-digital world

(Column 1 – what is the meaning of post, digital, world?)
Before today, I only knew the term post factual. Post digital was news to me. For me, post factual means that we live in the era of totally irresponsible babble, which is part of the new dishonesty (Rupert Lay).

You can even see it if you look at legislation. China is not the only country where legislation is introduced in such a way that it can be interpreted at random. Perhaps this happens on purpose?

Digitalisation has become a matter of course. Everybody talks about it. A short time ago, I read: digitalization is a technology that cannot be turned back. In other words, without digitalization and soon also AI, nothing can be done in the near future.

It seems that we are totally dependent on digitalization, as we depend on electricity and electronics. In the same way, a life as most of us want it would not be possible without digitalization. Every piece of technology contains a huge part of software, there is no technology without any software inside.

If I have discussions with the bee savers in Bavaria about the provocative thesis that “it might already be too late“ to save the planet, then they tell me that, thanks to digitalization, we might actually be able to save the planet. 
🙂 So we have really great expectations when it comes to “digital“.

I like to refer the audience to Wikipedia when it comes to explaining digitalization. You will find an article by Thomas Kofer – at the time he wrote it he was a employee of ZD.B – where he tries to explain the term. He invested many man-years to write the article.

Then I look for the term post digital online. In Wikipedia, you will not find this kind of nonsense. To make up for it, you find something in Accenture. Here is what they say about  post digital:

”The advent of technology identities is leading to a new generation of business offerings.“

Are they really serious? If you click on their link, you find more such BBB (Berater-Bullshit-Bingo). For my presentation, Accenture is definitely not helpful.

Digital and digitalisation are currently buzzwords. They are very famous – and there are no two identical definitions on the market.

So let me investigate the word post. I find that it is “if a composite of adjectives – sometimes also with nouns and verbs – specifies that something happens/ed at a later time“.
That is correct – post is a preposition that specifies adjectives. Well, I understand that much.

Digitalization is said to be irreversible. Because if there is no digitalization, there will also no longer be any technological industry. After all, in all technological products today, you have software, i.e. digitalization – and soon also AI.

Consequently, there can be no post-digital era, because it would mean the end of our technological world. Especially not if the digital world has made itself autonomous as AI. Which is what many expect.


 

On AI

Artificial Intelligence, Deep learning, Big Data are at the top of the current buzz-words list. The world, or at least all those who want to be heard, talks about robots and bots.

So here is my question:
Who of you knows the three letters T, A and Y? 
If you connect them, you get the word and name Tay.

Many in Germany talk about AI, but most of them do not know what it is. Consequently, nobody knows the Tay. As I see it, that is symptomatic for the entire current discussion.
Tay is – or better: was – the twitter bot of Microsoft. Microsoft developed it – and then it was quickly de-activated because of misbehaviour. Both the first and the second version. It was a few years ago.

Today, it looks like Microsoft does not want to be part of AI. They capitulate before Amazon and Google and terminate their system/project Cortana . Because to the great and mighty IT concern Microsoft, AI looks just too big.

Simultaneously, the Free State of Bavaria declares that they want to start an AI offensive. Microsoft gives up because Google and Amazon are too far ahead. And Bavaria wants to make up for it. Just like China. Except – China, unlike Bavaria, will actually succeed.

To illustrate it with an example I tell my audience about the Chinese News Anchor Bot  
Nobody in the audience of AI experts knows it. Well, that comes as a surprise to me.

So much on AI


What exactly could the end of digitalization and AI look like?

Here are a few mental experiments:

The first step towards digitalization was when language was first written down. 
Consequently, “post digital” might mean that, in the future, the majority of the people cannot read or write fluently, but only rudimentarily? As I see it, that is distinctly a possibility. Would that be good or bad? Can there be a good or bad – or are we just full of traditional prejudices?

Because:

Why would anybody want to learn something nobody will need any longer? So: why would we want to learn how to read (and practice it all the time, because otherwise it gets harder and harder) if most of what you want to know is available as an ebook or podcast and the remainder is read to you by a speaking computer? A computer that simultaneously translates everything. The asynchronous and synchronous communication is done via spoken language, anyway (oral messages). That is nice, because spoken language transports more than written language. And then, naturally, language will no longer play a role at all?

