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Stability on the escalator of change

Experts at the ESB Management Dialogue discuss how to future-proof dynamic processes

By Katrin Reil

How does agility lead to stability? How important are organizations’ cultures and values? What are the tasks facing the managers of the future? The 3rd ESB Management Dialogue event explored the tension between stability and change in organizations. On Friday, July 16, around 50 participants from academia and business came together at the online event.

Pushing ahead with change while maintaining stability is actually a paradoxical idea, said Professor Arjan Kozica, at the start of the event. Kozica is the initiator of the ESB Management Dialogue and Professor of Organization and Leadership at ESB Business School. "If we imagine change as an escalator and see stability as being in one and the same place, then we have to keep moving just to stay where we are. This is a paradox that needs to be addressed in companies and organizations,” he said. 

The event kicked off with casual get-to-know-you break-out sessions. Then invited speakers from business and academic practice stepped onto the virtual stage for brief keynote speeches.

For example, Professor Birgit Renzl from the University of Stuttgart spoke about how routines and rules can provide a framework and focus for creative thinking and agility. Torsten Groth also discussed the idea of agility. A consultant, speaker, and trainer at Simon, Weber & Friends GmbH, Groth said a systemic approach to agility can help people to redefine the role of leadership, to value what already exists and to find out which factors are necessary for change.

Uta Loreck from health insurer AOK Baden-Württemberg said it was time to moving away from the focus on deficits to a focus on strengths. Using the example of her company, she explained why a return to individual strengths was helpful in times of pandemic.

Christoph Kübel, former managing director and labour director of Robert Bosch GmbH, focused primarily on the area of leadership. Technological transformation is only possible through cultural transformation, he said, and this clearly starts at the management level. In order to master the paradox between stability and change, he said leadership characteristics such as courage and self-reflection are essential.

Felix von Held from the Institute for Innovation and Change Methodology in Munich agreed. An organisation’s clearly defined culture and values are the guardrails for operating in a complex environment that people are quick to perceive as uncertain.

The participants exchanged ideas in lively question rounds, gathered inspiration for their work, and made new contacts. The ESB Business School's "Managing Transformations in Organizations, Work & Society" research group is planning another ESB Management Dialogue for next year in cooperation with the Initiative Zukunftsfähige Führung (IZF) and the Knowledge Foundation @ Reutlingen University - information on the topic and date are to follow.