Developing a Vision: The Cornerstone of Change
In the grand tapestry of governance and leadership, the thread that binds all elements together is the vision. A vision is not just a lofty ideal or a distant dream; it is a tangible, actionable roadmap that guides every decision, every action, and every initiative. It is the North Star that illuminates the path forward, providing clarity amidst the chaos and uncertainty of change.
In every Agency I worked for and any strategic project, we emphasized the importance of a vision statement. It is the foundation upon which an organization’s strategy is built. It encapsulates the organization’s purpose, its aspirations, and its core values. It is a beacon that guides the organization towards its future, shaping its culture, informing its decisions, and inspiring its people. It is the glue that binds the organization together, fostering unity, collaboration, and shared purpose.
When looking into our current German governing coalition I honestly have to say I didn’t find one. The absence of a comprehensive vision in the coalition agreement is a glaring omission. It is akin to embarking on a journey without a destination in mind. Without a clear vision, the government’s decisions appear disjointed and incoherent, leading to confusion and discontent.
And so here we are in a loop of death that seems to be ongoing since quite a while now. With the latest decision to cut parental benefits for „high earners“, for instance, seems to contradict the coalition’s stated mission of supporting and developing space for children and young families. This lack of alignment between the government’s actions and its stated goals underscores the importance of a clear, compelling vision that guides decision-making and policy implementation.
The Role of Stakeholders: The Pillars of Change
Change, by its very nature, is disruptive. It upsets the status quo, challenges established norms, and necessitates adaptation. However, change is not an isolated process; it involves a multitude of stakeholders, each with their unique perspectives, interests, and concerns. Involving stakeholders in the change process is not just a strategic move; it is a necessity.
For example, at agorate we emphasize the importance of conducting a stakeholder analysis in change management. A stakeholder analysis is a strategic tool that helps organizations understand and manage their stakeholders effectively. It categorizes stakeholders based on their level of influence and their desire to be change advocates or champions. This understanding enables organizations to tailor their approach to each stakeholder, allowing varying degrees of control and input.
In the context of the government’s decision to cut parental benefits, the stakeholders are not just the high earners who are directly affected by the decision. They include young families, children, and society at large. The government’s failure to consider the broader implications of its decision and to involve these stakeholders in the decision-making process has resulted in a backlash.
A classical approach to involving stakeholders in the change management process could look like this: identify the stakeholders, communicate the changes, consult the stakeholders, negotiate the changes, implement the changes, and evaluate the changes. Each step is crucial in ensuring that the change process is inclusive, transparent, and effective.
The government’s decision to cut parental benefits without adequate consultation and negotiation with the stakeholders is a clear violation of this process. It underscores the importance of stakeholder involvement in change management, particularly in decisions that have far-reaching implications for society.
The Symphony of Progress: A Vision for the Future
In the heart of Berlin, where the grandeur of Schloss Bellevue meets the bustling Friedrichstrasse, lies a realm known as the Government District. This is the epicenter of political power, the stage where the nation’s elite orchestrate the symphony of governance. Yet, the melody often strikes a discordant note, echoing with the cacophony of folly and bewilderment. The recent debacle over parental benefits serves as a stark reminder of this discord. The government’s decision, once announced, set off a domino effect of damage control that lasted weeks. This spectacle of miscommunication mirrors the communication behavior in many corporations, offering valuable lessons for all.
Picture this: Politics is a grand stage where every topic is open for discussion and consensus. When it comes to children and young families, the dialogue flows effortlessly. After all, they are the lifeblood of the nation’s future, and their numbers are dwindling.
For a coalition that has boldly inscribed „Dare More Progress“ on the cover of its cooperation contract, the mission is clear: create support and development space for children.
However, the government is in a fiscal bind, its budget spiraling out of control. Each ministry is required to contribute to Lindner’s savings box. The Family Ministry decides to cut parental benefits for high earners, saving 290 million euros. This is a mere 0.8% of last year’s budget, which amounted to 476,000 million euros. A drop in the ocean, but one that triggers a tidal wave of discontent.
The lesson here is simple: A stance that doesn’t translate into action is merely an opinion.
