People have been implementing agile working for years. There are lots of good examples, but probably even more where agile working has failed to achieve its potential. So what are people typically doing wrong?
For a start, let’s be clear about our terms and discuss what is agile working. We use “agile working” as it relates to agility in organisations – illustrated in this diagram. It’s vital to recognise that having an agile workplace does not simply make the organisation agile. It’s a required component to the workplace experience, but there’s a lot more involved and these are key to success.
Ask yourself the question “What are we trying to achieve by implementing an a new environment/experience?” and be very honest about the answer. If you aren’t clear and don’t have a defensible answer that others will understand and relate to – you’re going to struggle getting traction and being successful. If you are trying to deliver an agile workplace, that’s great – but it won’t achieve much beyond meeting your Real Estate objectives if people don’t change the way they work or manage.
In traditional workplace changes management frameworks, Real Estate are in control of layouts and delivery – and because people don’t have to change the way they work, Real Estate has the power to deliver a successful outcome. The transition to agile working requires people to change not only culture but also the nature of work and the way they work and use space. Real Estate doesn’t have the power to change people’s behaviour (nor do other service areas like Human Resources, IT or Facilities Management). We need to harness real power from elsewhere in the organisation in order to maximise change effectiveness.
A lot of upset is caused if people think “agile” is about things that it isn’t. There is no one definition, so that means you must be clear about whether “agile working” in your organisation encompasses where people work; when they work; and how they work. A space driven programme will certainly encompass where people work, but when and how they work might be completely out of scope. Not only can this lead to disappointment and confusion, it arguably isn’t something that will ultimately help business performance. So, we urge leaders to make sure the collective employee teams are clear about the future of work.
Make no mistake – people should be at the heart of any agile working programme. If they aren’t, there’s something very wrong. How can you deliver agile working and an agile culture without putting people first? The agile workplace is there to support the way people need to work to make the organisation successful. The “if we build it, they will come” approach is doomed.
We also commonly find that office relocation projects often have the same approach. Instead of using the opportunity to take a step back and re-evaluate the organisations nature of work, we find the focus is on the cost saving of agile working.
A huge amount of effort goes into making the shift to agile working. By the time you “go live” people will only just be starting to change their way of thinking, working and behaving. Take your eye off the ball and they’ll revert to type and fail to get the most out of everything that has been delivered.
This article is the first in a series written by Karen Plum, Director of Research & Development at AWA on implementing agile working.
Karen has spent the last 15 years helping organisations transition to different, more flexible and yes “agile” ways of working. More recently she’s trained many people in the fundamentals of implementing agile working, predominantly those from RE/Property/FM functions who need to up their game, know what to do, avoid the common pitfalls and see the best path to delivery and sustainability. If you would like to benefit from our 2 day, fast track Agile Working Bootcamp, please click here for more details.
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