Ever been asked whether you’ll work an ‘agile’ environment? It’s a buzzword you’ll see in countless job adverts, not just within tech but in all manner of sectors. For the uninitiated, Agile can seem daunting, unknown or just downright baffling.
In fact, Agile workplaces are simpler to understand than you’d expect (or, as simple as you can get for something that’s categorised as a ‘philosophy’!) It’s all about organising working cultures and environments to achieve better productivity with happier, more empowered employees.
“But won’t I have to hot desk? (*Shudder*)” “Don't I have to constantly change what I’m working on?” “Surely it’s just another one of these workplace fads, right?”
Actually, at Pentasia, we advise candidates to embrace agile workplace culture – it provides incredible opportunity for individuals within medium and large sized organisations. Those who dive right in get enormous value from agile workplaces: more autonomy; career advancement; enhanced job satisfaction.
So, after a quick review of what agile actually is (always helpful!), we thought we’d share some of our best advice for making the most of the agile workplace and using it to boost your career:
What Is Agile?
Million dollar question, this. Crucially, Agile is a ‘methodology’ – ie. there’s no prescribed set of rules, it’s more a collection of ideas and principles to follow. How agile is implemented varies by area: there are agile workplaces, agile projects, agile processes, agile HR policies...
Let’s look at a few definitions:
“(Agile is) based on the concept that work is an activity we do, rather than a place we go. Agile working is a transformational tool to allow organisations to work smarter by eliminating all barriers to working efficiently.”
NHS Working Guide
“Agile working is about bringing people, processes, connectivity and technology, time and place together to find the most appropriate and effective way of working to carry out a particular task. It is working within guidelines (of the task) but without boundaries (of how you achieve it).”
“We are uncovering better ways of developing software by doing it and helping others do it.”
Opening Lines of the 12 Point Agile Manifesto (Software development’s implementation of Agile is an ethos in its own right.)
More specifically, though – as famously pioneered by Spotify – agile workplaces are often structured as Squads, Chapters, Guilds and Tribes. In start opposition to traditional pyramid-style top-down organisational structures, Tribal Working disseminates power, enabling focus, autonomy and nimble adaptation in even the largest of organisations.
Image: Spotify’s famous organisational structure, via full-stackagile.com
It isn’t just tech titans who’ve adopted agile working – the setup has become pervasive in companies across the sectors: Netflix, Unilever, Sky, BT and even the NHS are all advocates of the positive change agile working cultures can bring. Even in an industry where progress often languishes in the broom cupboard - finance - agile working is taking hold:
Of course, there’s a fine-line between innovation and nonsense. Ian Fletcher, the senior media executive characterised in the BBC’s parody-of-itself, W1A perhaps best embodies the concerns we all have about 'over-optimising' the workplace…
But think about the greater good!
Agile Workplaces: Your Chance To Shine
Agile workplaces are the perfect environment in which to build your career and work towards your ambitions. The whole movement is designed to empower you - the individual. Here’s what you need to know to make the most of the opportunity:
1 - First - Get On Board, Properly
First and foremost, you need to get on board with the idea now: jump in with both feet. When a recruiter or interviewer next asks how you feel about agile working, tell them the truth – that you’re excited and intrigued to find out how it works. (You know it’s good for both companies and individuals, so what’s not to like?!)
2 - Trust, Responsibility & Opportunity
Agile working environments are all about empowerment. As part of a small team, rather than the lowest on a towering ladder of power-structures, you’ll have genuine opportunities to contribute and be able to see the fruits of your successes. Failure isn’t the killer blow it can be elsewhere – with strong team units, blame culture should be replaced by trust and acceptance of responsibility.
3 - Work How You Work Best
Work shouldn’t just be about clocking in and clocking out. It definitely shouldn’t be about dress codes, or how long you take for lunch. Agile workplaces are focussed on you getting the job done. Whether you do the work at home, with others, on a sofa, at 2am, or in your own unique way – as long as you’re supporting the overall objective, it’s all good.
4 - Minimise Stress Triggers
Stress and anxiety are, by many reports, at pandemic levels. Our organisations, and the way in which they pressurise individual employees, undoubtedly have a large amount to answer for in this regard. Agile structures are, by design, vastly better for individuals’ mental health, allowing them to focus and giving them powers to solve problems themselves, rather than being hit by issues they’ve no way of solving.
5 - Enhanced Environment
By some accounts, companies can become agile simply by getting rid of a few desks and adding some comfy sofas. Agile isn’t all about office design – fundamentally, it’s a culture shift – but physical environments and architecture can make this change almost effortless. Working in a truly agile organisation, you can expect all kinds of working areas, from shared spaces to huddle rooms, quiet areas to buzzy lounges.
Bonus - Become An Agile Champion
Agile has made its way right across the world of work. The word itself may be largely unknown, but employees in all sorts of fields are now familiar with the values it preaches. This change has taken visionary leadership from people who understood the value of difficult but worthwhile change. Organisations need more and more of these ‘agile champions’ to ensure working cultures continually evolve and adapt to improve productivity, motivation and even staff happiness. Maybe that person could be you!