The Future of Work and Where Agile Fits

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You and the organisation you work for are the future of work

Whenever I read an article or blog about a future of work, the most common theme I see is radical change. It's one that is presented as a far reaching, highly disruptive series of events, usually involving robots, climate change and loss of jobs. But in truth, the future of work is here, forming around us today. At our workplaces, weekend events, and even the local post office or supermarket. We tend not to notice, but we see it everyday; on-demand deliveries, self checkouts and chat bot apps are all relatively new and are slowly changing our world.

Surprisingly the most common element that is creating the change is you; the stakeholder, the customer, the end user. There’s no opt-in, no cast your votes please. You’ve already voted with your wallet and sometimes your heart and mind. You are the disruptor and will in part shape what the future of work looks like.

So where does agile fit into the future of work?

Whilst agile has been positioned as the ability to respond to change, either by design or by outcomes, these notions overlook the why we respond to change and what that change represents. Put simply, we respond to change to satisfy the wants and needs of our growing customer base. So if we’re looking at a future state of the world, how would we utilise agile to respond to the changes that are occurring here and now, or better still, the changes that have not yet occurred? Perhaps the answer lies within the question. Does agile fit into the future of work at all? Or is agile and the future of work one and the same? Let’s first better understand organisational agility.

The path towards organisational agility

There’s three distinct layers; Ways of Working – how we work, Lean Portfolio Management – prioritising the right work at the right time, and System of Work – which influences the flow of work. When these are humming along nicely can we see the true power of organisational agility. At the surface, this is how well the organisation is geared for change, but how well the organisation responds to change itself is better captured by a fourth and far more sophisticated layer, developmental agility. This is the collective capacity, capability, confidence and coherence of the individuals within the organisation, how well we communicate, share knowledge and grow despite the challenges we meet along the way.

Responding and leading the change through organisational agility

It’s not easy, but you can create the culture in an organisation that truly believes in its people, and where they have the psychological safety to take risks and take action.

Think of an opportunity for improvement within your workplace, past or present. No doubt you’ve experienced challenges at each of these layers of the organisation, whether it’s failed to surface at all, it’s surfaced but wasn’t correctly prioritised or worse, "it’s how we’ve always done it".

Now imagine if there was a more inviting pathway, an operating rhythm for continuous improvements, or a way of separating business as usual from initiative work, no outdated policies or procedures getting in the way, or no politics suppressing your ideas. Imagine a culture that enables ideas to flourish, regularly and consistently, shifting the organisation in line with the future of work. A culture that inadvertently leads change.

Lead the change you wish to seek

If the collective mindset or culture of your organisation is to support its people and enable them to grow, then not only is that organisation able to respond to the change but it is also able to create and lead the change it wishes to seek.

"That is the ultimate balance of agility in a future state organisation. One that understands where there is value and responds; one that enables value to be created and leads."

Key takeaways:

1. We are disrupting the future of work already, so why not be a disruptor in your organisation too?
2. We are responsible for the change you wish to seek
3. Agility relies on a willingness to change, and if need be, a willingness to lead the change

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