If that were to happen, then a modern society can easily forego reading and writing, but it certainly could not forego digitalization.

Then I think about “post digital”. On the level:

– what or who could destroy the internet?
(besides the EU regulation mania that is pushed by the FRG)

Two things come to mind

– Engineers become priests.

Isaac Asimov already introduced the concept in his futuristic novels (for example in the series on Trantor):
The people who maintain the systems no longer understand the machines. They only perform memorized (maintenance) rituals.

I can easily imagine such a concept, because even today, in computer science, that is what programmers do. They do a lot of clicking – and they have no idea what exactly they are doing. The complexity overwhelms us, it is easily possible that the world will lose its know-how.

– The end of Moore’s law.

It is very simple:

IT consists of the three components: computer, connection and storage.

Those are the three relevant IT components. With respect to storage, we have arrived in the nano dimensions, you cannot become any smaller because of the dimension of the atoms. With respect to connections, we now work with the speed of light. You cannot go any faster. I deliberately chose the term computer. Because a modern processor (for instance by Intel) contains so much that I like to use the metaphor of the mega city of New York.

We want to make the computers faster by using the quantum computer. Except that, so far, it does not really work. And it will probably never be able to do much more than decode. But that is good enough for the countries of this world, because basically they only want one thing: monitor us.

That is how the end of Moore’s laws could put a stop to our AI dreams. In the past, the multiplication of resources in small time periods spoiled us. The time has definitely come for this indulgence to be over.

So what is important in the digital world?

As I see it, the first thing that comes to mind is Wikipedia – and there are several reasons for this:

– Wikipedia – the thesaurus of world knowledge.

Wikipedia is great. It is currently free of advertising (with the exception of a few articles they smuggled in about Bayern players’ wives), it is administered on a completely honorary basis and financed by donations, independent of concerns, etc.

That makes it one of the last bastions. We need it every day, because there are no thesauri left. Regardless of some weaknesses, for instance when it comes to the topic of digitalization/IT, Wikipedia is still great.

However, now comes the

BUT:

It is written mostly by old white men, in other words: there are few young persons and only very few women. Wikipedia is like a knowledge infra-structure. As with many infra structures in our world (streets, bridges, railway tracks), the need for maintenance and renovation increases, but the resources decline.

Wikipedia is threatened by ageing and additionally by the copyright (update filter) and lobbyist pressure.

What will happen if Wikipedia breaks down? Who will then take over Wikipedia?
One of the three dominant German media concerns? The Federal Government? EU and UNO might also be candidates. Or the internet giants Google, Amazon, Facebook, Microsoft …
Just imagine advertisements being permitted in Wikipedia. If I were the owner of Wikipedia, I could well imagine other great business models.

– Services such as Youtube, Vimeo, Facebook++, wechat …? 
(I deliberately left out email as a service, because in my opinion nobody needs them any more)
So: What will happen if all these things no longer exist? A short time ago, I read about a murder threat against the youtube boss because of her statement that, as a consequence of copyright legislation (update filter), she may have to terminate the service in the countries concerned!

You should remember: 
regulation mania is detrimental.
For all of us!

Instead you should:

Correct the underlying deficits. That is: you should look for the errors, and then initiate reform. For instance when it comes to copyright legislation.

And let us have less DGSVO …

À propos world:

I am sure you remember: only about half of the world’s population have internet access. We still have two worlds: one with the internet and one without. They are approximately the same size.

But in the internet, there are also two internets (more like a vertical separation). The Chinese one and ours.

Many tourists first notice this as they arrive at Peking airport and want to use gmail for sending greetings home or if they want to chat. It does not work.

Then you will try VPN. But VPN service providers are delivering poor quality or else they are very expensive. Mostly both. So unless you have a VPN of a concern that still works in China, you are not very lucky. Googlemaps does not work at all. It can get difficult. Lost in China. But fear the not: the practical Chinese AI will help.

Translateion will be continued soon.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday February 2nd, 2019

About To-Do and Not-To-Do Lists …


With my friend Dr. Marcus Raitner during the legendary Dornbirn PM Camp (2013).

