Act like a spin doctor: change management and agenda setting


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Text comes from: SPIN IT! Denken und überzeugen wie ein Spin-Doktor (2015) by Mathias Ulmann, published by FAZ Verlag, Reprints by friendly permission of the publisher.
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No other term has found such a beautiful and warm place in business literature as “change management”. The management itself has almost been reduced to change management.

change management

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Mathias Ulmann Mathias-UlmannMathias Ulmann is a communications consultant and was a parlementary speaker in the French Senate.

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Manager of change

The manager no longer leads, the manager should accompany the changes and act and act as a “change agent”. Nowadays, the executive floors are almost all about change processes and how managers can drive them forward.

The managers spend their entire time optimally preparing their organization and workforce for this: automation of production, conquering new markets, digitalization of sales and of course: “Change Mindset Workshop”.

The megatrends of the future

As we see every day, tomorrow's world will be radically different. But how it really looks can only be guessed at. The U.S. intelligence community has deepened this question and attempted the difficult feat of looking to the future, 2030, to be more specific.

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Every four years, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) prepares its “Global Trends” report based on various variables. The so-called megatrends are not really unknown: the rapidly increasing world population, the scarcity of resources, the political loss of power in the western world, the growth of the global middle class combined with the empowerment of individuals.

The game changer

The strategy report combines these megatrends with so-called “game changers”, meaning groundbreaking, disruptive trends, as well as with technical advances such as “interfaces between the human brain and powerful computers”, and uses them to make political analyzes.

In their report, the intelligence officials have developed various possible scripts that are considering the consequences of changing the global game of forces. China will be the largest economic power in 2030. Finally - one would almost want to add, since this topic has been on the front pages for years.

Struggle for economic advance

However, China cannot dethrone America, the NIC continues, since the USA continues to be involved in the global showdown and even remains the winner, namely as “Primus inter pares”, ie the first among equals.

They also assume that other regional heavyweights such as Brazil, Mexico, South Africa, Turkey and even Colombia will become increasingly economic and eventually political. At the expense of an aging Europe, which will have to fight harder and harder to maintain its standard of living.

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The A-polar world

So will we live in a multipolar world? Not really! Tomorrow's world will be “a-polar”, meaning: without clearly dominant power. Is it good?

Rather, the correct question is: Can a seven billion-strong human race deal with anarchy? Will mankind finally understand that many important global issues need global and integrated policies? You can't guarantee that, but we'll see.

Tasks of the Spin Doctor

One thing is for sure: our world is full of surprises. However, the spin-doctor's commissioner may not be a surprise, so he has to take into account the consequences of social, economic and political changes that are happening while he is anticipating the effects of the changes that are occurring.

In parallel, the spin doctor must quickly track down and interpret the small signals that announce the coming changes. It is, to say the least, a bit stressful: the Spin Doctor is almost never in the present, his mind is always busy with what happened and what could happen.

Keep an overview and create clarity

And yet he has to keep an overview and create clarity, slow down the pace and avoid the helpless chasing. It is actually not easy because the events are numerous and, worse, faster and faster. But "do not shoot the messenger!", You should never hold the messenger responsible for the bad news.

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The new media landscape and especially the live TV reporting from news channels such as CNN, France24, NTV and so on certainly bear their responsibility and play a central role in this overall acceleration. But this acceleration, like the shrinking of space, is the direct product of globalization.

Wind of Change

But why should we be surprised? It is somehow quite normal considering that the economy is nothing more than a “creative destruction”, as the well-known Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter said. The fact remains that change is never easy. Many managers fluctuate between actionism and attentiveness, between encouragement and exhaustion.

The permanent change is for the spin doctor, so to speak, normality, since his world consists mainly of events. Everything only events! Something always happens: A plane has disappeared over the Indian Ocean, new unfavorable poll numbers are published, a car bomb has exploded and endangers the already extremely fragile peace negotiations, a financing scandal threatens to drag the whole party into the dirt etc.

A chain of events

Politicians and their spin doctors are busy daily with advice on such events. The world is for them only a chain of events, small and big, which determine the political everyday life. The spin doctor has read Heraclitus and knows that nothing is more consistent than change and that the only thing that remains is change.

The art of spin-doctoring is to pre-empt these events, if possible, but usually only react to them, and the most important thing is to accept them. Events themselves can not be prevented and controlled. But we can control how we encounter it, interpret it, and then use it.

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Agenda Setting

Political scientists like to speak of "agenda setting", as we have already explained, that is, the focus of certain topics. Some commentators are talking more and more about "agenda surfing" because most events are unpredictable and simple.

The key question is: how to deal with these events? Because they can not be avoided. Your competitor owns a new product that will turn your whole industry upside down? What can you do for it? What can you do against it undertake? You can determine how you react to it. There is certainly also a chance to copy this product.

The digital transformation

Or to address another target group or finally push their research budget to the board. Everything is change. Everything just events. Your optimal reaction too. Surf on it, so you do not sink. Handle it so you do not go down. Easier said than done, right? I agree with them. And for one simple reason: there are more and more events, more and more changes. Our world is changing at a remarkable pace.

In March 1989, the British Tim Berners-Lee, a worker at the European nuclear research center CERN, wrote a paper with the title “Information Management - A Proposal”. It was about presenting a concept for the functioning of a uniform Internet. Berners-Lee used it to develop “http” (Hypertext Transfer Protocol), the protocol used for the simple exchange of information worldwide. That was about 25 years ago. There was no Facebook in 2003.

Change in the HR world

In 2007, “Twitter” was just a word to describe the chirping of a little bird. Google turned 2015 in 15 - a teenager who sometimes behaves that way. And before 2010 there was a tablet to serve - mostly made of silver - but definitely not a PC.

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Times change, it's in their nature. Just like in human nature. The "Generation Y" or "Millennials" will soon make up 75 percent of the workforce. This new species will be very scarce and very demanding. So it is urgent time for the HR departments to change.


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