Most Business-As-Usual (BAU) relocating processes are designed around moving people from a fixed position to another fixed position (from “my old desk” to “my new desk”). Although not anxiety free, people have a good idea about how the future of work will look like and most will be happy with some preparation activity just before the physical relocation. But with agile working, the future is unclear – so it’s our job to help them figure it out.
In my last blog, I talked about needing to answer people’s questions about why they’re moving to agile working, what the change is, how it will happen and when. You also need to give them some TIME to absorb all of this, to process it and get comfortable with the new ideas. And when I say “time”, I don’t mean a week or a couple of days – I mean quite a few weeks – for most people at least. Remember that 50-75% of change efforts fail – so patience is required!
Why do Employees Need so long to Process Change?
Assume you’re organisation is planning an office move and preparing for going agile (and to minimise employee resistance to change), people need time to
- Understand what the change is about
- Get their heads around it – how it will affect them and their team
- Have a debate about the changes
- Figure things out with colleagues
- Come to terms with the change
- Find some things that will be beneficial for them
That’s going to take a while – because people are naturally absorbed with their own work schedules. More so, employees absorb and process at different rates. Ideally you need to start talking to people about the details a couple of months before the move – and hence you’ll need answers to most of their questions at that time – particularly about the design of the new workspace experience and how things are going to work, i.e.:
- Do I get a laptop?
- Will there be Wi-Fi everywhere?
- Where is my team sitting?
- How big is my locker (I have lots of shoes in the office!)
- How will the printing work?
- What happens if there aren’t any desks available when I come in?
- I have specialist apps – how will I get access to them?
Lack of information causes acute anxiety in Change Projects
In our experience, one of the things that causes people most anxiety (apart from shoe storage!!) is understanding how their technology in the workplace is going to work. Think about it. How much does everyone rely on their PC / laptop / phone / tablet at work? If they think there’s going to be even a minor interruption in service or in their ability to get their work done, they will become tense and can get stuck on that subject, unable to move on and entertain any other discussions about the change. And as the change management process stalls, there is a significant loss of confidence in the project team / project / initiative as a consequence. It is important to try to maintain trust and support throughout the workplace environment.
Having your workplace solutions in place early
Given this is the case, the project delivery team has to know how things are going to work, in some detail, at least 2-3 months prior to the office move and going live. A “just in time” approach won’t work for an office relocation or transition to agile working – some serious strategic workplace transition planning must be undertaken. Even if people trust you to do a good job, and know you’ve moved them successfully many times before – this doesn’t help because they are moving into a different way of working that they can’t bring into focus without sufficient detail of how it will all operate. In a sense, doing a good job at the last minute might meet your delivery objectives, but it’s precious little use to those that are trying to figure out how life is going to work in the new agile environment. You should put the user at the centre of everything you do and see the world and the workplace through their eyes.
Know how you are going to deliver and what you need from each other
Being clear about what each workstream is delivering and what it needs from the other workstreams is very important. It may sound obvious, but many delivery teams don’t do this – and pursue their tried and tested BAU processes without reference to their project team colleagues. Just as your new agile workforce needs time to figure things out – so does your project team – so start as early as you can because it takes time to figure out how your combined, integrated process is going to work.
Next time we look at why the Day One agile working experience must be RIGHT!
Also see our related blog: 3 Tips When Moving Office
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.