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hello and welcome to a new episode of Virtual Frontier. today we have Andreas Wittler as our guest, again. Andreas was already with us a few weeks ago, a podcast where we talked about the topic of agility in companies. today, in our new constellation, we also have Johanna Anthes with us. Johanna is Head of Communication at Bright Solutions and Flash Hub. i am especially happy that we have a very unusual atmosphere and different members of staff today. usually Manuel is our CEO, or we do the podcast alone one to one talk.
so i am especially happy that we try something completely new. our topic today is control, control on a personal level, control in the management area. and we want to have an open discourse with Andreas and Johanna about this broad topic and keyword. but Andreas for the listeners who listened to the last podca
yes, thank you very much, i'm happy to meet you. i'm Andreas Wittler, i'm an agile coach, i work for Media Markt Saturn and i got to know you guys through the Manu. we started to talk a little bit about the whole beginning of this crisis, about which Mood, which mistakes can be made and what we can learn from it. and i loved to discuss with you guys. we had a lot of mental leaps in our conversations and said okay, there's still so much music in there, we have to follow that up.
and i'm happy to be available for any discussion with advice and my views and my views. control is a difficult, emotional topic and we picked it out because we said there are some hooks we noticed here in the crisis.
Andreas has already made the right threats. here are some more topics that are causing a lot of discussion, especially in the Corona crisis. to me in brief. i have been with Bright Solutions for five years and have been involved in the transformation from a classic medium-sized company to a completely remote working company with virtual teams and freelancer expert teams and yes, i would say that the originator of the whole discussion today or a trigger for it was a time report i read about two weeks ago, two or three weeks ago in the issue two weeks ago, about private detectives or companies sent out by companies to control their employees.
And what at first caused me to laugh and say "oh, that's not possible, that's not the issue at all, then started a deeper process. and also because control is an important topic for us, i thought "After the great P
exciting! with this ZEIT article. i did some research on the subject and somehow a number came to my attention that such a detective agency, which has its employees supervised, costs around 2000 euros a day. and so i asked myself: maybe the 2000 euros are not better invested in a good coach, such as Andreas, who can basically handle the subject?
Thank you. I have a few thoughts on the subject. Let's just talk about it. Maybe to you Johanna the question. What did you all flip your hairs for this article? What specifically? What?
exactly so, in fact, i basically stumbled over the word control again, because i think that it is rather negative when you talk about it. but basically i am a big fan of control, i.e. control as a motivator. but we can discuss the different definitions again later. but for me, it triggered something because it was about when the person being controlled actually fulfilled the expected attitude. so if an employee says oh, i'm sick, and the employer sniffs after him, i say now with the private detective and sees oh, he is really sick, that trust can be regained after all.
and i then thought, somehow this is a perverse construction here, there is something strange here. this made me look deeper and then generally discussed the topic of control as an expression of power or as security, better said not as an expression of power, but as a ve
what i can say spontaneously is that there are perhaps two types of control. one is a control of the result, and the other is a control of the person. and when i send a detective out, i don't go over the result, but i go over the person, and that is certainly something where we have resentful feelings. quite, quite naturally, because that happens, not openly. it doesn't happen by invitation. it happens behind the backs of those being controlled, and for me it is an expression of deepest suspicion.
i wouldn't take the money if i trusted my employees.
Yes, that is definitely the crux of the matter. In defence, perhaps we should say at the outset that the report also dealt with a case in which it was feared that health risks might arise if the rules were broken. That is to say, it concerned someone who had failed to observe social distancing and thus put his team at extreme risk. That was one case in which... That was three cases in total, and I thought that was important.
I think we all agree on that. Of course, when it comes to the safety of others, control is absolutely vital. In other words, control, personal control of the body.
for me, this is also a question of the person who doesn't respect this social distancing. how does he see himself? does he think that his ego is more important? he can endanger his health for himself as an adult. assuming that he was an adult, he can of course decide that. on the other hand, he endangers others without knowing that he has not behaved correctly. and that's a difficult topic. personal integrity is something i always have to assume.
and if someone hasn't followed the rules for some reason, he should tell the others about it. that naturally gives it a different context. but basically, i also read the newspaper, some news, and i also came up with something like spy software that somehow gets put on people's service computers to find out when they press which keys are any applications, how long control calls at 8 o'clock are anything from a certain time to a certain time.
