Risk Management – Transitioning to Agile Workplace

In this series of blogs on Agile Working we have discussed the difficulty of getting people to buy in to a different way of working; the potential dilemma of rapid change and consequential loss of control & the apparent comfort of remaining as we are when we cannot see how the future will pan out. Risk management is critical to the longevity of the transition to an agile workplace.


Transforming your workspace into an agile environment may seem daunting and threatening, but installing agile processes into your business doesn’t have to be. Agile working aims to empower your employees and by doing it right, can produce outstanding results. In this blog I will explore some ideas on how sensible management of risks can assist in the transformations involved. Workplace change often makes alarms ring, therefore the resistance to change must be managed. Risk management processes and tools have been developed to support projects over the years and some are quite sophisticated and seem far too heavyweight for Agile Working projects. However, if we consider the nature of agile projects we can quickly realise that the management of risks can be far more effective than that in traditional linear projects simply by considering the Agile projects iterative nature.

Risk Assessment

Instead of the formal risk management processes occurring at the start of the project and then put aside when the project gets underway, risk assessment/management can be part of each iteration and as a result tackle new emerging risks that may have not been apparent at the start. It is a vital part of any project management task to ensure each step of the transformation is managed accordingly and that its risks are assessed continuously. Assessment of risks does not have to be over sophisticated. The well-known means of assessing severity uses the approach of scoring “likelihood” and “impact” and multiplying the scores together. So likelihood “high” scores 3 and impact “medium” scores 2 means severity 3×2 = 6. This is done for each identified risk and the total severity scores summed for the whole project. In the case of the Agile project these scores can be quickly reassessed at each step or iteration to create a Risk Profile for the project and ensure that each risk is addressed at the appropriate time. For example the risk profile may look like this but needs to be determined by the various stakeholders. (There doesn’t have to be just 10, a transformation project will probably have more.)

Identified Risks to Transition to an Agile World Likelihood Impact Severity
Lack of top management / stakeholder enthusiasm / engagement 2 3 6
Evidence for agile working not accepted 1 2 2
Lack of clarity about the change 1 2 2
Overconfidence in ability to effect behavioural change 2 3 6
Silo nature of IT, HR and FM departments 2 2 4
Impact upon normal business during change process 2 1 2
Just another FM project rather than an organisational change project 1 2 2
Unsupportive IT strategies/plans 3 3 9
Insufficient time & resources given to complete and embed the behavioural changes 3 3 9
Lack of Performance metrics to judge success 2 2 4
Overall Risk Severity 46/90

In our experience risks 8 & 9 would represent potential show stoppers. Finally it is also worth considering the opposite of risks. These are called opportunities. These too could be addressed in a similar way. So we could treat benefits similarly but of course in these cases we would seek to maximise their likelihood and beneficial impact and manage the project based upon emerging opportunities which may not have been foreseen.

As agile working professionals, Advanced Workplace Associates are able to help guide our clients and provide effective risk management advice. Make the first step of your risk management plan and contact an AWA workplace strategy consultant by calling +44 207 743 7110 or by emailing info@advanced-workplace.com.

This article was written by Graham Jervis, the AWA Director of Service Management.

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