The coalition agreement, spanning 140 pages, is brimming with ambitions. Yet, it lacks a comprehensive vision that would provide a roadmap for weaving decisions into a coherent narrative. This absence of vision leads to a lack of understanding. The message behind the decision becomes the crux of the matter: there are billion projects that take precedence over families and children.
The lesson for us: Without a vision for the future, change becomes an insurmountable challenge.
The atmosphere is thick with uncertainty: climate change, war, the pandemic, spiraling prices, and the daily barrage of distressing images in the media weigh heavily on the mind and soul, eroding faith in the future. The incidence of depression is on the rise, and the birth rate is on the decline. Bringing children into this world requires courage. In a phase when young families are learning to navigate life, the state throws a wrench in their plans. It abolishes a decades-old support program without warning. This was not factored into the life plans of young parents.
Our lesson: Communication devoid of empathy for people and their circumstances becomes inhuman.
Lisa Paus – the Family Minister, a relatively unknown figure in the country, is thrust into the limelight. Trust requires familiarity, especially when a decision impacts the lives of thousands of families. Leaders like Helmut Schmidt, Helmut Kohl, and Angela Merkel were able to command attention and advocate for difficult topics due to their familiarity with the public. People trust people, not ministries and especially not when it comes to hard life-model changing decissions.
What we learn from it: Credibility suffers in the face of anonymity.
The Chancellor and his Treasurer could come to the rescue. But they are childless. This is irrelevant and unfair, yet it matters in the realm of communication. Understanding the world of young parents through stories is different from experiencing it firsthand. This distinction matters in decision-making and public acceptance. Both of them seem just arrogant and disconnected. Especially with the chancellor still trying to make his own nebulous connection to one of the biggest and most costly scandals of the recent decades (CumEx) dissappear.
There’s another lesson to take away: Without credible allies, you stand on lost ground.
On the day when parental benefits dominated the media, former Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer also made the news. The European Court of Justice had delivered a verdict: the German taxpayer must cough up nearly 250 million euros for the unlawful contracts awarded by the ex-minister. This amount could cover the parental benefits for 50,000 young families. The current Member of Parliament sees no fault in his actions, and his party shares his view. Why in gods name should we trust any of them if they simply play around with millions and don’t ever care about the consequences.
The lesson: Lack of accountability leads to irresponsibility.
The government has morphed into a reactionary entity, preoccupied with firefighting, especially its own blunders, but being busy does not equate to being productive. In the grand scheme of things, the government’s role is not merely to react but to govern. It must strike a harmonious balance between ambition and action, vision and implementation, empathy and policy. Only then can it truly serve its purpose and create a symphony of progress that resonates with all its citizens.
Unfortunately, neither the last 16 years of the Angela Merkel lead government lead progress – they only consolidated the status quo with no big ambition and changes only happening when they could no longer be prevented (phasing out nuclear energie, marriage for all, Kita entitlement for parents) and even conducting toxic policy for the future readiness of the country (the destruction of the german wind and solar energy, the deconstruction of railroads and other public transport systems, the build up of a horrible dependence on russian gas, and the lack of controll of the german automotive sector leading to the Diesel scandal, while also fisihing in the right political side by framing events like the „refugee crisis“), nor the current German Ampel (streetlight) coalition with all their internal fights, a giant lacking norht star and each party fighting for their own goals (the yellow liberal FDP for a small state and no spendings; the green ecologist party for preventing climate change through energy efficiency and other insanely costly projects for all German citizens and the red socialist SPD fighting for – sorry for being polemic – doesn’t have the slightest clue what they are doing while jumping on the topic of who ever shouts loudest ever week (LGBTQ2IS+rights, High Rent, Ehegattensplitting, Weapon Deliveries to Ukraine,….) – You might get an idea of the actual chaos just be reading these few lines…
The Vision: A Beacon of Hope
The government’s vision should serve as a beacon of hope, guiding the nation towards a future that is inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous. It should articulate a clear, compelling picture of the future, one
that inspires and motivates all stakeholders to work towards its realization.
The vision should not merely be a statement of intent; it should be a call to action, a rallying cry that galvanizes the nation to strive for progress and change.
