Jan Wörner Blog | 20. February 2014 | posted by Jan Wörner

Setting the course… to dare for more DLR!

Gegenstromprinzip (Grafik). Bild: CC-BY KönigsPanda.
Gegenstromprinzip (Grafik). Bild: CC-BY KönigsPanda.

The German federal government has been getting down to business, the New Year is well under way, and institutional and personal resolutions and claims have been set down at various New Year's receptions. For the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) these are to keep up the good work, continue making important contributions to national and global challenges, and to make the best possible use of the money entrusted to us by the taxpayers. All this comes at a time marked not only by political manoeuvring, but also by large-scale societal changes that influence our actions.

Now that several decades have passed since the paradigm shift from the Cold War to a level of cooperation while maintaining the type of competitiveness useful for the market economy, it seems that modern society is also demanding change with regards to influencing decision-making. The immediate requirement for 'direct democracy' is not the most convincing solution, as it diminishes the accountability of responsibility and responsible behaviour with regard to broader social factors. Rather, what is needed is to establish collaboration under the principle of countervailing influence as part of the standard top-down process.

Gegenstromprinzip (Grafik). Bild: CC-BY-SA Königspanda.The principle of countervailing influence not only makes it possible to capture ideas within an organisation in a structured way, but also highlights a paradigm shift in societal terms. Modern society should not have dubious benefits forced upon it by decision-making that, at best, leads to passive acceptance. Rather, it should be motivated to developing viable solutions through participation in the decision-making process. Challenges faced from a societal perspective, such as the Energy Transition, and that go well beyond the question of individuals' decision-making, require a clearly structured top-down cascade of targets while maintaining practical participation implemented through the principle of countervailing influence.

This general approach also applies to organisations such as DLR and implies that we increasingly put our focus on the expectations and ideas of politicians, taxpayers and users, as well as the various levels in the hierarchy.

DLR must continue its development to optimise its capabilities and to be output-oriented –specifically with a view to reinforcing Germany’s position in its core activities. To this end, I have formulated key statements that are aligned with higher-level goals, such as target-oriented behaviour, optimum use of resources, the ability to respond quickly and technical dependability, and that encompass:

  • Space science and space flight for the benefit of society
  • Eco-efficient mobility
  • Securing the Energy Transition
  • Ensuring comprehensive security

that take into account:

  • Target cascades from politics to researchers and users and, under the principle of countervailing influence, to capture expectations and implement ideas in a structured way!
  • Implement ONE DLR to secure efficiency and effectiveness in the allocation of resources!
  • Identify and exploit opportunities to position DLR in Germany and Europe!
  • Adapt DLR's internal and external governance to current and future challenges!

Behind each of these points are concrete descriptions of the situation, of the structure we are working towards and of the measures that need to be taken to achieve this. Almost all of the measures can be implemented through clarifications by policy makers; adaptation of fixed rules is only required in specific cases.

DLR is very successful, and being considered the best employer in the current survey of well-known German magazine Focus is something we can be proud of. But the undoubted successes should not cause us to fail to address the deficits or – better – the potential for optimisation through inertia.

So, quite simply, both internally and externally: let's set the course… to dare for more DLR!

Images: CC-BY-SA Königspanda

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About the author

The Jan Wörner blog is written by the Chairman of the Executive Board of the German Aerospace Center, Johann-Dietrich ‘Jan’ Wörner – no hype! He has been Chairman since 1 March 2007. to authorpage

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