We asked three members of the AgileAus community to share their vision of the workplace we want – a workplace that embraces diversity and inclusivity.
ALEX STOKES – Partner, Luna Tractor
The future workplace looks different to what we see today, with women outnumbered in tech communities and minority ethnicities under-represented at executive levels. I’m now convinced that opening our mind to a very different looking boardroom is the fastest way to creating a future of work that thrives. We need to be bold about our path to get there, challenging the bias we undoubtedly all have. Fortunately there’s a large chunk of our community that would agree.
Leaders in our workplaces of the future will thrive if they can co-create systems of work that don’t disempower their workers. W. Edward Deming claimed that ‘A bad system will defeat a good person every time’, and I’m sure many of us have felt that we are victims of bad systems in the past. We need to tap into the experience of our workers and ruthlessly attack the sources of waste in our ways of working. Moreover the workplace is changing rapidly and we must find ways to continuously adapt to new information. A growth mindset will be more valuable than a fixed mindset in the leaders of the future – our only hope is to adapt!
Opportunities abound for the creation of the workplace we want. Technology is our friend and there are already plenty of workplaces with 100% flex roles or large amounts of Work From Home and Work From Anywhere policies. There are challenges in how we collaborate effectively, but I’m personally rather looking forward to the day I attend stand-ups as a hologram, I reckon it’s only two or three years away (watch this space). This opens up a much more equal playing field for everyone. As a Mum I can attend a parent teacher interview and report to the board on the same day; as a Dad my partner can cover school holidays at another location and attend a critical meeting via an NBN enabled Google hangout. As a professional, I can attend a conference in New York and work the days before and after at the company I love in Melbourne without giving up my precious holiday leave.
KATRINA KOLT – Agile Coach, AGL
The workplace I want is one where delivering valuable outcomes trumps output. People are encouraged to grapple with problems, generate options, experiment with approaches and evaluate success. It is a workplace focused on reducing handoffs, encouraging learning, and one eager to develop patterns for continuous improvement.
How do you achieve workplaces like this? I’d love to believe that individuals and teams, through their actions, can shape this type of culture. To a certain extent, they can model this approach, but individuals and teams will butt up against organisational challenges if they are the only ones who have changed. Leaders must shape this change for it to succeed.
How can leaders create a diverse generative workplace? It starts with learning and understanding the characteristics of such a workplace. There are now enough case studies of Agile workplaces from which to glean useful insights. The hard bit is in transitioning to the workplace we want. Good leaders will leverage Lean Change Management approaches to prioritise experiments and try a new way of working. This approach sees folks involved in generating ideas for these new ways of working and in evaluating what fits and what doesn’t.
Where leaders model an approach that seeks diverse voices, encourages experimentation to learn and rewards these behaviours, individuals and teams will be empowered to follow suit.
Leaders in the workplace I want, see their role as fourfold:
- As coach – to share knowledge, skills and perspectives, to develop their people
- As business driver – to maximise product lifecycle profits
- As purveyor of purpose – to connect people with the purpose of what they do
- As enabler – to support people to thrive within their environment
Finding and retaining the best people to achieve this sort of workplace is one of the challenges for leaders today. We know that women make up 43% of the Australian workforce, yet they only make up 28% of the digital/tech workforce, with even fewer in pure technical roles. Recruiting more women should be viewed as a challenge worth addressing, both to increase diversity of thought and to address the shortage of IT folks for the exponential growth we are experiencing.
ANNA FIOFILOVA – Senior Developer, REA Group
First of all, the workplace I want has a coffee machine! It also has a diverse team composed of people with different cultural backgrounds, gender and skills working towards a common goal. The team leaders make a conscious effort to ensure everyone is included in activities and that everyone can contribute ideas. People are trusted to make big decisions as a team based on facts and outcomes. There is enough time on a daily basis to study and learn new skills, and freely share ideas. Team members also consciously express praise, recognise effort and show gratitude to their colleagues.
Leaders should make a conscious decision to promote diversity in the workplace. Every time a new role opens, leaders should aim to hire a person who is different from the rest – especially when it comes to gender, educational background, or cultural background. The hiring panel should also be diverse.
Leaders can help to create mentorship networks for employees to support each other and develop their career aspirations. Spaces for genuine and open expression should also be provided. Leaders in the workplace I want walk the talk – they acknowledge ideas and invest in solutions even if they don’t agree with them. Leaders create the right environment for experimentation – where it is safe to fail.
The Agile Australia 2017 session ‘The workplace we want’ will explore how Agile can lead the way by modelling diversity, and help us to find the inspiration and courage to create these changes.