Yes, I would like to go deeper into this control exercised by the management, which is why such a seemingly solid pillar is still a solid pillar even through this forced, remote time. I find that exciting.
I just hacked in again, because these cases, which were named in the ZEIT, were of course also individual cases, as I have heard, at these large detective agencies that were now in the conversation, but now somehow what I now ask 25, 30 every day, and I think that is just a basic topic, when it comes to the topic of control and trust, and it seems to me that many working relationships are broken or very scratched. But please Andreas.
on the one hand, it's a fundamental issue of how the image of humanity that i have as a superior or in the company evolves. do you mean i have to control my employees, because otherwise they would put their feet up on the desk and do nothing. and that's why i'm also forced to measure presence time. time clock and whatever else there is. or am i someone who says i'm satisfied when the work result X, Y, Z is reached and how long it takes them to do it, i basically don't care for the time being.
if someone finds smarter ways and finishes half an hour earlier, that's fine by me. that's an image of myself where i say okay, they're motivated by themselves, they like their work. i have a good mood, they're hot to deliver their results. they do it voluntarily. that's the end of it in the end. and both exist in today's world. as an agile coach, i'm now more familiar with travelling in the culture of trust to
I see this absolutely so that it is a distinction between working for oneself as a performance motivation and working to get ahead. I think that is exactly the difference. It is about monitoring and controlling.
Yes, I would use the word controlling differently, but I know what you mean in fact.
How would you use this?
For me, controlling refers to a planning act in the financial figures of a company, which is too narrow for me.
results are not always expressed in numbers. when i try to measure learning, how much we have developed and learned new ways, it's not directly visible in any numbers? people who are on their way to learn about a new technology or another way to approach customers or come up with a product, how do i measure their work? how do i control it? that's not honest enough for me. but maybe here's the idea again. if we do what we're burning for, does it need control at all?
i mean, the result actually speaks for itself. and then i come to another statistic that's constantly being brought out like every year. 85 percent of the employees wouldn't really like to do their job. aha. isn't that a waste of the year? so many people go to work without really wanting to do it. i think that's where we come from, if we can get this commitment from people
i understand the approach and i would nod almost exactly to that. in fact i see control on the way to the result. you said earlier that the result speaks for itself in the end. now of course the question is what result is it about? is it about a result at the end of the week or a result in three months? and i see it in such a way that control on the way there is growth-promoting, or if it's iterative, that it's just.
sources of error, not even sources of error because of "you bad employee or you team member did something wrong, but hey, if you improve that, then you'll get there in three months. and that's control where i say there i'm a huge fan of self-control.
This is then something like self-control or control within the team by the colleagues or a colleague, depending on how the cooperation is organized, which is something different from control by a superior who is not directly involved in the delivery process at all, or?
If I look at it like this, we do it automatically every day, we are controlled by a bot, as it were, by entering what our goals for the day or week are. And in this respect, it is already the management's responsibility. It is for our marketing manager, so that he documents all the information and keeps it clearly organized. And in this respect, it is already control. Let me say from the top down. We have a flat hierarchy, we have no hierarchy in this sense.
But in this respect, it is already control from the top, from the manager.
Is that still more self-control for you, though? also that you pay attention to where I stand at the end of the day, at the end of the week? or is that something where you say, I just fill that out, but actually I have no relationship to the value or the number.
It can indeed, so Daniel you get the same bot, it can actually vary, you can both use it and use it, that means on the one hand you can see it for yourself as a daily process, as a daily progress and look, ok does it fit with what I set myself at the end of the week? I think it depends on the mindset, and I'm convinced it depends on the mindset, that means you can see it too, ok, I'll fill it in now, he wants that.
And there are also days when I notice that I'm a bit weak, I kind of slide in a bit that I say, but I have to fill it in, and there we are exactly at that 85% who don't want to do their job. When you have a day like that, I feel a very, very little bit, I think that you feel more like ... I have to deliver it now, or I have to say something because I'm being tested.
