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Fast Forward 9 Months, Who Would Have Thought...?

I wrote a blog a while back called Agile Working and Mindsets - Does it Really Make Sense to Travel 4 Hours a Day? I couldn’t quite remember when I wrote it (what does that say about my memory?) and so I went back to check; it was in October 2019. Nine months on and the world is in lockdown, and on re-reading my blog I realised that the work I'm doing with a client at the moment, and the questions being asked, were things I raised in this blog. Therefore, I thought it would be good to revisit some of these points and see where people and companies currently are with it all.
 
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For some of you, you will have already been working in an agile way whether you realise it or not. For example, you may choose to read or send work emails from home without realising that what you're actually doing is agile working. For others, because of your role or your managers’ style or mindset, you may not have been able to. The outbreak of COVID-19 turned the world upside down and showed individuals and companies that a lot more could be done from home; that relatively easily, people and organisations could adapt. Admittedly this came at pace, and possibly with the idea that this would all be temporary. However, I know a lot of companies are now reviewing whether or not this is indeed temporary. If this would be the "new normal", what would this look like? What do we need to put in place? What should we do differently to create a new “permanent temporary”? What won’t be agile? A lot of people have said the only constant is change. I personally believe that transition - how we align ourselves with that external event - may become the new constant.

Let me explain my thinking. In Kobler & Ross’ Change Curve you have chaos; definitely a word you could use to describe the world in the past few months! Each one of us is attempting to create order out of that chaos, as well as some sort of certainty out of ambiguity. Companies have also been doing this - looking at what they've been able to achieve in a very short period of time, how they and their employees have adapted, and what they've learnt that they should continue to do in the new world.
 
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In my article last October I talked about how 300 years ago people worked on the land; people worked from home or close to home, cared for their families (young and old), and focused on output; what they delivered in order to support them. People were independent and focused on the end goal. People were also part of their community; they knew the people around them. Up until five months ago, for a lot of people this simply wasn't the case. They lived somewhere far away from where they worked, often in dormitory towns or commuter communities. What COVID-19 has done has made people work close to or at home again, focus on the end goal - which is really important when leading in an agile environment, and be part of a community. This community may be twofold - locally where you live, but also your work community.

As great people-managers, it's about creating that sense of community within your teams virtually in order to be productive and deliver. However, where and when you deliver matters less, provided you focus on deliverables. Companies (and the aforementioned client I'm working with) are asking what agile working could look like for them. Over the past few months people have had to work around home schooling, caring, self-isolating and shielding. This has meant that their start & finish times and general working day have been very different. If we align this to when we are at our most effective, we could all be working at different times in the day. We accept global time zones, so what stops us from accepting that individuals have different personal "time zones"? Asking people to conform to set working hours seems counter-productive when you really think about it!

Like all things in life, it's about a balance of those individual working relationships that impact on the team and the wider business. An office is full of distractions; people wanting your attention, talking about what they did the night before, and of course meetings! A home is also full of distractions, however. Therefore it's how you adapt - ensuring you create boundaries between home and work, and being mindful of virtual meeting fatigue. In an agile world it's important to be more supportive of an inclusive culture; for example, a lot of people with a disability can't work because they simply can't get to an office. Similarly, our unconscious bias often comes to the fore as a result of what we see. In virtual meetings you don’t have to see someone.

As the past few months have proven, there are many benefits of working agilely which often also lead on to other benefits: greater engagement; lower attrition rates; better & easier recruitment, and managers and leaders being viewed as human - it only takes a leader's child to walk into the background of a Microsoft Teams meeting for them to be perceived in a different way!

Realise that we're just at the start of this journey. Take the learnings from the past few months and focus on what you will stop, start, or continue doing;
Aspire to ensure that all of your processes are agile themselves, and;
Do adopt an individual adaptive leadership style. Remember, as a colleague of mine, Tom Crawford, says; “how you lead today will determine what you can say tomorrow”.

Blog Posts

  • thumb_home-office-4980353_1920.jpg
    I wrote a blog a while back called Agile Working and Mindsets - Does it Really Make Sense to Travel 4 Hours a Day? I couldn’t quite remember when I wrote it so I went back to check; it was in October 2019. Nine months on and the world is in lockdown, and on re-reading my blog I realised that the work I'm doing with a client at the moment, and the questions being asked, were things I raised in this blog. Therefore, I thought it would be good to revisit some of these points and see where people and companies currently are with it all.
  • thumb_speak-238488_1920.jpg

    The psychological work contract will never be the same again. People are now asking "Do I want to do this? What do I need in order to do my job? What is important to me?".

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    The disruptions to our daily routines, uncertainty about finances, concerns about becoming infected or losing loved ones, and isolation are creating unprecedented levels of stress. No one is going to be at his or her best under these circumstances; the COVID-19 pandemic has created a perfect storm for our dark sides to emerge...
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    I've always been interested in peoples’ values and what motivates them.  At this moment in time, employee motivation has been thrust into the spotlight more than ever.
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    The future world of work has changed. This change has been aggressive and due to a virus, and not (as has been talked about for years) as a result of AI. How we feel about the way we work and how we interact with organisations has radically changed, forever.