There are some blogs that I enjoy reading and about which I also know that I can recommend every individual article therein. One of them is Führung erfahren, which is by Marcus Raitner.

Today, I read the current article by Marcus:
Von den Stoikern Gelassenheit lernen

In this article, Marcus, among other ideas, does some contemplation on Sylvester-Good-Intentions that later became non-existent. Let me cite:
“I was going to be more considerate with my time, I wanted to become more focused and better at giving the right things priority”.

And, of course (the “of course“ is my perspective), he did not succeed. Not because he was too weak. On the contrary: it is very normal that such rules will not work in life, as Marcus can testify: 
”As that of many others, my calendar is full and the five-hour rule as Bill Gates or Warren Buffet introduced it (invest five hours every week in reflections and learning) seems a thing that simply cannot be achieved”.

Quite apart from the fact (and this is again my personal view) that this five-hours rule is not a good one. If anything, you should plan to work a maximum of five hours organized by others on every workday (!) and to donate the rest of the week to yourself. I write “maximum”, because for me these five hours are already too much.

Here is another citation of Marcus:
“… is somehow or other interesting or important (or at least might be interesting or important) and thus the calendar is always more than full, which is also true for the to-do list. Consequently, focusing is first and foremost the question of knowing yourself.“

I do not believe in to-do lists and not-to-do lists. They do the opposite of what you hope they might do. However, self-realization is certainly an important requirement if you want to change. It is not just about priorities in the existing pattern of life or about doing things another way or breaking with a few patterns. The change has to be a radical one. You need to start a new life.

Here is what I propose: it is a good start for change in your own life if you just remove two things completely from your life. To me, the following candidates are obvious:

  • Driving cars.
  • Let the alarm clock wake you up.

Mind you, I do not mean this as a joke. If you manage to remove these two things from your life, you are well under way towards happiness. I managed both. And since I no longer sit in a car at regular intervals, I feel a lot better.

No longer driving a car means, for instance, that you ride your bike. Consequently, you have exercise, instead of having to sit still behind the wheel and never being able to relax mentally. You win time. And if they have no car, it means for most people that they need to work a lot less. After all, they no longer have to earn the money the car costs.

No longer having an alarm clock, too, changes your life dramatically. You get to sleep earlier, eat less at night and no longer schedule pointless meetings early in the morning. And the body will always get exactly the amount of sleep it actually needs. That makes for an increased health and better performance.

Especially entrepreneurs or managers (well, manager is an anti-word, it used to be the leader or the leadership role) can more easily determine what they want to do when, which is not so easy for the train driver or the general practitioner.

We entrepreneurs and leaders are very lucky in that respect, because we have a lot more flexibility than most people in this world. But we actually have to make good use of it – and we must set an example for the others as the leaders in new work. It is up to us.

The downside is that we have to kiss old habits good-bye. And nobody wants that. But it works! I can guarantee it. Just as I can guarantee by 100 % that, if you smile at the mirror, you will see someone smiling back at you. And that is a nice feeling. So: smile at the mirror, sell your car and lock up your alarm clock!

As it happens, 
Marcus gives us a nice metaphor:
“I am absolutely convinced that elephants can learn to dance.”

With Dr. Stefan Hagen, also during the Dornbirn PM camp of October 2013.

That is probably the only important issue where Marcus and I have different opinions.

The elephant metaphor means that huge concerns can actually become agile. I do not think that such a transformation is possible. And also, I cannot imagine that this might be the famous exception from the rule. Whenever I saw concerns try to transform, they failed in the end. In the best case, small biotopes were created, but they were always taken over by reality.

So I plead to abandon the business circus where strange but terribly well-paid actors of the genre business theatre want to make the elephant they administer (and exploit) dance. Let us start a beautiful work life. Where we, as lazy leaders, will limit ourselves to dedicating our time to people (for instance our employees and customers) and to be there when they need us!

Even if it means that we will then no longer get millions in income and compensation – as currently the stars in the business theatre do. None of them are really needed. 
🙂 Neither the millions, nor the business theatre.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

A short time ago, I found the following tweet:

Aebby (Dr. Eberhard Huber)

Zusammenfassung meiner Führungs- und Leitungs-Philosophie:

 

My leadership philosophy in a nutshell:

  • Have AND show empathy and respect!
  • Do not spread fear!

