Technology Alone Won’t Make Your Organization Agile

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What’s the difference between agile working and flextime?

As Alison Maitland explains in her Financial Times article, the difference is profound: “Flexible working arrangements, which have been around for a long time, are individually negotiated, require management permission and are seen primarily as an employee benefit and an exception to the norm. Agile, or smart, working is business-driven, harnessing technology to create a new norm where everyone may work anytime anywhere, provided business needs are met. It is based on evidence of benefits such as higher employee productivity, lower office costs, a reduced carbon footprint and more motivated workers.”

So, although people often use the terms “agile working” and “flextime” interchangeably, they’re not the same at all. Plus, the evidence-based benefits of agile working accrue to both employer and employee. To be fair, research supports a similar argument for flexible working but in a truly agile environment the benefits are far more extensive because the entire workforce is involved.

There’s another key difference between an agile organization and one that simply supports flextime: agile organizations have agile leadership.

Technology Enables Agility — It Doesn’t Create It

To gain agility, many organizations focus deeply (if not solely) on technology. Without a doubt, technology is essential to agile working. However, as Maitland points out, agility can’t flourish unless the company’s senior leaders are on board. And the strategy driving agility “needs to be business-wide, with heads of departments such as finance, human resources, IT and property driving it together.”

In his blog post, “How Business Leaders Can Create Agile Cultures for Digital Talent,” Zenith Talent’s CEO, Sunil Bagai, notes that “companies must not only become digital, they must transition to cultures of agility. A virtual workforce ensures that pressing projects can be completed in real-time, from any location. By rethinking bygone management structures and embracing the fluidity of digital ecosystems, we can develop high-performing virtual teams that deliver real results.”

Hierarchical, command and control type structures fail to support agile working, says Dr. Simon Hayward, chief executive officer of Cirrus, a company that specializes in leadership, talent and engagement. In the recent Forbes article, “Cultural Barriers To Agile Working,” Hayward states, “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.”

For lots of companies, these issues of leadership and trust are the biggest barriers to agility.

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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