So at the moment when you find bigger deviations for yourself, the suggestion would be You look why? now it could be that you helped someone, that wasn't intended. that doesn't pay off on your goals, but it was still sensible and necessary. then i would always say... well then, the goal doesn't matter at first, because the other was more important. in case of doubt, you threw yourself into the breach at some point and took over tasks for the company for which no one else was available.
i think this is exactly the point in which environment there is control? is it a mistake positive, a mistake accepting and to something better making environment? that means, i can write in. i don't feel fit at all today. i didn't reach my results. and as long as i know this environment is there, i enjoy it every day, even if i don't feel good, then i know okay, i can use this time to look, why can't i reach my goals?
that's more self-control then, isn't it? i can say i need help. and if this culture is not there, then i would imagine it as a total horror trip then it would be terrible for me.
the mistake for you is then the mistake that leads to a deviation from the plan. so you take the plan seriously. the question is to what extent can you plan your work at all? you have a sense of what is likely to happen and make a plan with a few assumptions or discuss it with your team or your boss or whatever is going on. if i deviate from that, i'm subject to an error. it can be an assumption. i don't have a priori that this or that emergency situation arises.
but it's very valuable for the company that we don't just postpone it to the next planning period, but react immediately. for me, this kind of deviation is completely OK. the only interesting question is, was there a way to detect it beforehand? if so, can we somehow build something in the system that helps us to look into that corner? and if not, does this happen more often and therefore i have to be prepared for those
I also think it's relatively important how we deal with these deviations... just as you mentioned, in what environment does this have to take place? Do we have to atone afterwards? Or is it more likely to be accepted and then we look at how we can simply do it better in the future or reduce these deviations? For example, what Johanna mentioned earlier, what we do with our standup bot. I somehow remember two or three weeks ago, when I wasn't really feeling well.
The external circumstances were relatively difficult, and I communicated it in our daily bot like this. And what happens then, sometime two hours later, I get a message from three colleagues Hey Daniel, what's going on? What can we do? And where is it hanging? Johanna was there, too. And that's just super exciting and super cool to see. Okay, there's someone there who cares, who reads it, and who deals with it
if we look at everyday life, there are a lot of deviations caused by our work system. something is not thought through from end to end, something is missing somewhere. then we have a bottleneck, that's what happened. how do i deal with it? work overload at some point in a production or service process is the normal state. i have a bottleneck somewhere and the question is, do i recognize it in time and how do i react in the system?
and if i start to concentrate on the work and not on the people with the basic attitude, then i have to assign blame, then i get ahead. and especially in the critical industries, as far as i've gotten to know, aviation and also medicine. there people first look at the work system. why did this deviation happen there? the thing that put us at risk there, or where damage really happened? what can we change in the work system so that this cannot happen?
there we are also at two of my favorite buzzwords of the current time. transparency and communication. because in such a case or also with our bot for example, one communicates very precisely and makes transparent why are we now taking this survey? why is it important to us, us in the sense of the management for example. why is it important to us to see this? or the team, why does the team need this information? so that we can understand where we come here, where do we want to go, what has happened on the way?
and i think, if the goal of i say control anyway, if the goal of control is communicated transparently, i think, then both parties can best pull together and are much more open to communicate and give answers honestly and thereby creating added value. that is, in my opinion, my realization of what you just said.
that's what i read in the preparation for our podcast. it was about swiss companies that offer so-called spy software. and there was a study or a survey. and in the end, two different companies were working with two different approaches. one of them just said okay, we use all these tools. we measure your time. we know where you click on them, we know what you are doing, which goals are being met, etc. so really down to granularity, everything was analyzed and tracked.
in another company it was done exactly the same way, but in the end it created the transparency and communication you just mentioned Johanna and said ok, we are doing it for this reason. we are going to use these tools for this reason. that's the background. you all get access to all the data we collect so that we can look at it together afterwards. where might there be problems?
completely detached from the labor law environment, at least in germany, as an employer you are allowed to do something that is not relatively highly regulated. and may be different in switzerland. i don't know about that. the interesting question is In fact, is that for learning and is that open or is it hidden and for blame in the end. actually, going back a bit in history, the japanese, when they invented kanban at toyota, saw the error as their friend.
they said. i don't want to find out at the end of the production line where the error in my car is, but the moment someone in the production chain sees the error, i want them to pull the red line. the whole production line stops. everybody comes together, discusses why this error was possible now, improves it, and then it goes on. that means that no cars are produced that have 50 times or however many times this error.
this is, i think, a very positive culture of mistakes. however, it is not aimed at blaming anybody, at assigning blame. how do we get into the new culture is an exciting question, people who come from the old culture have a reason for doing this here. it is mostly a matter of experience and learning. where is the hen where is the egg?
