One of my Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA) colleagues has these words as her middle name! When supporting and guiding agile working implementation teams, we spend time and energy explaining why “just in time” or “we’ll do it next week” just won’t work. Being proactive always beats being reactive. Remember what we’ve been discussing in this series of blogs – that people are at the centre of everything we do. They are being asked to trust that everything will be right for them and they will be able to work seamlessly when everything goes live. People will be concerned and anxious about things going wrong and about not being able to work effectively. Minimising any lost working time is important – for individuals, teams, departments and those with whom they do business. We reassure users that they’ll be working normally within 90 minutes of arriving (often much sooner), having carefully prepared for this new way of operating.
Imagine your employees arriving to a fresh new workplace design and discovering that the office desks and chairs are not there. Inconceivable, isn’t it? It should also be inconceivable that any other critical element of the new workplace infrastructure isn’t in place and fully working. We are asking people to do things differently – to change the way they behave and operate. To change lifetime habits and explore the new, untried and untested way of working that they’ve been preparing for, but haven’t yet fully experienced. If the Day One workplace experience is not a good one, then that will feel like a breach of trust, with people feeling let down and betrayed. Their suspension of disbelief that agile “works” will disappear and the “I told you so” mantra will begin in earnest. It is critical that having engaged and involved staff in the change process, that you don’t do anything to break their trust at this stage. Not only will they feel let down, their performance will suffer. Our client Willis Towers Watson’s 2014 Global Workforce Study shows that trust in senior management is a key aspect of employee retention, and assuming your leaders are doing a good job in promoting agile working, the last thing you want to do is let the side down!
The Day One workplace experience (and every day after!) must be as close as possible to the actual experience you want people to have (and you’ve told them they WILL have). It should be a “normal” day – with people going about their business normally, albeit they’ll be exploring and finding new ways to do things. This should be a matter of choice though, not because things don’t work! Having prepared people through our workplace change management processes, they should know what to expect. There should be help on hand to assist with any fine tuning or snagging issues. More so any problems must be actively managed and resolved asap to minimise the opportunity for resistance to change within the workplace. Issue resolution should be kept visible, so people know what’s going on. There should also be a sense of welcome, excitement, fun – this is, after all, a new beginning. Oh, and food! My “Right on Day One” colleague believes in the power of food to bring people together, to help enjoy the new workplace experience.
Let’s not kid ourselves – this isn’t always easy to achieve, even with good planning and sound project management. Arguably the most important thing is to really plan for things to be “right on day one”. From the beginning, it should be the stated goal, towards which everything else moves. That is inevitably about deadlines, resources, planning and managing the delivery of the new environment. But it’s also about understanding how it will work in the future – so you can consistently deliver the workplace experience you want people to have, every day. For more on workplace experiences, you might be interested in our research in this area. This ongoing experience is different to the Day One experience because of course there’s a different level of resourcing required when everything is brand new to everyone.
The maintenance of the new agile workplace will inevitably require new ways of doing things. From induction of new staff through to the maintenance of the building that is being used more intensively. You need to recognise what will be different, how things will be managed, what service levels will be required etc. But also, we advise that you keep your workplace community representatives on board and connected. This way they provide sponsorship for the new way of working and cement the ownership within the business (not within RE or FM).
Naturally things happen that are out of your control and these can potentially cause problems and undo the good created through your change management preparations. Mistakes / issues will happen despite all your meticulous planning, contingency strategies and workarounds. We advise clients to ensure they have a clear go/no-go decision point at which they critically determine whether they can deliver the workplace experience they want to. They also identify what elements would justify a “hold” to the move. We also recommend that issues / snagging is kept very visible so that everyone knows what has been identified, what has been fixed and when the rest of the issues will be addressed. As with so many things – the devil is in the detail and planning and communication are everything when managing change in the workplace! For professional advice, contact Advanced Workplace Associates on +44 207 743 7110 and speak to a change management consultant. Next time we look at what happens when agile working gets knocked off course.
This article is part of a series written by Karen Plum, Director of Research & Development at Advanced Workplace Associates 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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