Winfried Hagenhoff

Transformation requires transparent communication

Our member Frithjof Punke recently described his experiences from a current consultancy mandate in an interview for the DMB Deutscher Mittelstandsbund - here is a summary of the content:

Initial situation:

The managing directors of a relatively small but highly specialized SME, which was one of the global market leaders in its niche, had not succeeded over a long period of time in getting the employees on board for and through the necessary changes. The resulting accumulated pressure was the root of numerous conflicts, resulting in blockades and a lack of cooperation.

In the face of falling earnings and turnover, the managing directors were then replaced several times without getting to the core of the problems. These changes caused massive uncertainty among the workforce and resulted in stagnation in product development and a lack of new customer acquisition. As a result, returns plummeted.

At the root of the problems was the management's neglect of change management - as no fundamental mistakes were made in relation to existing products and the market, although a stronger innovation dynamic would have been helpful.

Ultimately, the owners pressed the "reset" button and commissioned our member.

Solution approach:

Our member was appointed as interim manager and managing director, with the clear tasks:

  • clean up the situation in every respect,
  • develop trust and straightforwardness in leadership
  • Inspire the team again.

This marked the beginning of the intensive phase of many one-to-one discussions across the workforce. It quickly became apparent that the employees were keen to put in a great deal of effort and were very interested in getting the company back on track. During the analysis, it soon emerged that rebuilding trust required, above all, clear consistency and transparency throughout the hierarchical levels. This also meant that the company had to part ways with some of the management if they did not support the necessary transparent corporate culture. After all, trust cannot be regained by simply replacing the figures - something the company had already experienced with the changing managing directors.

Further measures and results:

After intense discussions with the owners, they agreed to work out the target profiles of the future management and middle management in a certainly demanding strategy workshop in parallel to building trust in the workforce, logically linked to the future structural and process organization. However, the focus remained on the specifications for leadership qualities and the core elements of the corporate culture.

Based on these profiles, two external managing directors were then sought and found for the family business. Involving all internal stakeholders was the key to getting the SME "back on track", as only a corporate culture of this kind prepares the ground for the acceptance of necessary transformations and changes.

The overview of measures beyond the new open, transparent communication then resulted in

  • Installation of the two new managing directors with a changed allocation of functions
  • Definition of the roadmap for the further development of product content, including digitalized management
  • Reorganization of the sales, development and production processes
  • Improved use of marketing tools with greater prioritization of new customers

As a result, a return to the previous yields was achieved in just a few months and a solid foundation for the future direction was created. And last but not least, the workforce is once again taking the initiative with its own ideas and suggestions and is looking positively towards the future of this SME.

You can find the original interview with our member at (sorry, available only in German).

If you have any questions, please contact our member Frithjof Punke or one of our other consultants in the Leadership & Communication or Transformation & Efficiency enhancement areas.


Image source: Combination of two images from

About the author
Winfried Hagenhoff

Winfried - formerly at Lufthansa, TNS and WPP’s Kantar- is an experienced Senior Executive Advisor. He loves to advise on innovative products and services based on empirical data, and to transform advice into strategy for brands and customer experience. As a former CTO/COO, he is passionate about tech-driven innovations, especially regarding mobility (Auto, Travel, Transport, Sharing), communication, health, public services, and production.

Beside his activities as a Board Member (Verwaltungsrat) in the Swiss based  Bochmann Consulting AG, he has been for some years -and still is- supporting young tech firms and helped social institutions with pro-bono advice.