Both this statement and the tweet were from my friend Aebby (@Team_im_Projekt), also known as Dr. Eberhard Huber. I admire him very much.

🙂 Consequently, I do not wish to weaken his message. And I would like to add three comments:

  • For me, appreciation is also part of respect. Consequently, it is all about empathy AND respect & appreciation.
  • It is difficult not to spread fear if you fear something yourself. And since I am often afraid, I often notice that I also spread fear. I find that a pity, but on the other hand, I forgive myself because it looks absolutely human to me.
  • My third comment is only that the described leadership philosophy should not be limited to leadership but also be a common life philosophy.

All this does not make it easier. Perhaps the only thing for us to do is become more mature and wiser. Which is also easier said than done.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles in my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Joy and courage as a basis for business. It is important to enjoy life. Especially if you are a role model.

As far as I remember, the ancient Greeks had a very simple theory of virtues. Let me describe it as I remember it.

The social goals of the ancient Greeks were justice and equality. They differentiated between arithmetic and geometric justice. Arithmetic justice means totally linear justice. In a very stringent way, it means that everybody gets the same. As opposed to this, geometrical means that there is more justice if you use some criteria. Consequently, what you get is not “the same for everyone”, but instead “for everyone what is appropriate for him”. And this is true both for what you and what you have to

In the ancient Greek philosophy, geometrical justice was considered the better option.

For social systems, for example for the state, their philosophy was:

The powerful in the government will have to be characterized by the virtue of wisdom

The warriors are characterized by the virtue of courage.

The  middle classes are characterized by the virtues of sober-mindedness and frugality.

So only the slaves remain. They are characterized by the virtue of .


🙂 This is how I remember it from my days at school.

If you transfer this simply model of virtues to enterprises, you will probably get:

In management and in the board of directors you have the “wise ones“.

The salespersons are the warriors who courageously fight on the market in order to make the products and services something everybody wants and who also see to it that money flows in.

What remains are theemployees – who are supposed to be 
and frugal. In this context, being frugal means you have to treat the resources with consideration and you want to be sustainable.

In modern enterprises, we do not want slaves (although some employees certainly feel enslaved and consequently consider their salaries as compensation for damage).

This is how I feel about it. Basically, it is a very simply concept.< Today, we have progressed. Many people, as well as most of the directors and “leaders“, believe entrepreneurial myths:

  • You have to act and make decisions!
  • You have to be agile!
  • You need to develop an actual strategy and then you must implement said strategy!
  • You cannot do without a hierarchy!
  • Rationality beats emotional concepts!
  • >You have to develop your business systematically!
  • Success is the result of hard work!
  • You need strategical departments!
  • You need people who have charisma in order to make the employees follow you!
  • If you have enough money and the right kinds of employees, you can successfully master all challenges!
  • You have to know EVEYTHING that happens in the enterprise and you need to be able to control everything!
  • In order to be fair and just, you need clear rules for drawing up collective contracts (employee agreements)!
  • The power can and must be guaranteed through a stringent organization (line, matrix)!
  • Improvement is possible with processes, methods and certificates!
  • Entrepreneurial culture and values can be changed and generated through “culture engineering’!
  • All problems can be solved with rationality!
  • Equality and justice are possible!

 

  • And many more.

 

