Lived Experience of Employees Is More Important Than Written Working Practices

Andrew Jones, CEO of Agility in Mind describes the company as a business agility transformation consultancy, helping organisations to become more agile, flexible and responsive in the way they do things. He feels ingrained practices, processes and culture prevent organisations responding to changes in the wider environment. He aims to help people change the way they work together and get employees to feel more confident about changes they can make themselves.

In terms of diversity and inclusion, Andrew feels that organisations have reached the point where things need to adapt more rapidly. Digital engagement has forced the issue and created new expectations of employers, especially amongst younger people.

Agility in Mind gets to know the client organisation well, asking, ‘What are the constraints, both real and perceived? How do people work together? What is the content of employee dialogue?’ It’s important to respect that each organisation is different and evolving, which builds credibility with clients and paints a clear picture of what’s going on.

Things start to change when employees start to do things differently. Agility in Mind creates their impact through training and a simple toolkit, focused on people working together more effectively.

Creating an Agile and Inclusive Culture

Setting outcomes, essentially the characteristics that the organisation is trying to achieve, is vital. Andrew advocates a multi-disciplinary team approach, where the team builds a roadmap and breaks big milestones down into smaller tasks.

‘We don’t want the programme to be seen as just another HR initiative. Diversity and inclusion affects everyone and we don’t want lip service. A multi-disciplinary team is better aligned to achieve outcomes across the whole organisation.’

Involving people across the organisation breaks down barriers and encourages adoption and when people start to see there’s something in it for their team, or solves some of their problems, it creates buy-in across teams and departments.

Senior people must lead change and Agility in Mind’s training instils a shared common language about the organisation: a single key person being off message can easily undo the team’s work.

Benefits of Agile

Andrew contrasts Agile principles with waterfall project management. In waterfall a project team spends a lot of time documenting a plan, then works through the plan, only testing outputs near the endpoint. Progress isn’t visible. Agile is about incremental change in small steps. Tasks are completed quickly, and progress can be seen. People aren’t stuck in a room writing a theoretical plan. The Agile process is iterative, providing live learning feedback throughout implementation. This way there is a better chance change will stick and become part of the culture.

Agile Principles

Agile prioritises conversations over documentation. The first item on the Agile Manifesto is ‘individuals and interactions over processes and tools.’ Andrew thinks that people forget that the way they work together is the most important thing. He adds, ‘What tends to happen is that people look for the tangible in processes and tools and try to force those into the organisation. This approach only delivers some level of adoption. Working practices are more important than the documentation about what they are going to be. Lived experience of employees is more important than written working practices.’

Advice to HR Directors

To implement change in an Agile way, Andrew recommends that an organisation knows where it is trying to get to, getting there in small increments, a bit at a time, where you can see the benefits and learn from the process. Learning is a fundamental Agile principle. He says, ‘You won’t always get it right, but it’s better to find what works and what doesn’t in small increments than to find a whole programme has failed.’

The above case study is one of several in my book Inclusive Growth: Future-proof your business by creating a diverse workplace.

Lived Experience of Employees Is More Important Than Written Working Practices - Mildon