By Steve Gillies, Transformation Consultant, BT
Just over a year ago I was pleased to interview Shirley Campbell, Director for People & Organisation Development and a member of the Executive Leadership Team at Scottish Water on her vision based on Agile Working. At the time she was a passionate advocate of new ways of working, new technologies and modern leadership approaches. She had just launched and was leading a major change programme across the company. I got the chance to catch up with her this week.
Steve: Shirley, since our last interview we’ve had floods, a severe winter and now record breaking heat. The economy remains tough, the employment marketplace becomes more competitive every day and rate of new technology is just as fast paced as ever. Has any of this deterred you? Is Agile Working still part of the answer for Scottish Water?
Shirley: Yes, even more so. The ability to respond to and handle the unexpected is part of being an agile organisation. Our employees are dedicated to serving our customers. You can see this through the floods, snow and heat – all of these cause operational difficulties in the delivery of water and our employees work through them – often impacting their work life balance. The need to modernise our technology, introduce new ways of working and work more flexibly are just as real now as they were a year ago. Agile Working – in its many forms – is a fundamental part of our people strategy and the way ahead.
Steve: What progress have you made?
Shirley: The change programme has been great and the change team has been very effective. We’ve had many challenges but fought through them. Some of the results are very pleasing. We’ve had one of the fastest growths in the take up of on-line collaboration tools ever seen by BT Conferencing. Our employees are committed to reducing their travel time and we have improved our social business participation through tools like Microsoft SharePoint and Lync. More and more employees are working in an agile manner. Teams are starting to use knowledge sharing and collaboration tools. We have a growing network of SharePoint users and experts. In fact, we are up on every measure we set ourselves. We’ve still got a lot to do but one year on I have to be pleased with what has been achieved to date.
Steve: What has worked best?
Shirley: Building a multi-disciplined change team has been critical. Combining HR, Communications, Facilities Management and ICT into a blended force for change has been essential. And, we have really benefited from employee engagement. Like all transformations that require behavioural change it can raise levels of anxiety at the same time as being exciting. I’m really glad we put so much effort into employee engagement – involving them at every level and at every important stage. It has paid back many times over.
Part of our agile working delivery strategy has been to opportunistically leverage our new state of the art building – The Bridge. We’ve used it to introduce new technology and new working practices. We saw the new building as a chance to adopt new ways of working and employees have embraced the opportunity. The design of the new building and how we use it has been a very effective collaborative effort.
Having an overall clear vision has also been essential – and the commitment to stick with it when the going gets tough. Our vision is based on a set of strong agile working principles aligned with Scottish Water’s key goals and aspirations – every decision we make is tested against them.
Steve: Do you think you would be as far forward without the involvement and cooperation of employees?
Shirley: No. Leading people through change well is vital
Steve: Finally, what would you have done differently and what’s next for Agile Working in Scottish Water?
Shirley: Some things have taken more time than I thought they would. The coordination of technology, building design with the need to take people through a cultural shift takes a lot of time but it’s worth it.
In retrospect I would have started some of the changes earlier – particularly some of the technology delivery projects. Training people to use the new agile technologies to maximise their performance and productivity is also critical.
For Scottish Water it will be more of the same in the next year. We’ll complete our roll out of Agile Working, learn and reflect on our experiences and then take it to the next level. More emphasis will be placed on how the Agile Working Programme can improve our collaboration, team working and knowledge sharing. It’s an even more exciting phase than the first one. And, we’ll see the benefits of using our new agile capabilities in working with partners and customers. It was always an inside-out strategy – first, we up our own game by making Scottish Water a great place to work and then we extend. I have no doubt that Agile Working will be a success contributing to the working environment, our organisational health and resilience, strategic business goals and regulatory challenges.
I’ve been delighted to have been closely involved in the Scottish Water Agile Working Programme to date. You can tell when a major change programme is delivering by the continuous knocking down of milestones and the delivery of promises but I’m more impressed with the sustained commitment and energy of Scottish Water leaders – at all levels of the company. I look forward to the next period of change.
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