Restructures giving agile a bad name

07 August

Last month The Warehouse Group announced that up to 1000 people could be losing their jobs because of a restructure that Chief Executive Officer, Nick Grayston says was accelerated by Covid-19.

Grayston told Checkpoint that the company was adopting an agile working structure to meet the demands of their customers who are moving online and the increased competition in this space, saying that agile is "all about being firstly very customer-focused, secondly, becoming much more efficient, nimble and faster executing."

SoftEd's Managing Director, Martyn Jones says that this is a cop-out. "Agile at its core is about people. It’s a culture, based on transparency and trust, that puts people at the centre, engaging and empowering them so that they can create value quickly and collaboratively. Trying to start a transformation by laying off employees will likely undermine that trust and jeopardise the whole initiative."

"We've seen it time and time again. Organisations that dress up their episodic restructures and routine layoffs as a move towards agile or new ways of working. They'll implement a few agile or Scrum practices, reduce costs here and there and check some boxes just to become a bit more efficient. These organisations give agile a bad name" says Jones.

Jones, who owns a global agile training and consulting company, headquartered in Wellington, is of the view that "for an agile transformation to be long-lasting and sustainable, organisations need to embed the culture and principles of agile. And that starts at the top."

Being humanistic and people focussed as an approach, agile emphasises the need for employees to be deeply involved in the change that agile brings. For this to happen, leaders need to be role models of the agile way of thinking and working. This is a new style of leadership that focuses on shifting mindsets, enabling change, and building agility into the design and culture of the whole organisation.

Agile isn't just about reducing costs and boosting efficiency in the short-term, it is a transformation of culture; shifting the focus from profit to purpose, from hierarchies and command-and-control structures to empowered and engaged employees and from private and controlled information to transparency.

“To become an agile organisation requires a new kind of leadership; one that fosters an inclusive culture that supports the development of people and provides them with a guiding vision that inspires them and brings them along on the journey,” says Jones.