Prepared for the Future – with a Tablecloth

Steinbeis expert helps companies with the implementation of transformation programs

The pandemic exposed our deficits and dependencies when it comes to the sustainable, smooth functioning of the future world of work. For many companies, the prevailing attitude revolves solely around increasing profit. This has led us into a state of dependency and distorted our view of the broader picture. The working world of today is still shaped by the fact that for many years, the focus lay in building vast amounts of know-how, but what lacked was the “know-why.” There’s no use in saying it’s business as usual, so how do you deal with transformation at a company so that it is prepared for the working world of the future? The Steinbeis Consulting Center for Business Development and Digital Accessibility has found an answer to this question with what it calls the Tablecloth Process.

The Tablecloth Process developed by Steinbeis Entrepreneur Stefan Wilke to quickly and efficiently analyze issues and find matching solutions.


Steinbeis entrepreneur Stefan Wilke knows from experience which three elements are crucial for transformation processes at companies: First, there needs to be a willingness and readiness to really change something – and not just talk about it. Then, a company must put sufficient time aside for planning and implementing changes. Having the best possible consultant come in from outside is of no use whatsoever if internal resources aren’t made available. And third, a company needs the courage to follow simple and clear processes and make decisions: What are really the must-haves, and what can be left out? Adhering to these points can be considered an investment in the future, although there may be a dip in profits at first.

Change is a permanent process, and the first step may be to just reflect for a moment and not simply react and do something for the sake of it. Wilke compares this to an everyday situation: “Don’t keep running up an escalator that’s traveling downward. Just stand still. Travel down, see what needs doing, and then you can relax and go back up again.”

The tablecloth – a useful solution

There are some things you can’t change, but you can make things easier for yourself by working out your own solutions. Although Wilke deals with a variety of products and services in his work as a Steinbeis Entrepreneur and managing director of an IT company, for years he has relied on a simple but very effective tool in both of his roles. The term he coined for the tool: the Tablecloth Process. This everyday object provides him with support in the form of an analogy for quickly and efficiently analyzing different issues, based on just four questions that also allow him to work out matching solutions. “This approach did an excellent job getting us through the pandemic. For example, it enabled us to spot early on that switching from classroom teaching to online seminars and courses would keep us going,” explains the Steinbeis expert from Durmersheim.

So what does the tablecloth consist of in practical terms? In the middle stands the company and the four corners point to the following: project steps, personnel (who does what?), the procedure (what needs to be done?) and the external situation. The procedure is an ongoing process. By providing a good overview of all processes it should also encourage people to keep things simple. In addition to shedding light on internal processes, the model also looks at overall parameters surrounding the company.

“Bottom line, among other benefits the tablecloth results in significant savings and increased employee satisfaction. The fewer pointless processes, the better,” says Wilke, summarizing the process. In a world of work increasingly characterized by complexity, to a large extent being future-proof is about separating the important from the unimportant. Methods like the tablecloth help give structure to topics and identify core criteria.



Drawing on the example of remote working, Stefan Wilke demonstrates how to use the tablecloth method.



  • Clarification: Where is remote working possible, dependent on each respective activity? Definition of technological prerequisites
  • Determination of the required need for remote working Clarification of legal and safety issues
  • Cost-benefit analysis
  • How do I monitor the work of employees?
  • What ratio of remote work to time in the office should I plan for?
  • Ensuring digital accessibility of processes


  • To be clarified by HR: Where is remote working possible, dependent on each respective activity?
  • IT department: Definition of technical prerequisites
  • IT department in conjunction with Procurement: Determination of the required need for remote working Legal department: Clarification of legal and safety issues
  • Accounting: Cost-benefit analysis
  • Middle management: How do I monitor the work of employees?
  • Middle management: What ratio of remote work to time in the office should I plan for?
  • IT department: Ensuring digital accessibility of processes


  • HR drafts list of potential tasks
  • IT creates checklist and technical implementation procedures
  • IT drafts list of requirements – Procurement does the buying
  • Legal: Draws up contracts and other relevant provisions
  • Accounting: Cost-benefit calculations looking at all relevant cost centers
  • Based on the results of projects: How do I monitor the work of employees?
  • Give it a go: What ratio of remote work to office time should I plan for?
  • IT: Implementation of existing guidelines and efficient testing by respective target groups


  • Are the necessary technical conditions met for employees (internet, office, etc.)?
  • Which legal requirements have to be met?
  • What interfaces are there with the outside world and are there defined procedures and specifications?

Possible outcomes of increased remote working may be that there are significant savings in time and money due to less commuting, a reduction in office space, and less need for paper and printers.




Stefan Wilke (author)
Steinbeis Entrepreneur
Steinbeis Consulting Center Business Development and Digital Accessibility (Durmersheim)