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4 Effective Ways to Drive Agility in the Digital Workplace

November 24, 2021
9 min read

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“Right now, your company has 21st-century Internet-enabled business processes, mid-20th-century management processes, all built atop 19th-century management principles.” ― Gary Hamel, The Future of Management 

Does this quote resonate with your organization? In today’s new era of work, people-led processes are no longer aligned to the digital workforce as organizations enter hybrid, remote or distributed workplaces.  

How can Agile methodologies be used to increase speed, alignment, and engagement in your organization? 

Michael Loughlean, Associate Director at Accenture and Teamit's Candace GiesbrechtDirector of the Remote Performance Academy & Certified Agile PeopleOps Coach and Alistair Shepherd-Cross, President & Co-Founder, discussed how to help your organization drive agility during a time of disruption and uncertainty. We dive into four key takeaways shared in the discussion.   

Watch webinar on demand. 

Learning #1: Try not to be too hard on yourself. Instead, embrace change, creativity and curiosity.  

Many organizations are transitioning to distributed workplaces. For organizations that are still using outdated management processes in this digital world, they are going to continue facing challenges. 

“The drive to change is stressing out these old structures to the point where they're failing. They can't move at the pace and speed that they need to. And so, we're sensing it there with this absolute sort of overwhelming feeling that you can't get the work done,” said Loughlean.  

Alistair also noted the imbalance between old ideals and old management styles versus the new world and employee expectations. “The mindset of the new employee, and the fact that the power has gone into the hands of the individual, has given people much more choice than they've ever had,” said Shepherd-Cross. “It's happened so quickly and companies have struggled to keep up with that amount of change and how their actual employees have changed over the last two years.” 

As both Alistair and Michael pointed out when was the last time we had our whole life in balance? 

“Balance is not a thing. It's a verb. It's something you're constantly working to maintain. There isn't a state of balance, where it’s all running smoothly and you have it handled,” said Loughlean.  

By adopting an Agile mindset you’re embracing change and constantly looking where you can improve things.  

Learning #2: Incorporate Scrum to increase team motivation and connection. 

It’s more common to hear teams and individuals experiencing a sense of disconnect from their team or company in a remote or distributed workplace. These were the exact challenges an organization was experiencing before Michael introduced the team to Scrum.  

“I had a series of really smart experts that were doing a body of work, but doing it completely individually. And so, two weeks after starting Scrum, I had the team come to me, not an individual come to me, and say we've never felt like the team we feel like today, shared Loughlean. “We know what each other are working on, we've been able to help and assist each other and we see obvious synergies between the work.” 

By implementing a regular communication cadence such as Scrum, it can help boost team motivation and connection. If you’re interested in learning more about Scrum, Michael highly recommended reading Jeff Sutherland’s book, Scrum: The Art of Doing Twice the Work in Half the Time 

Learning #3: Stop micromanaging and apply Agile principles to drive accountability and productivity. 

One of the biggest mistakes companies are making right now is micromanaging.  

“A lot of leaders don't have experience on how to run remote teams and it's not their fault because they were leading pre-pandemic when people were in the office,” said Shepherd-Cross. “Now that we have remote workforces, leaders have been forced into this, whether they like it or not.” 

This is where trust and micromanagement issues surface, which is a red flag for employees and candidates. With lots of tools out there used to track performance and activity, it can leave people feeling micromanaged and watched all the time. 

"People want to be given an opportunity to grow, make decisions and have some autonomy,” said Shepherd-Cross.  

So, how do you drop the micro in managing to build trust? Be Agile.  

“Management always likes to focus and say, Well, are you getting stuff done? And at what rate are you accomplishing it? When are you going to be finished this work?,” noted Loughlean.  

Michael points to Scrum and how it allows work to be visual which helps leaders and teams accomplish several things including tracking the work that needs to get done, what’s been accomplished, and how people can help each other. “The process is helping to make sure that you're getting the right things done,” added Loughlean.  

Learning #4: Apply the VUCA Prime model to guide organizational direction during volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous times. 

In 1987, the US Army War College introduced the acronym VUCA to describe the state of the post-Cold War world. It stands for Volatility, Uncertainty, Complexity, Ambiguity. How can it be used to guide individuals and organizations to preparedness for the future? 

For Michael, he uses VUCA as an indicator of the problem and then VUCA Prime to map out the vision when it comes to solving a particular problem.  

“Don't put your best people on your biggest problem, put them on your biggest opportunity,” said Loughlean. “Sometimes problems need to be solved. And in many other cases, they need to be left behind and you need to move to the next thing. VUCA is all about trying to solve that sort of upcoming thing.” 

But how do we achieve preparedness for the future when the world is volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous? For HR and PeopleOps leaders, Candace recommends embracing a from-to shift mindset (from VUCA to VUCA Prime). 
Volatility → Vision 

Uncertainty Understanding 

Complexity Clarity 

Ambiguity Agility 

Learn more about how you can apply the VUCA Prime model to your HR and PeopleOps functions. 

Want more insights? Watch webinar on-demand. 

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About the author


Teamit helps growth-focused companies recruit top talent, scale quickly and build high performing technical teams in North America and South America.