It is also comfortable, it just does not adapt itself or actually it is very uncomfortable, not to adapt itself currently especially, but it invites to the dependence just to leave it and independence....
I'll come back from another thought. When I say I know how to do it, then I can take this attitude. This plan just has to be followed through, fulfilled, and then it fits. We have less and less of that. I know less and less how to do it. You see it in your context. There's always some new technology, some new tool, some new process, some new, some new type of job coming around the corner.
And you're about to do it for the first time. And if in doubt, there's nobody on this planet who's done it before. No YouTube video, no manual, no whatever. You get out by experimenting with it. You have a goal, and in science, experimenting is absolutely part of it, and has nothing to do with mistakes in that sense, only I try it a hundred times. And if it hasn't worked the hundredth time, maybe the hundred second time.
Formulate theses, formulate theses and test them.
just take a look at the sandbox and see where the connections are. and maybe that's something that we come across much more often in the working world today, something that most management systems haven't adapted to yet. i have a lot of time at the moment and can romp around on all kinds of talks. i heard a great talk this week about someone who talked about how the platforms on which companies are built up become obsolete over the years and ultimately force a company to no longer dare to try something new, because everyone is afraid of replacing this core piece.
the platform on which it is all based. every innovation that jeopardizes this platform in its existence is killed immediately. that could mean it has to be thrown away. it was fascinating to listen to this talk and to realize that there is a lot of truth in it. and as the icing on the cake, golding talked about how there is an under
Which company is this?
He didn't say, but for me that's so soon after the punch card is somehow in this age, where I think there were already computers.
If that is the case, then these companies have simply lost out, too. Then they have no chance to move forward with experiments and a different attitude towards people. But then it might also be okay if the market clears up at some point.
i have the same example from several years with a friend of mine who was a product owner at the big game company computer games manufacturer. the two market leaders had relatively similar games, and the competing product was always a little bit better. but unlike other manufacturers, he just has a bigger market... or the bigger market altogether. and then i asked my friend. say, why don't you improve that? why don't you do it differently? you know how it works with the other games.
he says exactly what you meant. because then you would have to go really deep into the base code, and the whole game would have to be changed, it would cost millions. but in the end....
Do they still exist today?
Yes, they are still around today. but i honestly don't know if they have dared to do it in the meantime. but definitely. the players know that, too. one football game is a much more agile and flexible game and the other one is relatively rigid. and that again as a background.
This is technical debt in the technical language build. And I can have that in the hardware in the architecture of a company. This is not just pure code.
The other way around, .....
what i also ask myself is exactly which positions or which old systems need to be replaced. especially when it comes to control, we rarely talk about the control system itself, but rather about people who have controlled their team, for example. and i got the impression that many managers feel personally attacked. so you're the bad guys who control. of course, they've always done it that way. maybe in the industry we're only talking about industries where control can be adapted anyway.
in a doctor's office, certain processes simply have to be carried out accordingly and stay that way. but i'd like to go into that a little bit more. which people are so directly influenced by it that you might be afraid for your position? because fear plays a huge role in the topic of control.
It's actually a difficult topic. it's one of the strongest feelings people have. i was just about to start, and maybe we'll do it the other way around. let's think about it, what would be the ideal thing? we have the right form, of cooperation. we serve the right customers and meet their needs we solve their problems. can you imagine something like that?
Yes, in any case, I can well imagine
And then what would be the stories we tell? Stories of control.
These are then learning stories then.
Growth, i.e. control as a vehicle for self-control and growth and optimization, but not....
Quality control, process control, maybe something like that, but we would essentially identify with the smiling eyes of our customers and say yes, I have fulfilled this customer need.
Success is cold, the laughter of the customer is not, and this is what you remember - you remember the warmth of a project.
What would stop us from working towards this goal?
