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Agile Working – A Guide

Considering the huge technical advances of the last 20 years and corresponding changes to our daily working lives, it is surprising how little the organizational and hierarchical structures of most companies have changed. In fact, many of them still have the same structures as in the era of the shorthand pad, telex and typewriter.

To be able to keep pace with ever shorter innovation and product cycles it is, however, imperative that companies become more flexible and dynamic. The magic term for this is “agile working” and is far more than just a new trend…
This was also the case for the client, a service provider with a national structure, who asked Global DiVision for help with implementation. The existing, classic top-down organization was no longer able to keep pace with the fast-moving market, particularly with regard to new business. The question was not whether the company needed to become more agile but rather how.

Independent Teamwork
The implementation of agile working requires the company to be literally turned on its head. The pyramid is reversed, with managers now supporting the broad platform on which teams work independently. Control and instruction become support and encouragement. Micro-planning is replaced with clear goals and guidelines, thus allowing the organization to react quickly to changes and unexpected events.

Preparing Agile Structures
Good preparation is essential, particularly for the new team role. A good team is always made up of very diverse characters. More freedom also means more accountability. Staff who work independently must also take responsibility for their mistakes. Highly qualified, committed employees are usually happy to take up this challenge. Others, in contrast, may feel more comfortable working to the best of their abilities to complete tasks that have been assigned to them – and have no desire to take on more responsibility. Managers, in turn, may fear the loss of control and be unable to see how they fit into the new system.
Human Resources and the management tier play a central role in the introduction of agile structures and processes. Success is directly dependent on the composition of the teams. New employees in particular should be selected for their high level of self-autonomy and also because they actively seek it. “Team-building processes should receive professional support, either from a correspondingly trained HR department or from competent external consultants such as Global DiVision,” says the Human Resources Director.

In the final instance, such restructuring cannot simply be decided and implemented. Agile organizational structures must be developed step-by-step, with the company growing into the new structure. Employees and lower/middle management in particular must be carefully prepared and involved. Failure to do so will result in the process backfiring.

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