It seems that just when we get a handle on work and office life, we're having to adjust again as another management fad is thrust on to workers in an attempt to solve the increasingly complex problems businesses grapple with — from software solutions to marketing matrixes.
Although not new, more and more organisations are now aligning to "agile ways of working", where you may need to "hot desk", work in squads and tribes instead of departments (or the dreaded silo), and work for coaches not managers.
If that sounds daunting to those unfamiliar with the popular workplace methodology, it needn't be, says afficionado Shane Hastie, chairman of the Agile Alliance of New Zealand and director of community development for certification body, ICAgile.
"Agile ways of working can be defined as humanistic work focused on customer value," says Hastie. "People shouldn't fear it, because respect for people is at its core."
The word "agile" is defined as being able to move quickly and easily, which is the essence of the agile project management method characterised by the division of tasks into short phases of work with frequent reassessment and adaptation of plans.
"The 20th century was about efficiency and predictability, but, the 21st century is about adapting to customer needs. If an organisation is not able to respond quickly, they will be left behind," says Hastie. "Agile approaches are a way to respond quickly."
Started in IT, especially for software development, it also has its roots in rugby and one of the first agile ways of working was the SCRUM Software Development Process, based on the methodology of a rugby scrum being a team working toward a common goal.
It's now used in other areas of business, such as in people operations and human resources, in finance, manufacturing and marketing — anywhere a complex problem exists to be solved.
"New Zealand is a country suited to agile ways of working," says Hastie. "It matches our culture quite well and globally were up there with the best of them, most definitely."
He says BNZ is doing a great job within its digital teams with agile philosophies, as well as Snapper ticketing and some government departments. Uber and Airbnb are also held up as organisations incorporating agile ways of working effectively.
"ANZ is the biggest poster-child for agile," says Hastie. "No one is doing it perfectly, but ANZ has certainly seen improvement for employees as a better place to work and the goals of the transition to better customer engagement and profitability."
However, he also sees quite a few "fragile" or "fake agile" models in the workplace, where it doesn't work out. He believes it comes from the top and how it's introduced, saying: "You can lead change, but you can't manage it, you can inspire change, but you can't mandate it."
"As with any innovative way of working, there are some who really get it and make the mindset and culture shift that are needed," says Hastie. "Others see it as a fashion or fad, or a CEO hears about it on a plane and forces it upon the company without understanding the cultural shift needed."
He says it doesn't have to happen right away and that agile ways of working are about adapting and changing, so should be seen as a journey, not an end result.
Some people may be alarmed by the notion of hot-desking or basing where you sit around teams rather than departments. Hastie agrees having no permanent desk could be "an absolute nightmare" if not done correctly. "Hot desking doesn't make an organisation agile," says Hastie.
"However, we do know that work today is mainly done in small cross-functional collaborative teams. Advancements in communications technology help facilitate this."
If you're thinking about introducing it into your workplace, he says the main thing is to communicate the change well by starting with a conversation and an invitation.
"The first thing is to consult people and say, 'Here's what we're trying to do, what do you think and what could we do differently?'" says Hastie. "Do it with them, not to them."
He wishes people knew that agile has at its core a mindset and a way of thinking that is about customers, work and collaboration, rather than one set of practices.
"Managers often got to where they did because they had all the answers, but the challenge in today's world is that they don't have the answers," says Hastie. "That's because the problems have become so complex."
He also hopes that in the future the brand "agile" is forgotten and people come to know this methodology as simply the logical way of working.
"When it's done effectively, there's an environment where customers are satisfied, employees are happy and profit runs," says Hastie.
Getting the first two right, he says, as well as making work a fun place to be, will make sure that profit is a natural consequence.