“These days being on time and working hard is just not enough!”

Leadership and Organizational Development

An interview with Anna Kopp

Anna Kopp has been working at Microsoft for more than 16 years. Head of IT since 2015, she is in charge of the technology company’s office in Munich. A power woman who like no other executive has lived and breathed new work for years.

What kind of impact has the digital transformation already had on the world of work?

To quote our CEO, Satya Nadella: “During the pandemic, we experienced two years of digitalization in the space of two months.” Many companies took the first step on the “new work journey” and suddenly realized: It does work. We can work from home and still manage people and trust them. Still, many companies have not reached the point at which they can be truly efficient, because the culture is just not right yet.

Can you be a bit more specific?

Over the past few months, we have received quite a few inquiries
from customers wanting to know how we do things at Microsoft.
Since 2014, trust-based working hours and the trusted place of work have been an integral part of a company agreement and the corporate culture. That is critical to the success of the transformation. Because companies can digitalize as much as they want, but if the culture does not match, all the tools in the world won’t bring about the desired results.

And so, the first step is for managers to learn to trust. Many managers have a hard time with that. What can companies do to be supportive here?

Middle managers must learn new ways to lead their team. These days, being on time and working hard is just not enough. What counts is that they are self-motivated and results-driven. That’s why managers need to have conversations about goals and the quality of work, and keep reviewing both. That’s a big change. Every company should develop its own conversation guide and give some thought on how it will reward its employees in the future.

Will companies of the future still have middle management levels?

That depends on the team. Today, companies still have many homogeneous teams that all bring the same knowledge to the table. The more diverse teams are, the more efficient they are. They have more ideas, complement each other, have more fun. Each individual might have to bear more responsibility and the team can work well together without a manager. The more competencies are brought to the fore, the flatter hierarchies become.

What will the workplace look like 10 years from now?

People want to work alone and be focused, but they also have a basic need to work with others. That’s why the office will become a place where employees will meet, exchange ideas and work together creatively

Which companies will ultimately come out ahead in the digital transformation?

It will be those companies that are able to develop digital business models before anyone else does. They are the ones that consistently question themselves, constantly reinvent themselves, and have the courage to completely replace and retool themselves if necessary. Companies that work according to the motto: Uber yourself before you get kodaked. So, the companies that apply digital business models, ensuring that they don’t repeat the same failures that Kodak experienced.

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