Leadership and collaboration – shaping the digital and analogue future together!

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From theory to practice in the day-to-day tasks of public administration

Current discussions on the design of the modern and digital world of work (Work 4.0, New Work) highlight how the meaningfulness of work and each individual’s contribution to success are growing in importance. More personal responsibility, including for personal development, and self-management are demanded and should be strengthened; this is increasingly the case in the context of collaborative, agile, and participation-oriented forms of work and methods. Design thinking, experimental spaces and innovation labs are all examples of the change in the world of work that are also taking place in public administration at all administrative levels.

Workability (skills, health, engagement) in every phase of life

This is happening at an increasingly rapid pace, independently of the pandemic. The tasks are also becoming ever more complex, and many issues that are closely linked in technical terms require a more holistic approach. Holistic thinking and approaches, as well as the ability to work in networks or to actively network, are important skills for the future. That is why it is important for everyone in public administration to use, utilise and promote diverse and different skills. Knowledge is becoming obsolete increasingly quickly, and lifelong learning, along with health and employee engagement, is also a prerequisite for workability every phase of life. We are living in an increasingly agile and fluid working environment.

The 4 to 5 Ds Challenges

Many issues are currently affecting all organisations. The now well-known ‘3D’ challenges (digitalisation, demographics, diversity) are being joined, at least in discussions, by two further Ds: democracy (greater participation) and decarbonisation (climate protection).


Source: Own research

Dealing with digitalisation, diversity and demographic change also requires a corresponding culture and values to guide employees and managers. Clear rules have never been a bad thing – indeed, they ensure transparency. The roles of managers and employees are increasingly changing, and they must simultaneously master the demands of the analogue as well as the digital world of work. Organisations also need to be crisis-proof if they want to be in a position to react flexibly. This is also often referred to as organisational resilience.

Shaping culture and values

The quality of the culture of leadership and collaboration is important and shapes the working atmosphere. Appreciation, respect and equal opportunities are major assets for all generations. They are also the basis for a longer-term emotional bond with employers and for showing personal commitment. We can all contribute to this.

Principles for leadership and collaboration

Principles for leadership and collaboration do not necessarily have to be a relic of the past. They define binding requirements for all participants as well as values, how to lead as well as how to interact with each other and among each other. The cultural aspect is also becoming ever more significant, especially with a view to more digitalisation, project-based working, flat hierarchies, networking, participation, lived and non-discriminatory diversity, as well as the increasing flexibility of working hours and places of work. However, the technical discussions in change processes often overlook this cultural facet. Changed attitudes and mindsets are also crucial to ensuring ‘New Work’ is lived.

It is important to note the formative role of leadership at all levels. Current discussions often centre on user-centredness with a view to citizens, whereas the debate within public administration is increasingly about employee-oriented management and a stronger needs-driven approach in human resources policy instruments.

Well-being (job satisfaction) at work requires a contribution from managers and employees alike: there is no one-way street in ‘leadership and collaboration’, which is so important for us. As is well known, a ‘living culture’ cannot be imposed by decree; ideally, the content should be built on what already exists. Participation and dialogue on equal terms are a basis for further development. Existing formats such as discussions on collaboration or management feedback have a supporting effect – this is where you can and should participate actively!

Leadership and Collaboration principles at the German Ministry for Family Affairs, senior Citizens, Women and Youth

After a lengthy participatory process and involvement from all levels of employees, the Federal Ministry for Family Affairs, Senior Citizens, Women and Youth (BMFSFJ) has adopted new principles for leadership and collaboration. This step was prompted by the change in the world of work. The ministry previously adopted a mission statement entitled ‘Modern Central Department 2030’, and also clearly set out the shaping and supporting role of human resources management in the transformation of the digital world of work at the ministry. The aim is to gradually meet the challenges of the World of Work 4.0 or New Work, with a focus on shaping good working relationships and conditions in four fields of action: human resource development, organisational development, lifelong learning and recruitment. Participation in Work4Germany with the aim of developing agile as well as IT-supported forms of work in a participatory approach is just one specific measure in this context.

This is a long-term and evolutionary process that is and will be heavily influenced by dialogue.

All information and implementation steps in the introduction of the new principles for leadership and collaboration fall under this umbrella (We @ BMFSFJ).

The figure below clearly illustrates the understanding of leadership in the context of New Work. This is also the basis for promoting diversity in the organisation and working towards changing attitudes.

Leadership and collaboration in the BMFSFJ in the analogue and digital world of work:
Principles for all managers


Source: BMFSFJ

Good leadership and collaboration can only be created in cooperation with each other. That is why it is important not only to formulate requirements for managers, but also for employees. Ability, willingness and empowerment is the name of the game. Empowering employees for future challenges is an important goal:

Leadership and collaboration in the BMFSFJ in the analogue and digital world of work:
Principles of collaboration for all employees


Source: BMFSFJ

In summary, it is becoming clear that many topics that are relevant for the future, such as networking, sharing knowledge, modern learning, appreciation and respect, learning from mistakes, having the courage to try something new are reflected in these principles. In the future, a high degree of willingness to and readiness for change, as well as further development, will be required from all of us. Being open to new things and having the courage to try new things are also basic prerequisites for innovation management in public administration.

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