by Dr. Gunter Nittbaur

Christmas is a beautiful time. This year, perhaps not quite as nice as usual, because we can’t throw ourselves into the Christmas hustle and bustle as we do in other years and then sink into the Christmas market at the mulled wine stand afterwards. Because we can’t just celebrate with the family in a large gathering and instead have to think carefully about how many people from how many different households can gather in how many square meters and which Christmas carols have the fewest spitting sounds in the lyrics. And because we will probably have to do without skiing after the holidays, not because the snow cover is too low, but because the incidences are too high. Nevertheless, Christmas is and remains a wonderful time. Because you can wish for anything you want. Whether the wishes will come true is of course another question…

Managers are usually the ones who make gifts to others rather than receiving gifts themselves, at least in their professional environment. Customers are presented with innovative products, the public with polished sustainability promises, employees with lavish bonuses and investors with glittering balance sheets. Only those at the very top often go away empty-handed, especially since these days even the nicest stock option can quickly become a wastepaper in a “VUKA” world.

That’s why I’ve set out to create a collection of ideas for a manager’s Christmas wish list for 2021 based on my own experiences as a consultant. Not with the claim to completeness or universal validity. But rather in the sense of suggestions and impulses, from which perhaps even something like good resolutions can be derived. So that when all the counters are set to zero at 00:00 on New Year’s Day, “the whole madness doesn’t just start all over again”. So that managers and employees don’t have to “leave all the crap behind” on Friday afternoon, but can already look forward to the next work week. And so that all the people in the company can experience something like real meaning in their work for at least part of the 220 or so working days in the coming year.

Dear Santa,

I wish that as a manager I could spend more time in the coming year working on the system than just in the system. I would so love to walk through the forest or hike over mountains more often to deal with the really important questions about the future of our company. I don’t want to have to deal with all the small stuff anymore, even though it’s so much easier and so nicely distracting.

I want more focus on the essentials. More concentration on a few things. And finally the courage to simply not do things, even if others believe that they are insanely important. Because as the good Peter Drucker said: “Do first things first and second things not at all”.

I wish that I could really show my employees and colleagues the trust that we have so prominently anchored in our mission statement. To simply let them do their work. And not to always have to believe that I myself could have done it much better or faster.

My wish for the new year is that we set ourselves goals that are really fun and motivate everyone. ROCE, EBITDA, OCF or NPM might make the controller happy. But most employees (and managers!) do not really find the source of sustainable enthusiasm in the increase of such key figures.

I would like to see us in our company finally develop a culture of debate worthy of the name. I wish that people would tell me what they think instead of talking about me to third parties. I would like us to cultivate dissent and struggle to find a solution until everyone is behind it. And that no one believes that my arguments are better just because I am the boss and therefore almost infallible.

I would like to see more humor and composure in our company. Even if the market situation is difficult, sales are stagnating and margins are eroding, we must not always take everything so seriously and let ourselves be driven crazy by the supposed needs of our stakeholders or other interest holders.

I wish that we would finally look for the real causes of our problems and disorders and not always just treat the symptoms. Already the cyberneticist Stafford Beer wrote so aptly in one of his books: “Rather than to solve problems it is better to dissolve them”.

I would like us to use the collective intelligence that we have in house. We wouldn’t need so many expensive experts from above or from outside if we simply asked all our colleagues for their ideas and suggestions on how we can do things better.

I would like everything to become a little simpler again. That we stop developing ever more complex and complicated processes that we can then only get to grips with again using even more complex and complicated software, the monitoring of which in turn has to be described in a comprehensive process manual.

I would like us to really take sustainability seriously now. And not just look at how we can become a little more climate-neutral, but also seriously ask ourselves whether all the things we do are really needed by mankind and make the world a better place.

I would like us to pay less attention to constant planning, measuring and controlling. That we make decisions more spontaneously and also sometimes “from the gut”. And to look more at the customer than just at the target figures.

And I wish for more time and opportunity to celebrate. If we set ourselves such high goals, then we must also be able to celebrate them properly. For a week. In a beautiful place. And with everyone who helped achieve these goals.

Your manager