  • Why don’t you try and apply these rules to the social system “family”? – You will immediately notice what is wrong with them.
  • As I see it, these are all just myths that can and need to be questioned. They might well sound nice, but they are wrong and counter-productive. One of the reasons is because they are based on the belief in a general determinedness of life. Consequently, I can counter every single one of the aforementioned arguments with a good reasoning – and thus state why all these myths are incorrect.
  • But let us remain positive: my concept of a good and multi-dimensional enterprise is totally different! For me, an enterprise, and in particular the leaders of an enterprise, are, above all, hosts. They invite people to promote something special together and create the necessary environment for starting an enterprise.
  • An entrepreneur does not really need special characteristics. As I see it, the only requirement is that he is good at communicating. To be sure, this is hard enough and not to be underestimated – many persons do not find it easy, especially when it comes to the listening part. If an entrepreneur can also inspire and give impulses, then this is really a great thing.   
    🙂 Perhaps a bit of the ancient Greek wisdom would also be helpful when it comes to leadership. That would be absolutely top!
  • And here is how leadership in “new enterprises“ can be practiced:
  • Values and culture beat framework agreements and rules.
  • The effect is more important than the plan and the goal.
  • Thinking and understanding will prepare the way towards doing.
  • Nobody has all the power (citation by: Dr. Andreas Zeuch).
  • Self-organization and responsibility are possible and, where necessary, promoted and supported.
  • Joy and enthusiasm are essentially important and will be encouraged.
  • Teams are supported in such a way that they can experience the “flow“.
  • There are people in the enterprise who can actually support or even coach a team when this is necessary.
  • Since I am not a dreamer, I know pretty well that this all sounds a little utopian. There actually is a restriction. Since we live in a capitalist world, it is absolutely necessary – in the interest of survival – that you have a clear mercantile and always current report system for all the individual teams and for the entire enterprise. After all, many people have to work in order to make sure they can live. Which means they – justly – want a good salary. And that is only possible if the enterprise where they work, too, earns good money and remains a healthy business.RMD(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For all the articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here:  Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Wednesday October 3rd, 2018

BUSINESS Visualisation

THE BOOK by
Botta/Reinold/Schloss

Behind this really harmless title, you will find a truly exciting non-fiction book. I would call it a book for people between six and ninety who want to have more joy and success in life.

The sub-title

A tour guide for curious and visionary persons
already gives an idea about the book being something really special.

Special? Well, I read it and I would call it revolutionary. It is about a trip into a new world I very much love and cherish. It is a world full of creative and appreciative communication and of “living together”. And it leads into a world that will continue to change and grow.

Basically, it is not a book you will read, but more a book you will feel your way through. In an exciting and humorous way, the trip of a young lady whose name is Barbara (Babs) into an agile adventure is described. This trip brings her through the world of modern communication, beginning from listening and understanding and ending in a very rounded way via the creative when the results are documented.

For me, it is quite clear: communication is the basis for all kinds of “social systems”. And communication will work better if we make use of innovative formats (some of them are actually very old). Part of this concept is the use of images and haptic – as part of a new and very sympathetic mental frame.

During my activities, I am often surprised to see how many people simply ignore the “agile change” that takes place around them, or else they are almost overrun by it. The book, which was written as a co-operation project between Botta, Reinold and Schloß, could be a solid introduction to this “new world“ for non-experts. But also the “experienced agilest” will find quite a few innovative ideas.

I can guarantee that this book will remain exciting from the first to the last page. It is not one of those works where the message is clear after the first fifty pages and where said message is then artificially lengthened and repeatedly proven in a boring way. No – you will find something new on every page. It remains full of humour at all times and the joy of reading will never end.

I would wish that the authors were to write more books about more trips, because the wonderful world of modern communication is endless. The book really contains a lot of it – but naturally not all of it. Barbara (the hero an inspiration of the authors in real life) could easily take us with her on many more great trips.

That would be nice. But I already very much recommend the first trip. For entrepreneurs and (project) managers, the book is a must.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Sorry, this entry is only available in German.

Roland Dürre
Wednesday September 13th, 2017

Entrepreneur’s Diary #123 – Appraisal Interviews

Evening Event BICCnight “it at media“ in the foyer of the Funkhaus Bayern. München, 22/07/2011 picture by Stephan Goerlich

For today’s entrepreneur’s diary, I chose a very banal topic: The Appraisal Interview.

Together with Wolf Geldmacher, I founded the InterFace Connection GmbH in 1984. Immediately, we had ten successful years as the producers of the software HIT-CLOU and quickly became the leaders on the market for text systems on UNIX in Europe. Because we were a great team. It was a true delight. In retrospective, those were the ten best years of my professional career.

Before we founded InterFace Connection, I had worked for Siemens and Softlab. I wanted to adopt all the things I found good in those enterprises in my own firm. It was quite a number of things. However, there were many more things that did not find my approval and I consequently wanted to handle them differently – those were the more important things.

