Simon Hayward from Cirrus comments in Forbes

Cultural barriers to agile working

Agile Working is a phrase that is often bandied about by organisations in a bid to work more effectively and reduce real estate costs. But what impact does agile working have on organisational culture and the traditional command and control hierarchy? Dr Simon Hayward, CEO of Cirrus, comments in Forbes.

The demographics, attitudes and physical make-up of the workforce have changed dramatically over the past decade, which in turn has influenced organisational culture.

Agile working is defined by the Agile Future Forum as a set of practices that allow organisations to establish an optimal workforce and provide the benefits of a greater match between the resources and the demand for services, increased productivity and improved talent attraction and retention.

Leadership Connections research in 2015 from Cirrus and Ipsos MORI revealed agility as the number one priority for business leaders. Dr Simon Hayward, chief executive officer of Cirrus, argues that becoming an agile organisation has many benefits such as innovation, competitiveness and customer focus but business leaders need to be clear about the organisation’s purpose and goals. “You need to cut through bureaucracy and prioritise ruthlessly, focusing your effort on a few key goals rather than engaging in multiple initiatives. All of these things can be difficult to do because they often require significant cultural and behavioural shifts. In my experience the biggest barriers to agile working are a tolerance for poor behaviour and an acceptance of a conservative mindset that supports the status quo and is resistant to change.”

How employees have occupied their individual workspaces has changed dramatically over the last few years. Workplace Trends research commissioned by Gensler revealed that in the average workplace, individual workspaces are occupied only 55% of the time on average. Organisations are offering options to work somewhere other than the company’s head office at least to some employees.

Hierarchical, command and control type structures fail to support agile working, argues Dr Simon Hayward. “If a company wants to become more agile, leaders and managers need to devolve responsibility and decision-making across the business. This requires that they ‘let go’ and trust others. The pace of change is so relentless in today’s world that agility has become absolutely critical in order to respond to challenges such as the demands of customers, the digital explosion and rapidly changing marketplaces. Managers need to enable front-line employees to react swiftly to these challenges. By providing clear focus and direction, managers can ensure everyone is clear about the part they play in achieving goals with speed.”

© Forbes 2017

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