Roland Dürre
Wednesday July 26th, 2017

Shouldn’t Business Serve Humans?!

In Unterhaching, we have a great soccer club, a number of IT enterprises such as the InterFace AG and even world-famous companies. One of them is Wrigley.

Let me relate to you what I learned over the last few weeks. I did not make any attempts at verifying the story, but it is quite possible that things I heard in the form of reports or gossip around here are the truth.

I am sure the degree to which Unterhaching has become considerably more famous even beyond Germany is due to the Spielvereinigung Unterhaching.

Besides soccer, we also have volleyball, gymnastics and several other successful athletic areas in Unterhaching – as well as several more interesting enterprises and a wonderful outdoor swimming pool and much more.

The Unterhaching Civic Office is certainly glad that the famous Wrigley enterprise has its European headquarters here. And perhaps in the future, you will have to say “had”.

The big concerns want power. To this end, they like to swallow up other concerns.

It is quite possible that, with its profit of 35 billion US dollars in 2016, Mars falls a little behind Nestlé (turnover in 2015 was 88.8 billion). That is just more motivation for Mars to catch up with the big rival.

Currently, they are preparing for the merging of the animal hospital chain VCA Inc. (Veterinary Centres of America). Mars wants to spend 9.1 billion US dollars, including the debt. It is supposed to further strengthen the business area “animal health”. To me, it looks more like mania and misdirected late capitalism. I can imagine only too well (or rather, too badly) what the leading US food giant wants to achieve by the merging.

Food producer invests in animal hospital. Shame to him who evil thinks.

Wrigley was swallowed by Mars as early as 2008. Initially the European headquarters remained in Unterhaching. Another important Mars location is obviously in Viersen near Düsseldorf.

Now, Mars wants to centralize a few of its activities in London. One of the consequences will be that people now living in Unterhaching or Viersen will have to move to London. This might hurt some residents of Unterhaching, for others it will be an exciting challenge.

But then, this is what you get in a global world and economy. After all, most of the people seem to like it, since they support it – at least with their consumption habits.
But that is not what this article is about. What gives me pause is the reason they give for moving to London.

Big concerns assume that, in the future, the central key towards success in our competitive world will be the quality of marketing.

To the concern, that seems useful, and even necessary, because it assumes that, in the market for PROVISIONS, only an enterprise that has the best MARKETING can establish itself and perhaps even add to its turnover. And among the top managers, they assume that the most efficient and effective marketing firms basically sit in London. Consequently, they seek close proximity to them – and go to Great Britain. Regardless of the Brexit and such. In my opinion, the Brexit is more an operetta than anything else.

PROVISIONS concerns are, first and foremost, after turnover and results (profit). And, in the eyes of the concerns, MARKETING is the determining factor in this field. Everything else, like the quality of food and the consequences for your health, only plays a minor role.

Business should serve the people, not vice versa!

For the concerns, only one thing is important: the people must buy the cheaply produced mass food at a price that is as high as possible. To make it attractive for the masses, it is made “convenient” and optically seducing. Enriched with aromatic ingredients, “the taste of the world“ is generated and realized. “Cheap” is more important than quality, optical appeal and wrapping is more important than the content, uniformity beats diversity, mass has priority over class, storage life beats freshness, logistic feasibility has priority over taste. …

Thus, there is a strong LOBBY that forbids the legislators in Europe and Germany, for instance, the clear marking of a product if it contains substances that may be detrimental for your health.

And what do the people do? Nothing. They believe what marketing says and buy like lemmings all the products by Mars, Nestle and co. Unfortunately, this is also true for Unterhaching.

(Translated by EG)

Roland Dürre
Saturday April 23rd, 2016

New Barcamps is What the Country Needs!

Now I know why my enthusiasm about barcamps is dwindling …

PM_BannerDiese Woche war This week, I was invited to attend the first (!) barcamp organized by one of the really huge German world concerns in their enterprise building. The “anti-conference” was announced as an experiment and was about “modern leadership principles“.

They wanted to try something new and invited around 50 internal employees and a few external persons (one of whom was me). Almost all of the concern employees were young “high potentials”, among them many personal assistants of directors or persons responsible for a sector of product.

With respect to the degree of freedom, the barcamp was a little restricted. For instance, the “feet principle” and the roles of “butterflies and bees” were intentionally not formulated. When I asked about those, the organizers told me they had been afraid that this would have been a little too much innovation – a fear that I do not happen to

But: the event was an extremely good experience.

To me, it seemed that, after a short phase of scepticism, all participants were really enthusiastic and active. And that it was a great thing for all parties concerned. Not one of the participants had actively prepared for the event by writing a presentation or some such! Consequently, all session givers formulated their problems, anxieties and experiences spontaneously after having spent only a short time pondering. And that really found its target – in the sessions, we always worked on topics that seemed really important and very exciting.

I, too, again, learned a lot and was truly glad to have been there. In particular, I now understand far better how huge concerned work today when it comes to leadership and management. As an extra knowledge increase, I also realized that, today, it is actually no longer the rule that new products need to be found useful by the customer.

In fact, first and foremost, it is all about evaluating where and if there are under-provided sectors on the market (product-free spaces), yet where the majority of persons who have been asked think they might need it.

As soon as this requirement is met, all you have to do is come up with a good marketing strategy and a concept that will make a basic scaling and good profit (production costs / price acceptable for the buyer) possible. I was actually a little taken aback when I heard that the usefulness of a product no longer plays any role when it comes to creative planning.