Among other things, I am talking the chance to decide what tasks were delegated to whom and also of deciding what, when, how and where the work had to be done. At Siemens, the delegation of tasks was “from top to bottom”. That was not what I wanted. And during the first ten years, thanks to a high degree of self-organization and a huge amount of self-responsibility both of the team and the people at InterFace Connection, this worked (very) well.

Both Siemens and Softlab had things I liked. For instance the yearly appraisal interview. It gave you the chance to speak openly with the boss of a hierarchical system at least once every year. I found this a good idea and did the same at the Connection. Regardless of the fact that we always were an enterprise of “open doors” – which means that all employees could come and pour out their sorrows over me and Wolf at any time. Today, I still recommend the “open doors”. However, I no longer recommend the appraisal interviews. The reason is that you do not need them.

At InterFace Connection, this is what happened: after three months (shortly before your probation time ended), there was the first appraisal interview and then, always before a years was over, there was the next. Thus, depending on the time a new person was employed, the interviews took place all the year round. There was also a structure for the interviews. Looking back upon the last year was a considerable part of the interview, then came the exchange of feedback and eventually the negotiations of a new income. I always asked my employees to be well prepared and saw to it that I, too, was always well prepared.

Basically, it went quite well. Except that a few wise-cracks thought it was perhaps unfair. After all, the entrepreneurial context of one month might be totally different from another month. And this could mean that a rise in income based on the current situation might not be fair.

We reacted to this and re-scheduled all (!) the interviews to take place at the end of the year. This had considerable disadvantages and made the topic a sad one. The stress level in November and December climbed another notch. That caused lack of motivation and exhaustion. Nor did the direct comparison make things any easier. At the time, I did not yet understand that there is no such thing as justice (or: there are many definitions of justice).

Perhaps one could construct a “justice based on need”. But justice based on achievement is definitely nonsense.

Today, I believe you cannot set dates for interviews of any sort by following a rule. Let alone if the date is in the far-away future. No, you always have to have an interview close to the occasion, when you have a good reason or at least a current situation that allows or demands it.

Especially communication between humans always has to take place when the necessity arises. For instance, dissatisfaction must never be conserved until the yearly appointment in order to then open the frustration nozzle.

More money agreed upon in ritualized interviews is only the second-best thing. It is better to talk about distributing the success exactly at the time the success happened. And it would be best to let those decide who actually were the ones who made the success possible. At team level.

Wages are a difficult topic. I already wrote about it quite a few times and probably will soon again write about it. Because it is not really goal-oriented that, in Germany, you get more money every year until you are quite old – up to retirement – and, on the other hand, decreasing wages are not really possible during the active time of a work contract. Simply because the achievement curve, even of a programmer, cannot point upward all your life long. But I will write about this at another time.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneur’s diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Thursday February 23rd, 2017

Aphorism: HUMANS & LEADERSHIP

 

Many thanks to Christian&Daniel (© Visual-Braindump)

Two theses

(I)
If “hierarchical structures” dominate an enterprise, then a culture of “agile, digital, lean, open, social“ is not possible. There might be a few exceptions for start-ups founded by a private person, but they only prove that the rule is in general correct.

(II)
Human beings feel comfortable in social systems like enterprises if they experience, respect and appreciation and if they can take responsibility in a spirit of courage and joy. The counter argument that this cannot be true for persons who have been trained in obedience and dependence is not in accordance with my concept of humanity and consequently not valid for me.

I defend these two theses vehemently.

Two ideas

(I)

A good rule for entrepreneurs is

“Only employ persons of whom you believe they have at least the potential to do the job better than you yourself would be able to do it!“
I (almost) always stuck to this rule at “InterFace Connection”. And my experiences were very good. It is also true at Google and probably one of the factors that made this enterprise so tremendously successful.

(II)
If you have employees who, following (I) are “better” than their bosses, then how can a system and its agents come up with the idea that control “from the top”, central ideas, set rules, division of labour, set and structured processes and a formal systematized communication might be better for the enterprise and its stakeholders (employees, customers, shareholders, ..) than an agile self-organization of the teams and informal networks. Especially in times of rapid change!

Incidentally, there is also a method (or rather: a procedure or culture) called: “Kanban”. I believe that both theses and ideas are true for all areas where humans work together, be in as a software engineer or as an elderly care nurse.

