When Agile Working isn’t Working

Agile Working is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment and we hear many stories about how brilliantly employers have implemented an Agile Working Programme (AWP). Such accounts demonstrate how that success has positively impacted productivity, personnel satisfaction, wellbeing and engagement. We hear rather fewer stories about what happens when it fails but I fear that proper investigation would show that the failures outnumber the successes.

I am an enthusiastic advocate of a good AWP but it seems that many organisations fail to grasp the scale and planning required for a successful implementation. Indeed, it is probably fair to say that many of the so-called AWPs that have been described to me barely justify the title. There is much more to do than simply take away some desks and give everyone a laptop or clear some office space and fill it with an apparently random selection of brightly coloured soft seating or install sit-stand desks and assume everyone will know how to use them.

I think that the problem lies in confusion about who ‘owns’ the process. Often it may be driven by Estates or Facilities but the managers involved need to take a broader view than their usual professional perspective. A collaborative, multi-disciplinary programme group is essential and a key member (probably the key member) is the Change Management expert. These specialists understand how to manage the staff consultation process, accommodate the psycho-social factors and implement appropriate training and support. Any successful programme is almost certain to require external assistance or, if the project is big enough, the creation of new roles within the business specifically to deliver the programme.

I would love to hear about your own experiences. Have you been part of one of the successes? Or part of something that failed or never really ‘got going’?


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