Transformation requires flexibility, but not without agility


Agile has become a bit of a buzzword in the last year and for good reason. Agility is key to success in a digitally transforming working world.

The measure of intelligence is the ability to change,’ Einstein once said, and it’s a concept widely recognised by businesses today in conversations about flexibility and agility. But while these terms are often used interchangeably, they refer to two vastly different business capabilities.

Agility versus flexibility

Agility is described as ‘the ability to move quickly and easily’ while flexibility points at ‘the ability to change.’ For long-term success, businesses should be prepared for both.

But what exactly does it mean to be ‘agile’ today? An individual or an organisation is ‘agile’ when they’re able to quickly adapt or evolve in response to changing circumstances. Being able to break down barriers in the workplace in order to meet changing business needs, advancements, or technologies, is essential for any agile team.

The recent COVID-19 effects have shown that the socio-economic environment is becoming ever more unpredictable. It goes without saying that this has ripple effects on businesses around the world, and it has led to many developing contingency plans that involve significant changes, such as migrating head offices or adjusting to remote working.

Forward thinking businesses are taking a longer-term view, revising their entire business model to make sure it is prepared to withstand both the current challenges on the table and any changes that may follow. In other words, they are aspiring to not only be a flexible business, but an agile one.

The difference between success and failure

As entrepreneurs and business leaders know, when and how to act can be the difference between success and failure. Knowing the optimum moment to make the change, is essential to success.

Flexibility is just as important, as it’s inevitable that businesses will pivot and modify processes as they go along, and this shouldn’t be avoided. But by having an agile business, business can future proof themselves because they are establishing a model that is built to change.

Businesses that are modelled on rigid structures, processes and a fixed understanding of the world will take twice as long to react and adapt, losing time and putting them squarely behind the competition.

In the years to come, there is no question that businesses will have to adapt to unpredictable and challenging changes.

South Africa, a perfect example, considering the no end in sight to the power problems we are faced with and the uncertainty that the pandemic brings, is an obvious candidate to embrace agility in the workplace. But how does a static business become an agile business?

One step to agility is giving employees choice on how and where they work. There is a brighter future in products and services catering to the model where employees mix working from home with time in an office environment. This ‘hybrid’ way of working is a welcomed solution. I’m a firm believer that the office is an important part of everyday living.

What is an agile workplace?

Agile workplaces are spaces designed for maximum flexibility. They empower employees to work how, where and when they choose, making all of the technology and tools they need readily available.

Agile workspace designs are not just about creating a cool new vibe for your workplace. The agile concept is about generating higher levels of output in quantity and quality of work.

Employees in agile work environments are often not constrained by conventional 9-5 work schedules, and they may be free to work remotely.

Adaptability and agility

Adaptability will be an essential trait for individuals as each day they face new challenges and a shift in expectations in the workplace.

The skillset that got someone promoted last week may be what causes their job to be eliminated next week. Past success cannot be taken as an indicator of the future. Employees must remain focused on the future and their role in creating it.

Processes that enable organisational agility (both by supporting dynamic change and rapid response to environmental stimuli) will serve as the key strategic differentiators relative to competitors.

With windows of opportunity getting shorter, how quickly the organisation responds and executes will be equally (if not more) important than the actual response.

The agile approach to workspace configuration is ideal for companies in which the emphasis is on outcomes instead of attendance, and corporate leaders have found that it’s smart business to adopt new ways for workplaces to function that can positively impact staff retention, collaboration, creativity, productivity and general wellbeing.

Optimising the use of space has also become a higher priority for companies striving to manage against rising lease rates, utilities, and facilities maintenance costs.

Always bearing in mind that green-minded business leaders have an additional motivation for reducing space to achieve reduced environmental impact, whilst still providing a satisfying experience for employees at the workplace.

Embracing the agile mindset

Creating an agile office requires much more than simply transforming your physical space. It requires a shift in organisational thinking that doesn’t just ‘miraculously happen’ once you buy new office furniture.

When it comes to making the leap to agile working, start with asking why, follow up with asking who and how. If you answer those questions first, the process of designing your where will be infinitely easier.

The transformation is real, now is the time to make the changes to ensure resilience for the uncertain future.

Joanne Bushell | Managing Director | VP Sales in Africa | Regus | IWG plc | mail me |



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