RMD
(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Monday November 7th, 2016

Entrepreneur’s Diary #118 – Employee Involvement

A short time ago, I received an email from a young man who is also an entrepreneur and a friend of mine:


During the last two years, a lot has happened and our small IT company now has seven employees. For next year, we are again seeking new employees. We are also wondering how to improve salaries in general without threatening our financial situation – in case matters will at some time not be so rosy.

Now I would like to ask you if you have experience with employee involvement or if there is somebody you could refer me to. Since we do not specialize in one product, generate a lot of cash flow with custom-made goods and also do not wish to sell our company, the question might be a little more complicated than it initially looks.

Would there be a chance for you to feel like and have time for coaching us in this matter in the near future?


Naturally, my answer was YES. But it was not because I wanted to coach them. That is something I refuse to do as a matter of principle. I also do not like to give advice. After all, advice can turn vice. Instead, I share my knowledge and ask questions.

Hoch die GREAT WALL mit Käppi nach hnten.

Once in a while, being an entrepreneur is like climbing the GREAT WALL.

First and foremost, I checked If I had ever before written anything about employee involvement in my entrepreneur’s diary (Unternehmertagebuch). Since the answer is no, I will relate the results of my discussion here in the blog.

Let me start with my own experiences:

As a matter of facts, fairly shortly after the foundation of the InterFace Connection GmbH (for us, the name Connection was more than just a name, it was programmatic) in 1984, Wolf Geldmacher and yours truly decided that we wanted to offer all employees (and even in 1986, we are talking around twenty) shares of the enterprise.

At the time, we were four partners in the firm. The “active” ones were Wolf and I. We were both employees of the Connection as managers and both owned 30% of the capital. The two “passive” partners in the firm were Dr. Peter Schnupp (a man who had written IT history) and the InterFace Computer, represented by Claus M. Müller. They had 20% each. At the time, our capital was as much as 100,000.- DM and our legal status was limited liability company.

Dr. von Hase was “our” counsellor-at-law. He accompanied our enterprise during many years. In retrospect, I can certainly say that his advice was always very good advice for the company. It did not take long for him to convince us that the limited liability company status was not the best possible for an enterprise with several partners. Especially if some of them are also employees. Conflicts that, for example, might arise from the enterprise-employee relation might easily have a negative effect on the partnership level.

Consequently, 17 employees of the IF AG founded a share association that took 10% of the capital (10,000 DM) out of the entire sum (100,000).

The sales price for the 10% was 60,000 DM (10,000 DM for the shares plus an extra rate of 1:5 , i.e. 50,000 DM). At the time, our enterprise was easily worth 600,000 DM. The money remained in the company as backup, which improved the capital situation (from 100,000 to 160,000 DM). The total shares situation changed as follows: Wolf and I now held 27% instead of the 30% we held before the transfer. InterFace Computer and Peter Schnupp now had 18% each instead of the 20% they had had before. And 10% were now owned by the shareholder association of employees who then mathematically held a share of 1/170 each of the enterprise. It was a good example for a successful employee involvement.

For the employees, one disadvantage was that they could not directly own shares of the enterprise, instead “only” indirectly holding shares as an association. This limited the fungibility of the shares. When, in the late 1990ies, the InterFace Connection GmbH became the InterFace AG, the shares of the employee association became stock of the InterFace AG, which meant this limitation was no longer active. Whenever I meet InterFace AG employees today on general meetings, they tell me that the employee involvement was the best investment of their lives.

In the 1980ies and especially in the 1990ies, many persons worked with option models in Germany that were rather dubious affairs as far as tax was concerned. The procedure was particularly attractive for young and quickly growing enterprises that wanted a speedy entry into the stock market. I have a few scattered friends who actually – to their own surprise – became millionaires because of these models. Mostly, however, the persons I know who did it tended to lose money, rather than profit.

Today, I believe cooperatives are probably something to keep in mind when this is your purpose – especially if you want to think sustainable and long-term. Even though originally the cooperative model was not intended to be beneficial for employees. Initially, they wanted to share the use of production machinery and buy said machinery. But it will also work if you want to make it possible for employees to share the success.