I would say the topic Daniel, I don't know how you see it, but I would definitely say the topic of blame. I think blame is also one of the basic fears that you have had since early childhood, if you are to blame for something. Or you, you are not really the way you are. I think that as soon as these feelings or accusations are added, even in everyday life at work, it's over, then you no longer feel like it.
you also said yourself at the beginning, very briefly mentioning the word integrity. i think it's generally like this at all levels top, middle management or even employee level people are far too little concerned with the topic of personal integrity of the person, i.e. growth of the person as a person. and how should that work in a business environment or whatever it is that makes you say okay i am a person of integrity, or i have the desire to become a person of integrity, and how can you implement this in everyday life?
but as long as you don't even think about it or don't even go looking for it, how should it work in a positive or good environment?
the twin brother of control is trust. and google once tried to figure out how their best teams get to be the best teams. they observed almost 200 teams for over two years. they had all sorts of guesses. and in the end it came out that there's one factor that's much more crucial than expertise and that's trust. people's trust in each other. if i can do that, i can do the greatest things. then i get into innovation spirals, into team spirit, where people fire each other up.
and i don't need control in the sense we just discussed at the beginning,
There is also a really great podcast about it, with which Dirk, I remember, was a while ago.
The only question is, how can we create a working environment that supports this trust, that people open up, that they are up for it, that they want to work with each other and with each other, that they really want to work together, and I have made the experience that many people bring their own agenda into the team and often this agenda is much more important than what the team is supposed to do.
Maybe you come into play with your own agenda, but you communicate it, or you come up with a hidden agenda and nobody knows what it's really about.
and if i then have to deal with this ballast, burdened with a conflict-laden situation, because under time pressure it was somehow difficult, did not work out, then it is relatively clear that the cooperation is probably not successful. and if i do succeed, then only at a high emotional and perhaps also physical price, because it stresses me tremendously what i have to do then. when i look as a coach at the teams that have stress with each other, i often find that people don't pursue a goal and don't talk openly about what is more important for whom and why right now.
i admit, that's not what we learn. we don't learn that in school. you don't learn that in universities. at least not today. i hope that it will become more. but basically, in the work context, we are dependent on working together with others. almost no one can do their job completely alone. and then we have to be able to rely on each other and then we have to
here i come directly... i would go back to your statement that control or trust is the twin brother of control. i think i have transparency in the team exactly because of this structured self-control so i can also see the self-control of the others i can have even more trust in my team because i am very OK. we have talked about what our common goal is and i see every day that everyone still understands it. that means you don't talk about it at the beginning of the month and then somehow see each other again in three months or write a little bit so hey are you still on track, or how is it looking, or is it going well?
but by regularly seeing transparently how everyone evaluates his situation or his area of responsibility i can have even more trust. and if i now know Daniel, for example, i take the example of external circumstances with you the last two weeks a little bit drunt
absolutely right. the openness to express this, the courage that goes with it, and also the respect of others to accept that we are human beings and that we can't produce quite the same performance every day like the machine - that's important in cooperation. the control to maintain a quality, to steer towards a goal, is then important and right for me if it serves the higher purpose of cooperation. not in the sense that, as i said, i'm making an individual assignment of blame.
if you can talk openly about problems, then that's not control for me. then it's simply the disclosure of a condition. that's something different for me.
i think that at the moment, extreme worlds are colliding. we have a massive loss of control in the world, because we seem to be getting used to it, at least as far as certain regulations are concerned. but there were times during the crisis when we didn't know OK. what will it be like next week? will we still be allowed to go out at all, not go out at all? i think that for the first time this is a completely foreign feeling for us, to be circumcised like this in the freedom that we can simply enjoy here in germany, or in europe.
and i think that's why the topic came up again... so we were even more sensitive when it came to control.
Loss of control is very, very difficult as a feeling because I accept that I am no longer in control of myself, of my concrete immediate environment. I am dependent on letting it happen.
But I'm sorry.
I've interrupted myself.
that's not what we carry with us, with each other, as a self-image of ourselves. i am active i try to keep the situation under control. that's actually what most of us think about ourselves.
it makes me realize how little we really have under control, especially in the situations we've had in the last few months. even if we want a lot. i think i've read a keyword in the preparation. i don't know if you've ever read anything about the control illusion, the typical one... it's an example of a lottery player who thinks that if he enters his lottery numbers himself, he's more likely to win. that's just given as an example.
we actually have relatively little under control here. really, except maybe what happens in your 100 square meters around you, and even there.