However, one (indirect and), for me, very important realization was (and this is why I write this article) that this “concern barcamp” made me aware of why I get more and more tired of barcamps:

The longer you have had a barcamp, the more people come with topics they prepared at home. They no longer formulate what is on their minds spontaneously and/or in the context of what actually happens.

pmcamp3Unfortunately, this is a tendency I see more and more often in the once so much-loved PM-Camps that, so far, I have always remained true to. And when I am there, I mostly stay in the coffee room and talk to the many great persons present. Also, it seems to me that, as the years go by, other barcamps have more and more “ready-made” session, which causes the anti-conference to slightly differ only in one respect from the good old classical conference: its format-based freedom.

Here is a possible solution to the problem:

a) communicate in no uncertain terms that it is better to let the moment determine what happens on a barcamp and have sessions develop from the individual and shared situation and

b) make the planning phases more iterative and “shared” (i.e. just fix the sessions for the morning after breakfast, then reflect in the forum for a short time what is going to happen and what should be continued).

To be sure, the constant tightrope walk between individually (alone) and collectively (together) and between agile and planned in advance is certainly not something easily done. But that does not mean we should not keep trying.

(Translated by EG)

Modern enterprises want their employees to “actively participate” in the company. The participation of the employees when things are developed and their actively being part of decisions is considered a positive asset and a necessary requirement for a secure future. Terms such as “democratic enterprise” are en vogue. Some even get enthusiastic about holocracy (Holokratie), which is a term I like to intentionally misspell as “holocrazy”.

Yet I have all the respect in the world for the underlying intensions. Just as I also very much appreciate the ideas about “Common Good Economy” (“Gemeinwohlökonomie” – for instance as initiated by Christian Felber). But how is an enterprise supposed to manage the necessary change?

Meine Twitter-Fenster.

My Twitter Windows.

As I see it, social media play an important role when it comes to trying to establish the culture of an enterprise – both internally and externally.

For change and modifications, communication at eye-level and an internal intranet that works a little like the well-known social media systems à la Facebook are an important requirement. Today, we also call these concepts “Corporate Social Media (CSM)“. Perhaps we will soon have an “SMO” on top of the SEO (search engine officer who is responsible for the search engine optimization) – with the SM, naturally, not being short for sado-maso, but for Social Media (Social Media Officer).

I am a little sceptic about a CSM who has been appointed from the top. The employees should initiate the transformation. The same is true for the very popular term CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility). It is about how an enterprise can live up to “ethical expectations”. This is also one of the tings the basis must want and work towards.

You will immediately understand my scepticism about CSR initiated by leaders after, for instance, having read the books by Mr. Otfried Höffe. His books have become standard literature at universities in the ethics faculties. I have no idea why this is so, because, as I see it, the books contain poor material all the business students have to learn. They do not satisfy any philosophical requirements.

But then, I am an evil sceptic who even considers the valuable term BGM (company health management) ridiculous, regardless of it not even beginning with a “C”. Incidentally, I distrust abbreviations that start with a C as a matter of principle. This is not only in politics and not only when the C is for “Christian” or “Corporate”. I am also very cautious when it comes to all combinations and abbreviations that contain terms such as management, manager or officer.

But now let me write the constructive part of this article. I would like to show with the example of twitter how you can actually manage to make people inside an enterprise really enjoy the meaningful use of corporate social media addressing the world outside the firm. The motivation of the employees is joy and intrinsic, without any special incentives or such.
How to make an entire enterprise twitter and thus authentically demonstrate its strength in the network, at the same time showing its nice collection of great individualists and presenting them to the market?

As you can easily imagine, this cannot be done through centrally controlled marketing strategies that follow ancient concepts. The role of marketing is among the things that need to undergo drastic change. Virtues – and I do not mean new virtues – such as the subsidiarity principle that is based on trust and error tolerance must also be re-established.

Before I elaborate on the details, I would like to point out the difference between “collective enterprise twittering” and the “functional twittering” as it is done by the National Railway (Die Bahn@bahn) or the Telekom with their twitter accounts (“Telekom hilft” @Telekom_hilft – I tried it myself when I was in an emergency situation and it helped me a lot). It makes a lot of sense and is often a good way to get the attention of these enterprises when you have problems. And it is also often the only chance a user has of being heard when the hotline or other “normal” channels that should connect you with the enterprise fail.

For the enterprises, the use of these social media channels is quite beneficial, because it helps to release the burden of the expensive hotlines that by their constantly being busy already annoy the customers. And, as a general rule, good social media services can be offered much cheaper than the classic help desk.

But this has nothing to do with “corporate social media” as in “here, the employees twitter”.
In order to twitter collectively as an enterprise, the first thing you need is a shared twitter account that is used by many, ideally all, employees. Initially, a defined team should do the exemplary twittering for the enterprise on this account and maintain the account. In the long run, it is, of course, desirable that all the parties concerned share the maintenance work and responsibility for the account.

Perhaps such a team should also help with some advice and organizational assistance as to what sort of communication is supportive of the enterprise and what is not. But then, most employees have quite a good instinct when it comes to this issue.

Also, all office buildings should have a screen installed in rooms such as the entrée, meeting halls and kitchens. On these screens, a twitter wall (here is the example of the ActMobCmp-Twitter-Wall) with current tweets is running at all times. Because reading the tweets your friends and colleagues have written will whet your appetite and encourage you to do some twittering of your own. This is how activity and shared directing will start happening by itself.

In this article, I used “twittering” as a kind of metaphor (pars pro toto) for social media in general. With Facebook, Google+ or also a Corporate Blog, it is not much different. Thus, Corporate Twittering is a good way to start more social media activities. As soon as (almost) everybody is enthusiastic, you can also try “Corporate Blogging”.

(Translated by EG)

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