Does smart working require a smart building? An interesting question, which was brought into focus by my visit to BT Tower in January. I was there to celebrate the achievements of a smart working initiative – the TW3 awards. As I stood in the high-speed lifts that whisked me up to the panoramic restaurant on the 34th floor at 7 metres per second, it struck me that this was an apt place to host the awards.
Regular readers will be familiar with this question that is at the heart of The Workplace Conversation: can we move away from our preoccupation with the physical dimension and expand it to consider people and place in equal measure? Attending this ceremony and joining in the discussions about agile working helped me to see some interesting perspectives and dispel some commonly held myths, like that the public sector lags behind the private sector when it comes to agile working.
Why did the UK Government start TW3? It is driven by the recognition that the way we work is changing, and even the public sector has to modernise working practices. Given the scale of the UK public service activity this is no small undertaking. The approach adopted by the TW3 programme is to provide a simple framework to help people to adopt smart agile working. This is based on seven simple principles which I have summarised as:
- Work is no longer anchored to one place.
- Simplified collaboration and connectivity means one can share regardless of location.
- Space is allocated to activity not hierarchy
- Flexibility is the norm.
- Shared approach to smart working allows freedom of choice of how best to work.
- Work processes are continuously challenged.
- Key focus is on outcomes rather than presence.
According to the chair of the TW3 delivery board, Martin Donnelly, transforming the way we work is not a nice to have, it is the only way to ensure the Civil Service can meet the needs of its customers. I was invited to judge the nominations for their inaugural awards for this initiative, and along with the rest of the panel we reviewed a very impressive and wide ranging set of submissions. The award categories spanned culture and people, workplace, technology and corporate leadership.
It was clear to me that there are lots of people across the UK public sector who are really taking this seriously. This initiative is part of the civil service reform to create better working environments across the UK. It seems that most government departments have started to engage with the agile work agenda and this was evident in the 12 nominations rewards of reviewed by the judging panel.
There is a lot of interesting stuff underway. As with all public sector programs, there is a fair amount of structure in place; the nerve centre is small group providing leadership and guidance to the wider civil service. One of the key features that impressed me is the range of publications and support available around the way we work. Looking around the 34th floor during the event, it was really interesting to feel the excitement and engagement amongst the attendees. It was clear that everyone really embraced the need to shift to a more agile way of working; the consensus was that today it is just common sense. As Bruce Mann the SRO for the TW3 programme put it, “it’s about people and helping them to work effectively”.
It struck me that the choice of BT Tower as a location was very apt given BT’s ‘Ingenious’ creativity programme; walking through the lobby area I was struck by their call to arms: TOGETHER, CONNECTED, AMAZING. Doesn’t that just say it all?