Be prepared to really change

We’ve probably all heard stories of agile projects which haven’t worked; projects where the benefits of activity based working, so enthusiastically extolled by consultants and furniture manufacturers alike, have failed to materialise once the installation has been completed and the fitters have left.

Indeed, the fear of wasting time, money and effort on an agile white elephant prevents many organisations from even exploring activity based working.

Yet we’ve also all heard stories of agile projects which have transformed businesses, driving increases in productivity, collaboration and teamwork, and organisational efficiency. Which begs the question – where did these projects go right, where others went wrong?

The answer – in part at least – lies in broadening our understanding of what’s involved in becoming an agile organisation. A move to agile working means more than simply knocking down some internal walls and replacing some workstations. It involves new policies, new technologies, and creating a new ‘normal’.

In short, it’s not just a furniture change. It’s a people change.

Managing the people change is tricky, but it’s crucial if moving to activity based working environment is going to yield results. Here are three things to keep in mind.

Be clear on scope and benefits

Chances are there will be a diverse range of opinions within your organisation on what agile working is and what difference it will make, and with it a similarly diverse range of success criteria. It’s important to bring some consistency here. Be clear from the outset on what a move to agile working will involve, and more significantly why you’re undertaking it at all. Is it about making better use of space? Fostering an environment of inter-functional collaboration and teamwork? Improving workplace productivity? Investing time talking about the scope and benefits of the project will help your workforce understand and engage with the project, and give you a widely-acknowledged set of objectives against which to judge the success of the project.

Listen – but lead

As we discussed here, different people in your organisation will have a different attachment to their existing workstation, and therefore a different perspective on moving to agile. Some will be excited for the move, many will be pretty apathetic, and some will actively oppose it – they worked hard for their corner office, and they’re loath to give it up. Key to bringing them on the journey with you is making sure they feel heard. Consider creating a small working party or focus group, or a suggestion box, or a dedicated email address where people can raise their concerns and queries.

However, don’t let contributions from the floor derail you from your overall objectives. Lead with assurance and optimism, and work hard to ensure none of your senior colleagues undermine organisational confidence in the project. Read more on this here

Take a broad view

As mentioned previously, achieving your agile objective involves more than new furniture. Consider the change as broadly as possible – what are the implications for IT and HR? Is this the moment to introduce a flexible working policy, or improve your working from home provision? Is there value in running a pilot project in order to gather some real-life insights? How much handholding will be required when you launch, and what will you offer in terms of after-care? Try to anticipate as many risks as possible, and plan ways of mitigating them.

In moving to agile working, there really is no substitute for experience. To take advantage of ours, get in touch (and maybe ask about our Agile Workng Pilot Pack - the opportunity to ‘dip your toe in the water’ of agile working!)