Patricia, what fascinates you about the topic of organizational energy?
“I came across this topic through the impetus of my former manager. That was eye-opening for me. As if I had previously had many small puzzle pieces in my hand and all at once realized how they all fit together. Especially in a time when everything has to go higher, further, faster and at the same time there are fewer and fewer resources available, I find the human-centered approach particularly important. Over the past few years, I have experienced for myself how successful a project can be when everyone has the same vision, everyone pulls in the same direction, and when everyone is given the chance to help shape the project. Because those are the three central sources of energy: Purpose, Confidence and Influence.”
The success of a company seems to depend heavily on organizational energy. Why has so little been heard about it so far?
“The two scientists Heike Bruch and Bernd Vogel define organizational energy as the force with which companies work and move things. It is reflected in the intensity and speed of work, change and innovation processes in a company. Empirical studies show that with a higher, positive energy level, productivity increases and the ability to deal with change and drive innovation increases. These factors play directly into a company’s success. This was first recognized and proven about 20 years ago.
But it’s only in recent years that people have recognized the need to pay more attention to these soft factors. Digitalization, the pandemic, new generations with different demands and New Work are making more and more entrepreneurs aware of this topic. We are currently experiencing major upheavals in the world of work. That’s why new leadership models are needed, because you can’t get anywhere with the old ones now.”
For your master’s thesis, you not only dealt theoretically with the topic of organizational energy, but also conducted practical studies. What are the most important findings?
“I was lucky enough to be able to observe and research organizational energy in one area of a globally active industrial company. First, I used a questionnaire to measure the energy level of the workforce and filtered out where action might be needed. Based on the many existing ideas of the employees, I then suggested and accompanied measures together with the management team. Our goal was to reduce the negative energy levels on the one hand and to strengthen the positive ones on the other. For example, we improved the accessibility of managers. This was a major point of criticism from the teams. We also introduced concrete meeting rules that apply to everyone. Everyone is now responsible for deciding whether they want to and should attend an appointment or whether the person has good reasons to stay away. There were also other measures, all of which were positively received. Some were for the entire area, while others were very team-specific.
After three months, I measured the energy levels again. And lo and behold, there was a real improvement in some areas. That speaks for the concept of organizational energy.”
What is the importance of managers in this process?
“Modern managers should increasingly see themselves as energy managers. Organizational energy depends significantly on them. They must recognize what promotes energy in their team and what consumes it. Accordingly, they can create framework conditions for it. In change projects in particular, this approach is often crucial to success. As I mentioned at the beginning, the most important sources of energy are purpose, confidence and influence. It’s up to the managers how strongly these values are lived and promoted.”
What’s the deal with energy traps?
“We distinguish between the acceleration trap, the inertia trap and the corrosion trap. Here, energy is either blocked or misdirected.
We observe the inertia trap, for example, after too many and mostly unsuccessful changes in a short time. Employees are resigned, discouraged and unmotivated. They wonder what it is all for. There are various strategies to get people out of their inertia and mobilize new energy. At the same time, this can be the case when companies are very successful for a long time and employees are really satisfied with the status quo. Man is and remains a creature of habit.
More and more people are falling into the acceleration trap, and their workload is getting heavier and heavier. They don’t have a 100 percent workload, but 120 or 150 percent, and no recovery phases. This leads to a permanent overload, while the energy level sinks continuously. Trying to keep the many balls in the air consumes vast amounts of energy and at the same time reduces performance to a considerable extent.
And then there is the corrosion trap, which I consider very dangerous. The intensity of the energy is very high, but it is negatively oriented. It manifests itself in sabotage, internal power struggles and massive blockades against innovations or changes. A shared vision is lacking here. The sense of community should definitely be strengthened.”
What can Consileon offer to help foster positive, productive energy in a company?
“Our consultants from the Business Transformation Competence Center accompany many change projects. We can encourage and enable executives to deal with organizational energy and to understand their tasks as energy managers. No one can expect executives to know everything, be able to do everything and do everything right. That is why coaching and workshops are always the first step to introduce a new mindset, new leadership methods and perspectives.
We can also measure the energy level of the workforce as needed, identify energy traps, and formulate and support appropriate measures for improvement. I am convinced that Organizational Energy will become much more important in the future, once it is recognized that productivity, motivation and corporate success do not depend on ping-pong tables or fruit baskets in the workplace.”
Thank you very much for the exciting interview, Patricia Unger!