SYMA Seminar: "Travelling Together Through the Mists of Uncertainty"
Arne Baltissen joined the umlaut experimental lab as the new Managing Director of Prosoz. A conversation about boundaries and systemic change.
Dear Mr. Baltissen, Prosoz helps municipalities digitise their administrative tasks. What exactly do they do?
Arne Baltissen: With more than 450 employees at four locations, Prosoz provides a good 1,500 municipal administrations with specialist IT processes and services. One example: On March 4, the EU created the conditions for refugees from Ukraine to receive an immediate residence permit and temporary protection. We have launched an online form that allows them to submit applications for basic social benefits in just a few steps on their smartphone.
What challenges do you face as the new managing director?
Arne Baltissen: Digital transformation is an evolutionary process - that applies to our customers as well as to us internally. In addition, there are topics such as new work, diversification, and ever-changing products and areas of responsibility. An organization like Prosoz is multi-layered and complex - management according to the OSTO system approach helps me accordingly.
Mr. Meinecke, you are Managing Director of Transformation at umlaut. What is behind the approach?
Michael Meinecke: There are people who believe that companies function like machines, that all they need to do is make an adjustment here or add a new cog there. As system specialists, we are convinced that companies function like living organisms, i.e. they are complex and interconnected. The OSTO approach helps diagnose organizations according to an objective approach. What is the prevailing corporate culture? Where and how are decisions really made? What are the elephants in the room - the scars in the organization? We look at the open, socio-technical and economic aspects of a system.
And it is based on this that umlaut has developed the SYMA seminar?
Michael Meinecke: Yes and no. SYMA stands for Systemic Management - an approach that originated in the nineties. Since then, it has been developed scientifically and, above all, in a wide variety of industries through concrete consulting projects. I took part for the first time in 2009 - and in 2013 I took on the responsibility as well as the task of continuing the seminar and adapting it to the requirements of today.
How is the seminar designed?
Michael Meinecke: 12 to 18 participants come together for five days and take part in an experimental laboratory together. Each day stands for a year at the company, and the group experiences change first hand in ever-changing structures and roles. They experience what it means to transform a hierarchical organization into a network organization, i.e. entrepreneurial transformation.
Who is SYMA suitable for?
Arne Baltissen: For executives like me. When I took over the management of Prosoz in 2020, the seminar was already established. Six months later, I took part in it myself, in part to test whether we would continue it for our executives at Prosoz. I was given a method and toolbox backpack, which today helps me use the right language and tools in different phases of a transformation. We can thus influence the transformation of our organization. In short, we definitely want to continue the training.
Michael Meinecke: Before participating, we recommend that participants have five to eight years of professional experience, so they can reflect on their own experiences and actions in the seminar and derive their own solutions and approaches from them. The seminar is now established in many companies as continuing education for executives or as management training.
What happens during the five days?
Michael Meinecke: An unspoken rule is: What happens at SYMA stays at SYMA - to a certain extent, the seminar lives from its own myth and its surprises. But I can say this: By principle, we start on a Sunday evening - and this already sets the scene from the very start. The group learns through experience what systemic management means. We work on distance and closeness, formal and informal, weekdays and weekends, travelling together through the mists of uncertainty.
Arne Baltissen: Part of the concept is to increase the pressure to act on the group with each passing day. In the end, this experience of physical and mental limits culminates in a great "aha" moment from which I, as a managing director, still derive the benefits today. Colleagues who warned me in advance not to take any work with me during the seminar were right. It was an intensive and transformative experience.