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Agile and Agility: The Future of Work


Last week saw Agile Business Consortium celebrate 25 years since its inception with the Agile Business Conference focusing on the theme: Creating Generation Agile. The 2-day event focuses specifically on the business side of Agile – using delivery approaches and shifting mindsets to deliver projects, products and services faster and more successfully. It also focuses on the bigger remit of business agility – the need to be able to be smarter, more flexible, adaptable and responsive to our changing work environments.

During the course of the conference, both session speakers and exhibition vendors created a sense of urgency – how a change in the workforce is not only needed today but also how the next generation of the workforce will fare. The former covered topics such as transformation and delivery methods – SCRUM, SAFe, Disciplined Agile and so on. The latter about education policy and preparing school children to be workplace ready.

Last week also saw the launch of a new report from Accenture on the future workforce – How to accelerate skills acquisition in the age of intelligent technologies – which gave a stark figure for the UK which could miss out on as much as US185 billion of cumulative growth promised by intelligent technologies – if they can’t meet future skills demand.


We take a look at three very different sessions from the Agile Business Conference which highlights Agile and agility in the future of work.

The Future of Work: Human Resources

Peter Cheese

We heard from Peter Cheese, CEO of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), the professional body for the Human Resources.

He asked the simple question, “what is it that we need in the workplace in the future?” The simple answer, humans.

This was driven by the World Economic Forum(WEF) research that the top skills for the future of work are all behavioural focused (see image below for the top ten) and our next generation workforce can come from diverse places because employers shouldn’t be all fishing in the STEM-graduate talent pools.

He also talked about how we work is just as important as where we work as people looked for flexi and agile working  (working from home, part-time, compressed working hours, annual hours and so on)

Learning and development for the future was next – covering both agility and adaptability – through core training programs, embedded learning and collaborative learning. Although worrying for the UK is the decline of investment in workplace training (employers in the UK are spending 50% less than EU levels). Learning will need to be more student-directed – and determined by themselves to fill the gaps needed by themselves and their organisations.

The concern is – are we currently teaching children to be this kind of lifelong-learner?

The barriers we will face in the future of work?

  • Overcoming social norms and attitudes – presenteeism is rife for example.
  • Corporate cultures and manager’s mindsets
  • Operational pressures
  • Lack of technology infrastructure
  • Government policy

None of these are areas where change will happen quickly or be taken lightly. There is much work for everyone to do.



The Future of Work: Schools

Jason Gaulden from America Succeeds shared insights from their latest report – The Age of Agility. The report focuses on the education of children today and whether we’re preparing them for the workplace. The workplace Jason talks about is one where, “need to get comfortable with uncertainty, embrace flexibility, and reset expectations about the employer-employee relationship”.

The report also highlights the problems we know automation will bring – where a lot of low level, entry-level jobs could cease to exist as tasks become more automated through technological advances. He highlighted the point brilliantly when asking the audience, “what was the first job you did at the age of 14, 15, 16 years old, and does it still exist today?” The petrol pump attendant and the milk delivery round are just not there anymore.

The overview in the report from Deloitte Review brings it all together clearly. The changes that are happening in the world today; how that affects work – and what individuals, businesses and the governments need to grabble with.

America Succeeds is lobbying for the changes needed at the school education level to get kids ready for the workplace. They’re worried that the current education system won’t be teaching them, at the very least, the WEF skills requirements of the future. Have a read of the report.

Age of Agility

The Future of Work: Agile

The conference looks specifically at the business of Agile – how businesses can adopt the principles and approaches, not just at the project and product development level – across all of the business.

Many of the case study sessions focused on individual company journeys in Agile transformation. One organisation shared its transformation principles:

  1. Dare to dream – be ambitious
  2. Deliver value – early and often
  3. Create role models for new ways of working
  4. Action before perfection
  5. Dedicated, empowered, cross-functional teams

Their principles don’t mention Agile anywhere – they’re describing how their business is on a journey to transforming the way they do business – both with their customers and with their employees.

The future of work isn’t capital-A – Agile – rather it’s agility, nimble, quickness – a new or refreshed approach to management and leadership.

Sure there are Agile projects and product development teams, living and breathing Agile, SCRUM, DevOps – and working out how to scale it up with the likes of SAFe and LeSS.

The future of work seems to be all about embracing the disrupted, volatile, complex and complicated world of work and using it to create better workplaces for the future – one where lifelong learning, flexible working patterns and interesting work is the norm.

Agile and agility – we’re just at the beginning of the future and we’ve got a lot to learn.


As Peter Cheese said, “What’s the future?”

It’s going to be interesting to see how skills really do develop for the future of work.


Find out about the Future of Work adaptive skills with the Adaptive Strategic Execution Programme



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About Lindsay Scott

Lindsay Scott
Lindsay Scott is Director of PMO Learning, the PMO training specialist and Arras People the programme and project management recruitment specialists. Lindsay is the project management careers columnist for PMI's Network magazine and co-editor of the Gower Handbook of People in Project Management. Lindsay created and hosts The PMO Conference and hosts the monthly PMO Flashmobs

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