16 Mar How to create an agile organization
‘’ We are uncovering better ways of delivering solutions by doing it and helping others do it.’’
– Paraphrase of the Manifesto for Agile Software Development
WHAT IS AGILE WORKING AND HOW TO APPLY ITS PRINCIPLES TO WORK IN THE HR DEPARTMENT?
Agile Working is a new approach to work and space management. In practice it looks like that – the organization provides options, the manager sets the rules with the employee. In this business model, the management team puts emphasis on achieving goals and delivering the final result – how the final outcome will be reached it is up to the employee. This concept assumes as the key factor the maturity of the staff. Why? Because, the manager loses absolute control over every single task within the team. Manager is becoming to fulfill the functions of the “Servant Manager” – someone who creates a work environment and helps employees to perform their tasks with maximum efficiency. It means that the old perception of the manager’s role – being a ,,supervisor” is rapidly losing its importance. What’s more, it is not important whether the workspace is software development, team management (M3.0) or office space management – the principals are the same and called Trust & Empowerment. Without these two elements ,,Agile Working” is not existing.
WHAT ARE THE MAIN DIFFERENCES IN THE AGILE APROACH IN THE HR DEPARTMENT AND OTHER AREAS OF THE ORGANIZATION’S ACTIVITIES?
Taking into account the evolution of HR departments from pure HR administration to the HR Business Partnering model, we are able to notice the need for frequent HRBP contacts with (client) departments with which he cooperates. Is there a better way to get to know your partner than working with him shoulder to shoulder? Certainly, if we work with sensitive data, the organization should provide rooms/isolation zones, in order to prevent the situations that some people who should not have an access to certain data ( e.g. payrolls ) have a possibility to see them at HRBP laptop screen. Agile working in HR is also a close adjustment of HR services to the needs of clients – we are where the client needs us and when he needs us, again the ,,Servant Leadership’’- concept promoted by Jurgen Apello in his ,,Management 3.0’’ breaks through. Agile working requires from organization to provide employees such working conditions that they can focus on achieving the goal, without being distracted by side tasks, irrelevant to the delivery of the final product. The HR department is partly responsible for introducing the Agile model, so it should serve as an example to the rest of the employees. Therefore, it is crucial that HR departments will be the first to implement ,,Agile Working’’ is their way of working and be propagators of change.
HOW DOES AGILE WORKING DIVIDE THE PRIVITE AND PROFESSIOANAL ZONE IN THE CONTEXT OF WORK-LIFE BALANCE?
Recently, we can observe the peculiar evolution of the concept of Work Life Balance in the concept of Work Life Integration. The basic change is to replace balance with integration, where integration means fusion of these two aspects of our lives – professional and private zone. Balancing is keeping things in balance, in reality this period of perfect balance is simply hard to reach – more often we are like on a swing- once up, once down. In fact, balance implies conflict, something is lost in order to benefit for something else, sometimes work takes the major part of our time, while other time private life. In the conception of Work Life Integration (WLI) instead of aiming to reach the balance, we are aiming to gain integration, which basically means, that both spheres of our lives coexist. At the beginning the WLI has been the domain of senior management, sellers, business consultants – occupations in which the final result counts, where people are closing transactions or delivering complete products.
The old theory says that we should spend 24 hours a day on 8 working hours, 8 on private matters and the rest, the remaining 8 hours on sleep. In practice, however, this conception simply doesn’t work. How the day look like in the WLI concept? The day is adapted to the needs
of worker, and his professional life and private are coexisting. Agile Working assumes that an employee can decide when he works. from where and how. Integration of work and personal life it is not a new developed conception – indeed this is a theory that has always been existed. It seems that we only wanted to artificially divide the day. Perhaps, this division of the day had a sense in industrial age, where the employees going to work in the factory or mine, were really cutting themselves off for a definite time from private life. Nowadays, in the digital era, where we are having information society such cutting off is rather impossible to achieve. People how are still having doubts – ask yourself a few questions and give the honest answer : Are you checking FB or other social media at work? Have you ever had an appointment with a doctor during your office hours? Or from the other side – In your spare time, have you ever thought how to resolve
a complicated situation at work? Or when you were outside the office and have met a colleague from the work in the store – you have discussed only private things or also professional once? How do you consider all these moments – as a time for work or for leisure?
WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS FOR ORGANISATIONS FROM IMPLEMENTING THE AGILE WORKING?
We can describe it as a freedom of choice, autonomy. From the point of view of the employee it looks like that – I am an adult, I know what goals my organization has and my ideas fit into the company’s overall goals. It does not matter if I’m at my desk, in a cafe, in the library,
at home or at the airport – I define my place of work and the way I will do this job. Agile Working is an employer’s agreement with an employee: I trust you that you do your work at the maximum level of efficiency, I give you huge autonomy and I allow you to make mistakes – in return I expect above-average benefits and thinking “out of the box”.
As a consequence of implementation this style of working, the company becomes more innovative and there is a room for exchanging the ideas between people. It results also in more creative ways of solving problems, it increases employee loyalty and lower their retention – all
of these have a significant impact on the company’s finances in a longer perspective. Organization can gain the reduction of the office costs ( he can put about 20-30% more people on the same surface), reach better flow of information, higher employee productivity and finally – synergy (people do similar things together, teams do not double).
From the employee’s point of view – the benefits of the Agile approach can include the opportunity to participate in interesting projects, meet new people, manage his time on his own rules. He is also saving time – he is not running from one desk to another, he can just sit next to the person with whom he works or use equipment for remote work, working from home. In this way the employee may feel appreciated by his employer, because he gives him freedom of choice and rather than counts the time spending at the desk he counts the results of the work. It may sound like a full-time freelancer.
WHAT CHALLANGES WILL HAVE TO FACE COMPANIES WHICH WANT TO IMPLEMENT ,,AGILE APPROACH”?
We have to underline that Agile approach is a revolutionary change that must be introduced in a proper, thoughtful way. The most important is the adequate, high level of maturity of the management staff. One manager who insists on micromanagement can spoil the entire Agile Working concept. The management must be able to resign of the control in the old theory, in order to achieve more productive and motivated team and also to deliver better services and products.
While implementing this change inside the company, it is possible to encounter resistance from the employees – because basically there are losing their desk – which from many years was considered as a ,,asylum” for the workforce. This style of working is considered also as less more demanding and less predictable. For some workers who are used to perform work in hierarchical structures and who are seeing their career path like a climbing up on the corporate ladder, it can be difficult to accept the way of working in which each idea is treated equally and everyone has a piece of work to do.
In terms of office arrangement – a clean desk policy can be a challenge. If I can sit somewhere else everyday, I leave the desk at which I sit today in order (i.e., a coffee mug I take to the kitchen and wash after myself). That is why the plan of implementation and supporting the management staff is the key to success.
HOW AGILE WORKING CAN BE REFFERED TO CHANGE MANAGEMENT?
Agile Working should be considered not only as the Business Transformation and a way to improve the company’s operations, but also as a new office organization. While organizing the new work space, the management have to take into account the following factors: Time – when people do work, Location – where they do it, Tasks – what they do and Source – who does it. Having developed the basics, the company can begin to construct/deconstruct a new space, and always it should bear in mind that, not only the layout of desks in changing but primarily the way of performing work.
In projects related to change management, the companies always have to look at what they want to achieve, not only through the vision and goals of the organization, but above all by the “eyes of an employee” – WIIFM (What’s In It For Me) – what I do I have. It will also be essential to prepare company from the technological point of view: buy laptops (preferably light ones), softphones or instant messengers with the possibility of organizing video conferences. Preparation of the implementation plan is an absolute necessity here. Very useful would be also to conduct workshops for employees to let them understand what kind of changes the company is going to implement and how those changes will affect them.