Archiv der Kategorie: Communication

Communication consists of perception, thought models and communication behavior.

The Bridge – the ideal metaphor for transition

The main reason for a bridge is crossing a hard-to-manage gap, such as a river, a sea or a valley. In most cases, ways should be shortened, eased or simply made possible. The natural difficulties vary each time and need a different type or variant of bridge. The longest bridge with 36 km is the Hangzhou Wan Daqiao, which spans Hangzhou Bay on China’s east coast. The highest bridge is also located in China, the Beipanjiang Bridge in Guizhou, with a height of 565 m.
The chasms that are bridged in business are in no way inferior to the physical bridges. These business challenges are transitions from old to new, involving many employees and internal regulations. The bridge is an obvious metaphor for such transitions.

The following conditions support the safe crossing of the threatening abysses.

  • Clear requirements
    Clarity arises from the description of the specific requirements and, above all, the expectations of the deciding stakeholders. The easiest thing is to determine the physical data, such as length, width, height, or the load-bearing capacity – although sometimes the decisiveness is missing. Most important, however, are the decision makers’ hopes, which are difficult to grasp. These include the ideas of what should be done, what should be the outcome and what consequences they foresee. It is essential to know the requirements, since they ultimately set the bar for the accomplished transition.
  • Documented topography
    A bridge is determined by the start and the end point. The description of the circumstances will cover the whole area, but not always with the required details. This applies to transitions of all kinds. The initial situation describes the foundation, on which one side is based for the crossing. In the business environment, this is the old world with its problems – the hierarchical structure, the legacy IT, or outdated procedures. The destination describes the fixed base on the other side. In business this is the state with its intended advantages – agile forms of working, modern IT, end-to-end business operations.
  • Stable recipes
    The abyss to pass determines which bridge type is used – suspension bridge, cable-stayed bridge, arch bridge, plate bridge, etc. The bridge type is selected, depending on the requirements. Sometimes a cable car is sufficient for the crossing. However, if a large number of people and heavy vehicles have to pass the crossover, then a stable construction is required that brings everyone for a foreseeable future safely to the other side. The same applies to changes in companies when the staff has to adapt to the new business requirements. This cuts all employees to the quick, because they have to rethink and to act in a new way.
  • Decisive implementation
    The change from one side to the other is dangerous and risky. It only succeeds, if it is decisively pursued. It is not enough to wish for a bridge. You have to take the necessary steps. This requires sufficient financial and time resources as well as adequate staff. Such projects are reliable for a long time, if the implementation is not spared at the expense of quality and if the necessary accuracy is omitted. The failure of the project has serious consequences for the involved parties – at the first crossing or later, for example when the life is shortened drastically due to inferior material.
  • Built-in maintenance
    Nothing lasts forever. For this reason, measures must be installed from the outset, which come from the requirements – the expected load and the planned lifespan. Bridges have expansion joints, stretchable asphalt or vibration damping mechanisms. Regular transition monitoring is an additional measure to identify and counteract difficulties at an early stage. In business, this requires ongoing status checks of the transformation activities.

Bottom line: The transition from one side to the other of a chasm needs clear requirements, the documented topography, stable recipes, a decisive implementation and the appropriate maintenance. Ever new abysses require ever larger and higher bridges. However, you hear again and again of bridges that reach the end of their lifecycle prematurely, because the planned utilization exceeds by far the original estimates. In the transition from old to new, the decision makers have to face a similar situation. Above all, the upcoming digitization will take many companies to their limits. The bridge provides the ideal metaphor for these transitions from old to new.

The flame – the ideal metaphor for enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is the fuel that propels the economy. Since 2001, the Gallup institute unfortunately determines in its Engagement Index that over two-thirds of employees have a low emotional engagement to their company. About 15% have none at all. Only 15% have a high emotional engagement to their company. The supervisors have a great influence on it. Gallup estimates that bad bosses are annually responsible for economic costs between 80 and 100 billion euros due to employee resignation. Obviously, they do not manage to ignite the enthusiasm of the employees. It would take not more than an appropriate matchstick. The rough surface of everyday life is already available. The inflammatory transmission of fire makes the flame the ideal metaphor for enthusiasm.

Technically, it is clear what to do.

  • Igniting
    Before people are able to get excited, you have to attract their attention. Unusual and surprising connections awaken them from their everyday lethargy. Now they need a personal advantage and the opportunity to contribute. The fire sparks off when the employees are part of the planning, development and decision-making. As soon as the highly flammable components, the employees‘ need for appreciation and the appropriate attention of the bosses, rub against each other, a spark is ignited that jumps from one to another.
  • Flaring
    The power of enthusiasm is the tinder that leads into a self-reinforcing cycle – employees excite employees, who delight customers, who stimulate business that excite employees, etc. In order to use these self-reinforcing mechanisms, the employees need enough room, where they can meet autonomously, support each other and decide. It all starts with a small flame that is fed by flammable material in order to evolve into a big fire, until finally thick pieces of wood release the desired energy.
  • Warming
    For a pleasant working day of the employees, they need meaningful and diverse activities, decision-making independence, a pleasant working atmosphere, an appropriate salary and security. In addition to the simple components of compensation, the executive behavior plays a major role – attention, respectful treatment and employee appreciation. These aspects have a similarly warming effect, like the illustrative fireplace where people have been gathering around from time immemorial.
  • Enlightening
    At least, about 15% of the employees are fully committed. This may be the reason why, despite a tense mood, results are still generated for which customers are willing to pay. These successes captivate additional employees. This requires the appropriate role models that result from respectful treatment and executive appreciation. In order to illuminate the room with the fire, one should offer the employees a stage where they can shine.
  • Burning
    It would be naive to forget that enthusiasm consumes step by step the resources of the employees. If they lack recovery time, i.e. no refueling with combustibles, they become at the end of the day a pile of ashes, where nothing flammable remains. This results in depersonalization (indifference, cynicism, distance), emotional exhaustion (irritability and impotence), and suffered failures (meaningfulness, perceived ineffectiveness) or, in one word, Burnout. Employees who burn brightly without new fuel are also at risk of burning out. That’s the price of the fire. It does not stop eating.
  • Fading
    The results of the study show that about 15% of the employees have a high emotional attachment to their company. As long as the fire burns, the existing energy should be used to disseminate the enthusiasm in the company. The most important lever has the management level. The respectful interaction with employees has a significant impact on their well-being. Once the fire has completely disappeared, the only question left is whether the company has enough time to start all over again – or simply disappears.

Bottom line: The flame follows the same steps as the employees’ enthusiasm – starting with a fuze that ignites the fire; the tinder that flares up easily; the warmth that keeps you in a motivated state; the light that shows you the way; the refill that prevents everything from burning out; to the certainty that a fire eventually goes extinct, if you do not take care of it. These phases and the contagious nature of fire make the flame an ideal metaphor for enthusiasm.