The clay layer is crumbling – change leadership

Leadership and, above all, the leaders themselves, must change in this digital transformation. But how? 30 Deutsche Telekom managers have set out together to embark on this internal transformation and penetrate the Lehmschicht (clay layer).

Social Media Business – where are we from?

With “Anders Arbeiten - Kunden begeistern” we have been working successfully for several years in the Social Media Business Program to build up and support employee networks. Employee networks that reach across the entire organization and are the backbone of the next reorganization. Here are three examples:

  • Together we are driving the internal, digital transformation with more than 350 guides.
  • The #Werkstolz Community are magenta ambassadors who aim to carry our corporate pride to the outside world. A simple Google search for the hashtag #Werkstolz shows that this is clearly working.
  • The #Develovers are programming enthusiasts in large companies who want to code but who can’t code in their regular job. We bring these individuals together in Hackathons, for example, thereby further developing the internal social network.

What these networks have in common is that they are driven above all by highly intrinsically motivated employees. We didn’t dare to set up something like this for managers until 2017. Then we also piloted “#DieLehmschicht bröckelt” among a small group of managers who were already doing #AndersArbeiten and therefore working on and not only in the organization.

Who makes up #DieLehmschicht?

But who is it all about? Who makes up this #Lehmschicht? Peter Löscher, former head of Siemens, coined the phrase “Lehmschicht” around 2010, describing it best of all:

“The so-called Lehmschicht consists of employees you simply don’t see. Employees in administration as well as lower and middle management. They sit in air conditioned offices, not in sweaty factories; they process the paperwork which has now become computer work; they book travel and invoices; they sit at the heart (of the company), very close to the power, but often far away from production, from the factories, from the markets.”

(Source: Schäfer 2010)

What kind of things does the Lehmschicht say?

The clay layer constitutes the type of person in the company who “has always done everything this way”, who “has to let everything run over their desk”. And who wants to stay in their own silo instead of finding solutions for our customers across departments and at eye-level with colleagues.

When #DieLehmschicht talks, it usually sounds like this:


It's important to mention: We did not come up with these statements ourselves – they were passed on to us by several large companies. In other words, “real talk” from the existing Lehmschicht.

How do we make #DieLehmschicht crumble?

In 2017, we opted for the approach of bringing the right people into one room, not those responsible. The pioneer group with around 15 people was formed. Then came the intensive exchange about what #AndersFühren (Leading differently) means for everyone personally and what good examples make it visible. “Stories of success” emerged from the group on #AndersFühren. One, for example, is the Business Circle as a method of dissolving old-fashioned jour fixes and breaking new ground in team meetings. We summarized the stories − which are mainly spread throughout the organization by the storytellers themselves − in a booklet.

The group of managers grew organically to 30 in 2018 – the positive experiences from the previous year having spread throughout the organization. We also rejected people who did not want to commit themselves to the framework conditions set.

In the kick-off, we first sit in the Business Circle for two hours and talk about how and on what basic principles we want to work together. For some people in the group, this is an agonizingly slow process. As in business, we obviously want to get results faster.

Here it is advantageous to have external support from experienced facilitators such as the communication facilitators, who “hold the room” and insist on continuing the search for meaning. After this exercise, it becomes clear to everyone that before we go to the “roll-out” of topics, we have to look at the inner operating system of our group and thus at ourselves. Because: Change begins in me.


You & #DieLehmschicht?

Do you often notice statements in the organization that describe an attitude that needs to be overcome? Then contact us or use the hashtag #DieLehmschicht 😉

We are excited to read your blogs, or discuss with you directly on Twitter!


Schäfer, Ulrich (2010): In der Lehmschicht – Siemens baut weltweit Stellen ab. SZ,, zugegriffen am 27.03.18


This article war originally publisched on the Creating Corporate Culture Blog of the Bertelsmann Stiftung.



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