How we, how we react to situations the only thing we have under control and through biochemical processes yes, not necessarily that, that we have to learn again are our own emotions that's it? otherwise we have nothing under control.
this is a very important insight, which is contrary to what we carry with us as a self-image. but maybe once again to your remark, daniel. we like to work with a grid, where we separate simple activities that have direct cause-effect relationships from the complicated ones, where expert knowledge such as cause and effect are still connected. and then it goes into the area where even experts make contradictory statements, up to the point where nobody can say anything at all.
the possibility of predicting something becomes less and less. where it is relatively easy, what do i know, to sort lego bricks by color, i don't need a big plan. there i might also need little control. where it becomes more difficult, i can help myself with a few more thought-out paths and say that if i follow the path, i will probably reach my goal. and then i come into an area where i hardly have any cause and effect relationships at all.
How can we get there as entrepreneurs, or in the vast majority of cases, we actually have much more traditional management, top-down buttom-up, however it is added bit by bit, is a big task, because it has not yet been accepted in the area.
in no way will it work that somebody stands up there and tells about the stage, that's how it works. we'll find out together. ideally many, many people in one big room talking about it. how do we want to work? how do we want to provide solutions for our customers? what i liked about Manuel is that out of the distress he experienced, he then drew the positive and said i learned something here, and i'm going to see it through, and i'm going to put that upstairs, and they keep on experimenting, and i'm open to constantly questioning something that i don't bring out so well.
i think if i understand you guys so well, you appreciate that in the environment you're in. people are always talking about what we can improve, and they don't. i know everything better, but what has happened, and what can we learn from it? this open culture of discussion with each other, that would be a great thing for me.
What i find very important, which i have already mentioned here Before that, the work on one's own person. only if i work on myself as a person in order to further improve myself, as a manager or in the interpersonal area, i have the possibility to achieve fundamental and drastic changes in the long run. If i don't have any approaches, don't do coaching, don't do a course, don't do therapy, as we want to call it, then relatively little will happen, because then you will continue, because then you will continue to get stuck in the old machinations and in the old ways of thinking.
and then change becomes difficult.
i hope you don't have to go through therapy. but coaching or mentoring will certainly help you to think again about points that you wouldn't be so convinced of on your own. questioning yourself, giving yourself the task of developing yourself is a nice picture. and a lot of research suggests that it is possible for everyone to learn, even at an advanced age. there is no limit de facto where we have to say i can't learn anything more.
i think it is also a very important point to understand that it can only be a win-win situation, so that it is a win-win situation for everyone involved, no matter if you have a purely monetary motivator behind it...as whoever in the team or if you see an idealistic value in it. both parties are encouraged by open, transparent, reflected ways of control or communication. both are served. that's why i am surprised about this low willingness to take steps in some companies, of course in big companies it is slower, but within the team it is easy to take steps.
so i always ask myself, why is this win-win result not seen, but?
that's the incentive system around it, to give you a flat answer. i try to assert myself at the expense of my colleagues. i'm better, doesn't have the attitude behind it. i'm open and try to achieve something together with the others, to discuss, to explore, whatever the concrete goals are. we often have this attitude in the funnily enough private sphere, where we set something up with others, in a club or in some group, and very rarely at the moment still in professional life.
but, in my experience, it's tilting, now in the crisis. many people are aware that what they thought was fixed and immovable up to now, as you said, can't accept daniel like that, and with this uncertainty grows the need to exchange ideas with others and find solutions. maybe that's a nice consequence at the end of this time. i hope that it will come to an end, that we'll simply be open to it
I'm glad that we now... some people are listening to us, that we didn't stop at... we don't really have control over anything here. but that now is the time to realize that... Exactly. You get into communication, into discussions, and the smallest changes in the way you talk to each other, even problems of exercising power over control, however, break out. It's nice that in the end we have found the perfect time to do this again.
I can report that the teams that really set out on this journey are having fun, too. that they are simply releasing strength because they are no longer plagued by fears, but are now confronting difficult topics with fun and pleasure, supporting and cheering each other on again and again. One for the other.
i think it's a nice final word after all. i really enjoyed the round today and i'm happy to be able to do such a job and activity that might help other people a little bit. if not, at least it doesn't hurt at all. in any case, thanks to Andreas and also Johanna for the great comments you gave and for your time. and i'd say we'll close the topic and see you here at Virtual Frontier next time.
Thanks for the invitation
Thank you, Daniel, thank you Andreas!