Tech Data sat down with Futurist and thought leader Mike Walsh to get his insights on creating an agile workplace. Mike has traveled the globe speaking with industry leaders and is sought after by companies like Tech Data and our partners to help energize business and position themselves for the future. He took time out of his busy schedule to discuss his views on what it means to be agile and why it’s vital for companies to adapt to our rapidly-changing work environments.
To begin, how do you define an agile workplace?
An agile workplace is an environment in which people in an organization can seamlessly form and create teams that allow them to creatively solve problems and come up with ideas. Given the tremendous changes we’re experiencing in how we work, agility is particularly important, especially at this moment in time in our collective culture.
“Agile” came out of the IT development environment. As it’s evolved and joined other lines of business, it’s become a critical force for transformation in changing the culture of an organization.
We tend to spend a lot time changing and updating technology in organizations, from collaboration tools, to process automation. But we don’t spend enough time thinking about how culture is the operating system: the ways that people communicate, collaborate and collectively make decisions, even how they form and manage teams.
Can you expand further on the idea of culture being an operating system?
Culture is where being agile becomes valuable. When we talk about culture, people often think about things that are trivial: are people getting flexible time off, work-from-home days, are you closed on Fridays? These are all nice to have, but don’t really reflect what workplace culture means in the 21st century.
Culture is the system of interactions that define how people relate to each other, to their customers and to the technology systems within their organization.
Agility is going to be the new battleground for productivity and ingenuity in 21st century. The industry is going to get to a point where—due to automation and AI—everyone can deploy the same solutions. The only difference between organizations in this new, algorithmic world is going to be in how humans relate to each other.
What are the key features of an agile workplace?
An agile workplace needs to enable workers to achieve the following:
Work from anywhere
Collaborate in real time
Collect data from machine learning
And finally, use that data to ensure that the right people are working on the right projects
This critical step – from data collection to data application – is the new stock of value and the network capital of the 21st century. We need to see people and their connections as a network that can be enhanced and augmented, nurtured with insights and data.
One of the hardest things to do is not to collect data, but to teach people to be data-driven decision makers. It doesn’t happen easily or overnight. Companies need to make proactive interventions to get people to look at operations to solve problems in a new way. The real value of technology isn’t about cost-cutting. It’s that it gives us the ability to generate data to adapt – to everyone’s advantage – the way we approach work.