The government’s vision should be rooted in its core values and principles. It should reflect its commitment to social justice, equality, and sustainability. It should embody its dedication to fostering a society that is inclusive, diverse, and respectful of all its members. It should express its resolve to build an economy that is robust, resilient, and equitable. Above all, it should underscore its pledge to uphold the democratic ideals of freedom, justice, and the rule of law.
The vision should be communicated clearly and consistently to all stakeholders. It should be embedded in all aspects of governance, from policy formulation and decision-making to implementation and evaluation. It should be the guiding principle that informs all actions and initiatives, ensuring that they are aligned with the government’s strategic objectives and goals.
Overall it has to set the guideline for this change. Something that all parties of the coalition – like all departments in a company have to comply with. Change costs money which is something the liberals have to understand. Change needs time which is something the green party has to understand and change needs consistency and a promissing future goal which is something the socialists have to understand.
But let’s also look about how to start a fire in people and how to keep them engaged during the change process – because ultimately they are the ones making or breaking change. And once again this counts for society and companies alike.
The Stakeholders: The Pillars of Change
Stakeholders are the pillars of change. They are the ones who bear the brunt of change, who experience its impacts firsthand, and who have avested interest in its outcomes. Their involvement in the change process is crucial for its success. Stakeholders include not just the direct beneficiaries or victims of change, but also those who are indirectly affected by it. They include individuals, groups, and organizations that have a stake in the change process, from the citizens and communities that are impacted by government policies and decisions, to the businesses and industries that are affected by
economic reforms, to the civil society organizations and advocacy groups that champion social causes and issues. Involving stakeholders in the change process is not just about soliciting their input or seeking their approval. It is about engaging them in meaningful dialogue, understanding their perspectives and concerns, and addressing their needs and expectations. It is about building partnerships and alliances, fostering collaboration and cooperation, and promoting shared
ownership and responsibility.
Stakeholder involvement is not a one-time event or a token gesture. It is a continuous process that requires ongoing communication, consultation, and engagement. It requires building trust and credibility, managing conflicts and disagreements, and nurturing relationships and networks.
It requires transparency and accountability, responsiveness and adaptability, and empathy and respect.
When looking into our governing body unfortunately we can see none of the aspects. The NZZ even titled that snobism and smug behaviour are bad consultants and an awefull style when it comes to governing – and it’s true. If any critic in their policies is declared politically motivated and unjustified – even though its scientifically sound and absolutelly valid, you will slowly loose your even biggest supporters. If you behave in the same self-rightous way that you as a party critizised in your political opponents the years before (like e.g. in the scandal of the green State Secretary Patrick Graichen who also used to be the best-man of one of the decission makers within Robert Habecks Wirtschaftsministerium) – then how am I supposed to believe anything else they say? After all the idiom once a liar always a liar baries a lot of truth in it.
For a coalition that has boldly inscribed „Dare More Progress“ on the cover of its cooperation contract anything they did in the past year is simply unworthy. It’s no wonder for me that right wing parties gain more and more traction. For anybody who was ever involved in a change project it’s the worst thing that can happen, if the fundamentalists in a company with their „It’s always been done this way – let’s stick to it‘ gain support, the project is almost doomed to fail. From this point onwards it will get increadibly harder to stick to the plan and push through the change that acutally is necessary.
Because the only thing harder then change, is no change as it will ultimately lead to a giant failure of either the company – or the state. And this means years of dispair and a lost generation. Something nobody of us can want to have. Neither the climate nor our societey have time for this.
But what’s the final take away for us?
Our government’s role is not merely to react but to govern. It must strike a harmonious balance between ambition and action, vision and implementation, empathy and policy. Only then can it truly serve its
purpose and create a symphony of progress that resonates with all its citizens.
The government must develop a clear vision, involve all stakeholders, and communicate effectively to ensure the successful implementation of change. This is the symphony of progress, a melody that, when played correctly, can resonate with all citizens and lead to a harmonious future.
Stop being miffed and start listening. Stop getting crazy about every small side topic (like making a giant fuzz about calling Ricarda Heil big) and get back on track for the real issues.
Dear Ampel – please choose where you want Germany to stand in two and in six years from now and then make all decisions according to this goal. Stop blaming the old government for it’s mistakes. It’s your responsibility now. And it’s time.