Otto Jager

“There’s no fixed recipe for culture change”

‘What got us here, won’t get us there’ sums up why culture change is needed. But what does that change entail exactly? And what kind of organisation will it have us grow into? This is one of the things that Otto Jager has been working on over the past year.


The world around us is changing increasingly rapidly. As our work becomes ever more demanding, we are required to change our work habits and work more efficiently, as well as to make decisions faster. And decisions must be made elsewhere within the organisation. Otto: “You don’t want the board to make all the important decisions on its own, you also want others to have that decision-making capacity. This is, however, conditional on people getting good feedback. Feedback on things that are going well, but also on things that are not going so well, so that employees know where they stand and what's expected of them. We need to become more of a learning organisation, where everyone can share knowledge and experience much faster.”

Exemplary behaviour

But there’s no fixed recipe for culture change. There’s no ready-made way to monitor progress made in changing the culture, and you, therefore, never know exactly whether or not you're nearly there. “As far as that’s concerned, it’s an abstract pursuit. What you need to do more than anything is to talk to each other a lot about things such as exemplary behaviour and mindset. This is exactly what we will be fomenting through workshops with all 300 managers. I see it as a journey we are going on together. After all, there is no way of predicting where we will be in three or five years’ time.

You have to keep asking what the organisation needs, where we stand and what we need. Flexibility and adaptability are hugely important in this process.”

Not top down

What we want to build is a culture with greater transparency, one where we can openly give each other feedback, while also welcoming feedback. Where we do not shy away from making decisions, even if we are not 100% sure if it’s the right decision. Otto: “In this kind of culture, there will be times when you make the wrong decision. But that's okay, as long as you learn from it. The most important thing might very well be that the culture is not something that is determined from the top down; we build it together, all of us. We all play a role; you can actively seek feedback, you can make your voice heard when you think you have a better idea. That’s where we want to go, and everyone’s invited on this journey.” New people with new ideas, too, are important when it comes to implementing changes. Otto will, therefore, also have a video call today with his brand-new colleague Sibylle Würthner, our newly appointed People Director, to get her take on this subject.

In January, we launched the GROW FOR IT campaign, which is intended for all TenneT employees and focuses on the TenneT principles: Ownership, Connection, and Courage. Given that continuous learning and personal development are essential in the context of Transforming TenneT, the GROW FOR IT campaign will be extended. Through this campaign, we will continue to challenge employees to connect with the new Purpose, Promise, and Principles. Together we will bring TenneT’s strategy to life!

For all the managers at TenneT, there is now a leadership programme: LEAD YOUR TEAM. This programme supports managers in their development and empowers them to, together with their teams, be real change leaders and jointly take responsibility for Transforming TenneT. The LEAD YOUR TEAM programme is based on the leadership profiles that are made up of four leadership themes: I lead Business, I lead Change, I lead People, I have impact.

Empathic, authentic, and communicative

We met up with Sibylle Würthner, TenneT’s People Director as of 1 July.

Sibylle explains what ‘culture change’ means to her and what role she believes managers play in such a process. Sibylle: “The single most important thing is that you know why culture change is needed, and that you truly understand the goal. One thing is clear: change can only be brought about through unambiguous communication and behaviour, such as the creation of a healthy ‘it’s okay to make mistakes’ culture. Authenticity is the key word. We challenge managers in this respect.” HR also plays a role in this process, on the one hand by explaining how change affects us and on the other by helping and supporting employees and managers.

Sibylle: “Change is something you can only pull off if you do it together. And HR can play a supporting role in enabling managers to perform their tasks and celebrate successes. Putting change into practice is something that a manager does together with his or her team. Managers are an essential link in the chain, and the more change they convey and challenges they take on, the easier it will be for them to set the tone. Only when we work together, under the leadership of our managers, will we be able to make culture change tangible and visible. Empathy, authenticity, and communication are essential.”


Otto Jager about cultural change


Sibylle Würthner about cultural change


Otto Jager en Sibylle Würthner about cultural change