Fabrik19 has good reason to celebrate: The event series “Feierabend:digital”, a consultation hour for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), is celebrating its second anniversary! This time, Kai Bülow, managing director at depant Bauträger, gave a small lecture on how to best use the potential of the ongoing digitization regarding your own team. “Thinking in opportunities” – according to this motto, Bülow talked about change management in a conversation with Mark Pralle, managing director of Fabrik19.
Change management and digitization
The increasing digitization is changing job profiles. These changes entail the need to transform traditional work methods. This, in turn, has an impact on employees and the way they work together. At the eleventh “Feierabend:digital”, Bülow gave an impression of what this digital transformation can look like in the construction industry. He embraces the omnipresent digitization as an opportunity to fully harness the potential of a company or team.
The competencies of a property development company are usually not primarily of digital nature. Nevertheless, Bülow is convinced of the importance of dealing with the structural changes and possibilities that arise with digital change in every company and industry. The executive board of Fabrik19 also considers this important: “It has to be rooted in the DNA,” says Pralle. Bülow, who has a lot of experience in change management, also emphasized the significance of showing willingness to change. At the same time, it is essential to conscientiously moderate this change as a responsible manager.
“New project, new ambitions”
Bülow also spoke about the need to remain agile. “We always try to avoid becoming a copy of ourselves.” He sees the transformative change of digitization as a helpful tool for the optimization of work processes. In his company, employees from very heterogeneous fields of work have to access the same database. According to Bülow, experience has shown that the wrong CMS software can lead to great frustration within the team. So how do you approach these things correctly as a managing director, especially in a non-specialist industry?
Bülow considers the development of digital competence to be an essential task. The existing expertise defines where to start, and it is wise to seek external advice if necessary. In a next step, a detailed analysis of the needs and requirements of the company should be carried out. This analysis then shows where digital components could lead to a benefit. Only then should companies examine the market offer, followed by selection and introduction, says Bülow. The right approach can be crucial for the success of the digital transformation in the company.
Top-Down vs. Bottom-Up
In his presentation, Bülow presented two approaches that can be chosen for the implementation: top-down and bottom-up. The top-down approach entails that all decisions are made by the management level, while the team has to adapt. On the other hand, deciding to use the bottom-up method means that employees are integrated into the process and a joint composition takes place. Bülow emphasizes that the approach must be chosen for each individual situation. However, he has established his own tactic: “My tendency is quite straightforward: The more I intervene in the daily work of my employees, the more it is worth to include them in making a decision,” Bülow clarified. The involvement of employees in this process also increases the team’s understanding of new digital processes.
Of course, there are also contexts in which a quick decision by the management level is clearly beneficial. It is also always possible to choose an intermediate stage of the two approaches, explains Bülow. However, the focus should not only be placed on digitization and digital processes. Companies should rather keep an eye on the overall picture. The acceptance and frustration tolerance towards newly implemented digital processes can be increased if managers as role models show that it indeed does work. Bülow is convinced: “People follow people who lead the way.”
New mindset and artificial intelligence
At the same time, the topic of digitization always raises concerns, noted Bülow. This ranges from questioning one’s own digital skills to the fear that certain jobs will be automated, making employees redundant. Every team has employees who are open to change and others who prefer to build on tradition. But in order to be able to convince the entire team, the best approach is to listen carefully to each employee and try to understand their concerns. In a next step, the team can then work on removing these concerns about digital change and on finding individual solutions.
Artificial Intelligence aims at emulating aspects of human thought and action with computers. For companies, AI can automate certain work processes and thereby simplify workflows. This is one of the reasons some employees fear their jobs will be taken over by digital components. However, while artificial intelligence can work reliably and efficiently in binary structures, it cannot completely replace human thinking. For instance, AI lacks human qualities, such as empathy, social skills, creativity, or emotionality. These qualities will always be superior to digital components, says Bülow. Thus, AI can be of great help for the optimization of routine tasks, which makes it possible to direct the team’s key competencies to the best suited tasks in more appealing areas of work. Bülow summarized this as follows: “An incredible opportunity to increase the fun factor of your job.”
Roles change due to digitization
A final aspect that Bülow addressed revolves around the changing roles associated with digital change. In the context of digitization, we need a new mindset, explains Bülow. The reversal of competence, which results from the high and intuitive understanding of digital structure among the so-called “digital natives”, the younger generation, also evokes changes within the team structure and classic hierarchies are broken up. Bülow sees a huge opportunity to improve team dynamics here.
In addition to an adapted mindset, this also requires understanding, patience, good moderation, and a certain amount of time to get used to it. Ultimately, digitization should not be seen as a one-off process and should not develop into a side process. Managers should rather be actively aware of the associated opportunities and should not shy away from the topic, stated Bülow. As a result, the CEO could learn something from the trainees and benefit from breaking up traditional hierarchies, he concluded. After this interesting and informative lecture and the subsequent discussion, Bülow and Pralle had earned themselves the traditional after-work beer.
If you would like to watch the German stream of the event, you can do so here:
Save the date
As always, the event was kindly supported by mittelhessen.digital and the J+P Gruppe. Mark Pralle took the opportunity to invite the participants and anyone interested to the next “Feierabend:digital” on March 31, 2022. Further information will be communicated in a timely manner.