Managing in an Agile Workplace – learning how to unlearn

Posted on 13th April 2018 by CMI Workplace

Steve Henigan of Henigan Consulting Group discusses the need to ‘unlearn’ traditional management methods and embrace agile working for the future success of business.

Technology has and will continue to change how we live and work. Overlay shifts in the modern workplace and organisational culture and you have the key ingredients for agile working. The ability of employees to choose where, when and how they complete task-based work both within and outside of the traditional office environment.

It is likely that if your organisation has gone through the transformation to agile working then you would have been engaged in some form of change management programme. Activities and communications designed to help you understand the reasons and science behind the decision, educating you on the new settings and protocols and providing pre and post move support to work in an agile way.

However, if you have only ever worked in a traditional environment how easy is it to manage an agile team? When you can no longer see your team sitting at their personal workstations from 9-5 every day of the week then a significant shift in management and leadership style is required.

Unlike changing the way we work, I do not believe that shifting to an agile workplace management philosophy is quite so straightforward and this requires us to step back and give further thought to the make-up of our change management programme. It requires us to think about unlearning. As Margie Warrell illustrates the effort is in repurposing our foundations rather than adding to them.

“Unlearning is about moving away from something—letting go—rather than acquiring.

It’s like stripping old paint. It lays the foundation for the new layer of fresh learning to be acquired and to stick. But like the painter who needs to prepare a surface, stripping the paint is 70% of the work while repainting is only 30%.”

According to Mark Bonchek, the founder and so-called Chief Epiphany Officer of Shift Thinking™ the process for unlearning consists of 3 simple steps;

  • Recognise that the existing model is not effective
  • Find/ create a new model
  • Ingrain the new mental habits

The good news is that this process can be overlaid across most change management methodologies and does not involve creating new processes or activities. The illustration below shows how Henigan Consulting Group, as a change management organisation, approach each project. Include these steps in your change process and your business will be stronger for it.

By unlearning our traditional management methods and embracing agile learning we can create an agile workplace that will enable us to continue to be successful long into the future.

Henigan Consulting Group provides independent workplace strategy and change management services.


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