There are five common mistakes that organisations make when introducing agile working. Here, Karen Plum outlines these missteps - and explains how to avoid them.
7 August 2017 | Karen Plum
There are five common mistakes that organisations make when introducing agile working. Here, Karen Plum outlines these missteps - and explains how to avoid them
Within today's world of work, an increasing number of organisations are beginning to embrace 'flexible' and 'agile' work models, with the intention of empowering employees to work effectively. Within these terms alone, however, confusion resides. 'Flexible' working focuses on versatility and variety. 'Agile', on the other hand, refers to both speed and adaptability.
The lack of clarity from the outset is perhaps the first mistake managements make when deciding whether to implement such work models. And in our experience the hurdles only get higher from then on.
AWA has seen the same issues over and over and we've learned a lot about what works and what doesn't when moving to agile working. From the conversations we've had over the past year alone, we've identified five common mistakes that still typically seem to get in the way of a smooth and successful transition.
1. Not being clear about why you are making the change
From harvesting the collective experience of workplace professionals who have embarked on agile work projects, it has become apparent that there is no room for miscommunication. Be clear about the objectives and intended outcome. Build the case for change before acting on it. In short, be clear about what you are doing, why and how you are doing it. Ask yourself the question - "What are we trying to achieve?" and be honest about the answer. If you aren't clear and don't have a defensible answer that others will relate to you are going to struggle to be successful.
2. Thinking that you have the power to change behaviour
The transition to agile working requires people to change the way they work and use space differently. RE has the power to deliver a successful outcome but it can't just change people's behaviour at the drop of a hat - the only people who have the power to change behaviour are the people in question. But harnessing power from elsewhere in the organisation can make a big difference in selling the change and encouraging the necessary attitudinal, behavioural and cultural shift required.
3. Being clear about what's in scope
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, but also it arguably isn't something that will help business performance.
4. Thinking it's all about space rather than about people
You can't deliver an agile culture without putting people first. People appreciate having a stronger appreciation of the behavioural and cultural aspects of agile working, as opposed to just the workplace aspects. The agile workplace is there to support the way people need to work to make the organisation successful - not the other way around! The "if we build it, they will come" approach is doomed.
5. Thinking that project delivery is the end of the journey rather than the beginning
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 will revert to type and fail to get the most out of everything that has been delivered.
We hope that this insight from those on the ground will help organisations create workplace management programmes that can better support and maintain agile working practices.
Karen Plum is director of research & development with Advanced Workplace Associates (AWA)