To me, partner models such as those used for entrepreneurial counselling look rather innovative. Especially the varieties where you can buy shares upon entering the firm and have to hand them on as you leave sound exciting, With them, you will profit from the success and growth of the shared enterprise in all the time you are part of it. If I were ever to found a new company, I would probably try the BGB company partner model.

During our discussion, we also looked beyond the “pure earnings”. To be sure, a market-oriented income plays an important role when it comes to the employees’ motivation. In fact, salaries and continued education are the most important costs in service companies. It goes without saying that enterprises find it easier if they only need to pay part of these costs if they are actually successful.

However, money is only one (even if an important) part of what constitutes the relationship between the enterprise and its employees. The entrepreneurial culture and the values lived in the firm are just as important. Catchwords are openness and transparency, the possibility to participate, as well as respect and appreciation of all the persons in the firm being a foregone conclusion.

In an enterprise, you should feel that all the employees share the courage for the future and find pleasure in doing what they are doing. “Strategy” should be something like a shared feeling, rather than just words. The enterprise should not just create value for the shareholders, but also for all the stakeholders. That includes the families of the employees. For partners and children of colleagues, the enterprise should be something they can “touch”.

And also – this is very important:
Success should (as often as possible) be celebrated together!

RMD
(Translated by EG)

P.S.
For more articles of my entrepreneurial diary, click here: Drehscheibe!

Roland Dürre
Wednesday August 10th, 2016

Bavarian Constitution, Common-Good Economy…

… Eye-Level, Intrinsify.me, Democratic Enterprise in Management, Holocracy – and Buddhism in Management .. These are all Things I Like. 
- but, please, no CSR!

Vajrasattva (Tibet)

Vajrasattva (Tibet)

Most of us want the same thing: an economy that serves humans. As opposed to humans serving the economy.

That is why I love the Bavarian Constitution (Bayerische Verfassung), where one article explicitly states that it is a huge privilege granted in Bavaria to do business in a community – and how this right is an obligation for the enterprises and entrepreneurs, making it a must for the goods and services they provide to first and foremost be useful for the people.

And in another article of this wonderful constitution, the entire thing is repeated and emphasized again for the finance sector! However, said finance sector could not care less, instead mostly doing things that would be unconstitutional – at least in Bavaria.

I am talking about Articles 151: business is linked to the common good; principle of contract freedom and 157: amassing capital; money and credit. But those are far from the only articles truly worth reading; there are quite a few more of them in the Bavarian Constitution…

I equally appreciate the Common Good Economy around its protagonist Christian Felber. They came up with a common good matrix that makes it possible to check what contribution the enterprise you work in or even perhaps “manage/own” makes for the social life. And it is worth the effort of informing yourself about it.

The project eye-level, along with the film is something I admired because it showed that there are actually enterprises practicing eye.-level successfully.

The brave ideas of the people at intrinsify.me, too, are very close to my heart, as are the clear concepts introduced by Andreas Zeuch who was the inspiration for entrepreneur democrats (Unternehmens-Demokraten). They show that democratic enterprises work better. And they also came up with the wonderful slogan:
ALL POWER TO NOBODY! 

Even the friends of holocracy make a huge impression on me, even though I see the danger of a tiring democracy that might easily lead to “holocrazy”.

A short time ago, however, I met a young entrepreneur. His name is Julian Sametinger and he wrote a Bachelor Thesis  (Bachelor-Arbeit, click here to read it, it is really very much worth reading) on “Buddhism in Management“. It is a wonderful piece of work and more exciting than some criminal stories. And, basically, it covers all you need to know. It is also the reason why I write this post.

I have a huge amount of respect for all these ideas. Their very existence makes me enormously grateful.

But, please, to not offer me CSR (Corporate Social Responsity). It is hypocritical, produced by university ethics-talkers and rehearsed with ethics commissions appointed by the state. I mostly find it pompous gibberish as we know it from politicians and lobbyists. Except that it has been graphically beautified with federally financed high-gloss transparencies and posters of the important associations.

If you want names, I will gladly provide the details about some evil and not quite so evil professors, along with their often absurd concepts and more or less ridiculous activities. Since, however, this blog is supposed to be more about the positive ideas than the negative, I will end this article here.

Thank you for reading it and goodnight to you all!

RMD
(Translated by EG)