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A WELCOME CHANGE: HOW AGILITY CAN HELP ORGANISATIONS TO THRIVE

Agile working isn’t new, but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the trend after the strength of organisations’ resilience separated those who prospered and those who suffered. Here, Sharon Aneja, founder of coaching and strategy consultancy Humanity Works, shares ideas from the company’s human trends report on how agile working can transform workforces and leave employees feeling more engaged and more motivated.

23rd February 2021

Agility is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. When people are empowered to make changes and they feel psychologically safe, then they’re likely to feel happy to bring their whole selves to work. Productivity then increases.

SHARON ANEJA


When we talk about agile working, we’re talking about how an organisation adapts and responds to change.

To cultivate this mindset, you have to ease restrictions in the workplace that prohibit flexibility, and connect your people to your technology and processes, giving them the power to work in a way that they deem most effective. Fundamentally, it requires a shift on both a cultural and an operational level.

Most organisations – especially big ones – run off of a command-and-control structure, but this approach can be narrow-minded and stifle innovation. Shifting to an agile framework means dissolving typical power structures. There’s no more top-down – rather, you devolve power within the organisation to your workforce, in turn making your people accountable.

If you want people to take responsibility, however, you have to have psychological trust and safety – that means giving people the freedom to fail without repercussions.

 

Putting your people in control

Leaders who like to keep a tight rein need to change the way they lead for this to work. Instead of providing all of the answers, they need to focus on how they can bring out the best in others, for example by encouraging more diverse thinking within the organisation and listening to opposing views.

Embracing healthy conflict and the fact that different people can have different ways of delivering shared goals is a good thing. It’s all about experimentation.

Agility is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. When people are empowered to make changes and they feel psychologically safe, then they’re likely to feel happy to bring their whole selves to work. Productivity then increases, and people become more efficient and more effective.

Inherently, people will feel more in control of what is happening at work, and as such they will become more curious and invested. Employee engagement will increase, as will loyalty within the workforce as people feel rewarded and more motivated. These are all things business leaders will want from their teams, not least because many will be in a rebuilding stage this year and onwards.

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What is agile working and how can organisations introduce it?

Consultancy The Agile Organisation defines agile working as “bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task.” At its heart, it empowers people to work in a way that they feel will yield the best results in order to achieve a shared goal. To introduce it as a new way of working, organisations need to establish their vision, design a practical strategy that supports this, and then launch a pilot to test the agile model. Once deemed successful, organisation can scale up the model and work on building new capabilities needed to sustain it.

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Bringing out the benefits

The benefits to agile working are clear, but that’s not to say it’s a one-size-fits-all solution for all of your organisational needs. For teams and functions that are process driven, an agile approach won’t be as relevant or as helpful. The degree to which you embrace it across teams shouldn’t impact the entire organisation benefitting from it, however.

For organisations that currently aren’t working in an agile way but would like to be, internal comms will be fundamental. It’s a sizeable change – one that many people won’t be familiar with – and can take time to adapt to, so regular compassionate and honest comms is needed.

Your people are likely to go through different stages as they consider what it means for them and the way they approach their role, so you need to plan your comms around that and ensure you’re keeping them well informed throughout. There’s no such thing as overcommunicating in this scenario, but people won’t be able to take it all in in one go, so stagger your comms appropriately.

Embrace resistance when it inevitably comes – if people are resisting, it means they’re engaging. Listen to concerns and address them and, if done correctly, you should see a shift from resistance to acceptance as people start to feel more in control and excited about what this could mean for their future.


Read Humanity Works Consultancy's 2021 Human Trends report in full.

 

Bringing agile in: Sharon’s top tips for using IC to get the workforce agile-ready

  1. Get organised. Design a simple timetable with key dates on it related to the shift towards agile working and send out weekly updates and progress on how the organisation is getting on.
  2. Get together. Organise opportunities for people to share their ideas as well as their concerns.
  3. Get ahead. Prepare for notable changes that are coming and give employees time to get their heads around it by laying the groundwork well ahead of time with your comms.

Agility is the birthplace of creativity and innovation. When people are empowered to make changes and they feel psychologically safe, then they’re likely to feel happy to bring their whole selves to work. Productivity then increases.

SHARON ANEJA

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