The Agile Workplace: Aspiration or Frustration?
~ John Healy, IA Design Regional Director QLD
How can you tell if an agile work environment is right for your company? How will it affect productivity and operations? Do you have the right real estate and resources to reap the benefits?
If you agree with the definition of agile as being “anytime, anyplace, anywhere with the added dimension of frictionless work practices (minimum constraints, maximum flexibility) to maximise performance outcomes” (to quote Paul Allsopp), then read on.
Let’s cut to the chase – an agile workplace is a worthy aspiration for many organisations, large and small. However, in reality people can be agile but real estate (property, fit out) seems to need a little help to get there. Ten years ago, the technology to support an agile working practice didn’t exist or was simply out of reach for most organisations (requiring a lotto win to afford it). And today, while the technology exists and is accessible to many organisations, there are still notable challenges along the way.
The frustration for many organisations seems to start with trying to identify which part of their organisation can or should be agile and who is going to advise them what they need to do to operationalise their real estate, technology and change management strategy in conjunction with their business processes.
Most would agree that agile is more than reading your emails on the train or finalising a document in a café. At the same time, we probably have all experienced an organisation that appears to be agile despite their built environment or lack of supporting technology (these are the people who don’t need change management!)
So how can you tell if your company is a good fit for an agile work environment?
Ironically some professions have agile working practices built into their DNA – think armed services personnel, architects and designers. While each has a methodology or approach, the fundamental bedrock for designers is design thinking: test, concept, prototype, critique, re-do, re-assess, go again. Similarly, combat personnel reviewing options and performing situational analyses is a matter of survival – the ultimate performance outcome!
So, the challenge seems to be on many fronts. The first being the lack of empirical evidence, especially for medium to large organisations to identify what business processes need primary focus on to maximise business improvement. However, that is for another day.
If you think an agile workplace is something to aspire to you should consider these 5 questions before you start that journey:
- Would agile working improve your business performance based on your current observations of work practices and performance?
- Do you have the culture to support change and will you need assistance to map this out?
- Have you talked to your IT Manager lately? Do you/they have the budget to support such an initiative along with the resources to map, test and trial alternative solutions to your current set up. Can they get excited by this initiative or just see more work for them and their team?
- Can you get all the players in the room?
- What are the implications for your real estate footprint. More space, less space, different space, shared space?
Peter Drucker, arguably the world’s first management consultant, proposed that organisations exist purely to satisfy two functions: innovation and marketing. Create your product or service and then promote it. It is the innovation that everybody is now focussed on. Gone are the days that only the Henry Fords and Steve Jobs are the innovators – every organisation wants/needs them now.
The question is – does an agile environment assist you with this goal? If so, consult widely and seek professional support to guide your vision as there are a plenty of variables to consider.
Case study: PepsiCo | Bringing the agile work philosophy to life
The IA Design team worked closely with PepsiCo to bring their agile work philosophy to life in a brand new three-story space in Sydney. Drawing inspiration from the rich history of the brand and the new agile work philosophy, the IA Design team produced an incredible, highly-functional new workplace for the PepsiCo team.
Authored by John Healy
John Healy is the QLD Regional Director at IA Design with over 30 years of experience in the property industry. John’s expertise covers design, client side project management and construction. John’s focus is to understand the client’s key issues, drive innovation and foster collaboration to ensure the successful execution of the project.
Contact the IA Design team to discuss your workplace strategy and design opportunities.
Phone: (07) 3225 7290