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Culture makes a workforce Agile

An organisation’s culture determines if it works in an agile way or not; technology will forever be what enables individuals and teams to work in the way they ideally want to, but can never be the deciding factor.

To think of it another way, technology must be implemented in a people-centric way or it will not enable you to be agile.

We will use the Collins Dictionary to define agile: An agile system is one that is designed in a way that makes it easy to make changes as they are needed.

Think of Red Hat’s approach to Continuous Integration, Continuous Delivery for developers: it is about having a culture of making changes when they are needed, where they are needed.

A practical example of agile thinking

How does this parse with the real-world, you may ask? We will use the example of the VPN – a Virtual Private Network. This allows machines on different internet lines to securely connect so they they behave as if they are using the same internet/network. (If you are curious about VPNs try this Open Learn course.)

The VPN is understood to have been invented in 1996, with a paper on implementation publicly available in 1999 – in others words the VPN has existed since the 20th century.

Many organisations still lack VPNs, either because of concerns over implementing it securely or because of a lack of general expertise in using it well.

If your organisation has a firewall, which it should in any case, regardless of if you are fully virtual or have premises, then you already have access to a VPN through that – using OpenVPN any individual or organisation can configure and deploy a VPN at no extra cost to them. It is also the framework big-name cloud-hosting providers use.

Unfortunately we see many firms which come to us have this facility but fail to use it at all – they can’t imagine having a workforce that can securely connect to their systems using the internet. Some organisations fail to have processes in place to facilitate flexible working, despite the technology to enable it being freely available.

The indecision over implementing a VPN is because of a cultural perspective on ‘how to work’ rather limitations over technology or working-processes. Many organisations implement a secure VPN that allows their teams to work in a flexible way.

It is also the case that some, if only even one, of your staff would enjoy being able to work in a way that allows them to better accommodate other elements of their lives – be it hobbies, family or other responsibilities within their community. It pays to ask, and to change.

But that's so last century

The practical example of how to enable a more agile workforce above is one of many, in fact many of the fundamental concepts in computing are not new – and have existed and flourished over many decades.

Having a culture of trust, enablement and accountability allows organisations to use certain methodologies to grow rather than putting all of their effort into simply standing still. Standing still is difficult in itself, but will invariably mean others are more competitive and offer a more tailored service to your customers and prospects.

In not being swept up by new fads in technology we find organisations can go back to their roots – of being experts whose judgement and experience is what customers come to them for, and for that to be delivered in confidence in a practical way through current and proven technologies.

A culture of change is also not new at all – anyone familiar with history would have heard of the Renaissance, a period of significant innovation using established concepts of engineering from other nations in Eurasia to ‘re-invent’ engineering in central-Europe.

Staff may well be dissatisfied over a lack of consultation on what would help their working lives be more enjoyable and more productive. Not asking about what can change and what can be improved, even if only as a formality initially, is also a sign that your organisation lacks such flex.

Centuries ago individuals and organisations had the agility to accommodate and enable the people who make the place. The technology was a means, not an end – that is what made the Renaissance a ‘Golden Age’.


Being agile is about the long view

Using agile methodologies is fundamentally about taking a long view on where you want your organisation to be. It is about incremental change, being done in an accountable and recordable way to satisfy current needs.

The proverb ‘A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step‘ should be front of mind when transitioning to a more agile way of thinking and working.

We heartily recommend reading the book Be More Pirate [ISBN-13: 978-0241307885] on change-making if you are not sure where to start.

Since 2017 Hayachi Services have helped legal and professional services firms of all sizes deliver digital transformation projects, you too are always welcome to say hello.

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