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Agile Working with Anne Cantelo

Category: Flexible Working, COVID-19

Agile Working with Anne Cantelo

Anne Cantelo is the Founder and Managing Director at Onyx Media and Communications and co-wrote the number one business bestseller, The Agile Revolution.


In the current climate, when businesses are having the rethink the way they work, we thought it well worth taking five with Anne to find out more about what agile working means, the challenges it brings and how it can help businesses and individuals.


So, what exactly is agile working?


“Agile working means you take down all the barriers you associate with work. The time, the place, everything. It is solely about the outcome and what you achieve and not about how you achieve it.


“A lot of people find it hard to get their heads around the concept. They confuse the term agile with flexible and remote. The current situation will help. You get out of bed and switch your laptop on to start agile working… It’s actually not complicated,” said Anne.


Agile working is not a new concept, but, having been ignored by businesses in the past, it will now be accelerated into society as the country enters lockdown. Agile goes further than flexible and remote working and, although it is not the same, it has evolved from agile project management.


“It was assumed that it just helped mothers and childcare but there are companies who now see it as a huge competitive advantage because office costs often take such a huge percentage of outgoings.


“When you work agile you can serve international clients as well. Work stops being so confined by time and you can work when your clients need you,” said Anne.


From talking to Anne, we’ve discovered that the benefits of agile working go far beyond financial gain:


“Remote working will have the biggest impact on pollution and climate change. Look at China and the top of Italy and you’ll see we’ve suddenly solved the problem. There are also some really solid case studies now on productivity in remote working.”


Agile working does come with challenges, especially for businesses and individuals that are not used to this way of working. So, how can businesses make agile work?


“Don’t underestimate the importance of social. Try and schedule in meets and do talk to people. Don’t rely on email, pick up the phone or Whatsapp. Try and recreate the water cooler moments using Slack or similar. Try and recreate the casual parts of work which can create ideas. Assess how you manage people and be clear about what’s expected. Agile doesn’t work well for micro-managers so move away from that. It’s totally counter-productive anyway,” said Anne.


Anne’s book came out of a career of work on the subject. From when she was a civil servant in the 1980s to today, she has fought for remote work, built her knowledge and experience on the subject and has detailed this in The Agile Revolution.


“When we researched it we found that this is actually how we all used to work. It’s actually an old concept, not a new one. The factories and offices were created in the 18th century and before that everyone worked around the home. The exception was mines. Work wasn’t governed by the clock, it was governed by outputs, that’s how we had the cottage industries,” said Anne.


Are there any risks to businesses that work in an agile way?  


“Cyber security, people may be using devices and be on networks that aren’t secure.  For example, how many people know to change the password on their internet hub? There could be three or four people working for different companies in one house and there could be security risks in that as well. You’ve got to talk through those risks and ensure personal information and company secrets are not shared. During this time, people need to be more vigilant,” said Anne.  


In this worrying time businesses need to restructure the way they work to fit in with the demands of the crisis and keep their heads above water.


“I hope that the virus has a positive impact on the working world and that we recognise that the office 9-5 doesn’t work with the way life is. It doesn’t work with caring, disability or transport infrastructure. It doesn’t work for housing because some areas are so much more expensive if they’re near stations that get you into London,” said Anne.


Any final advice for the agile workers themselves?


“If you’re finding you’re not productive think about what it is about the office that makes you so, so you can replicate it when you work from home. A lot of people don’t like the social isolation. Some people will find it difficult to be productive in this time so they may need to timetable. My mother, to get away from the idea that there’s time stretching out, even though she’s 94, timetables her day. The whole point is you have to work out what works for you and your business. It’s individual.”


For more from Anne, head over to Amazon and pick up a copy of The Agile Revolution. You can also find out more about agile working in her TedX talk: Agile working: an innovation in the way we work.

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