How Much Data do we Need for Agile Working?

This is a question asked by a client some while ago. They were in a hurry and were a trifle frustrated that we wanted to spend valuable time running surveys, interviewing people and engaging with their senior leaders.

As far as they were concerned they had the green light from the CEO and had left things a bit late – so simply wanted to get on with it.

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It was reassuring to feel that they thought we could simply give them “the answer” based on our many years of experience helping others implement agile working into workplaces. Truth to tell, we probably could have come up with a pretty good stab at what they needed, based on what we knew about them. But that approach is fraught with danger.

To understand why, ask yourself why we gather data to support our workplace strategy? Is it so that we can:

    • Understand how the current workplace experience and business works today
    • See how the workplace experience might work in the future
    • Understand the business drivers and opportunities
    • Design solutions that best support the workplace experience and work that people are doing
    • Quantify how many of each type of working environment we need
    • Demonstrate that we understand that they are different to other organisations

The answer to all of these is demonstrably “Yes”. But there are other, arguably more fundamental reasons why we go through this process, and here they are:

    • Because the gathering of workplace data and the engagement with all levels of the organisation is the start of the change process
    • By listening to people, we demonstrate that we care about helping them do their best work. Our extensive research into knowledge worker productivity has showed us that every workplace is different and requires different degrees of different factors in order to achieve the future of work the change management model intended.
    • By finding out what is important to the business, we can design a better change solution, linked to their needs – which is far more likely to gain approval than a purely cost based business case
    • To gather the evidence needed to prove that our proposals will work
    • To generate confidence in us – that we know what we’re doing and the people can trust us to get it right


    • Because through doing all of this we can make a genuine step change in the way the organisation performs – not just in meeting our property objectives

Fundamentally, people are at the heart of this process and the workplace management strategy should be based around human performance. They need to be engaged throughout the whole journey from inception to delivery and beyond. If you want people to change the way they work, you’d better be able to explain what the change is, why they should change, how the new way of working will work and when things will happen. Oh yes, and what you need them to do.

So, don’t think so much “gathering data” – think about “evidence and engagement”. And don’t be tempted to cut corners – remember, it’s all about the people!

Next time we look at the thorny subject of how to “sell” agile working – although the better question is “how can you help people to want to BUY agile working”! Stay tuned, and in the mean time, read more about agile working.

This article is part of 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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