AGILE WORKING: Isn’t it all just a game?

If you’re familiar with the mechanics of the average role-playing video game then you probably already understand some of the fundamental concepts associated with implementing an approach like agile working.  Let’s say for instance, that you’re playing a fantasy-themed title, like 2011’s mega-hit, “SKYRIM”.  When starting off, you have to choose your race or class; the purpose here is to create a character that possesses some of the natural skills which you might foresee yourself building up or relying on as you progress through the game.  At the same time, your overall level will increase as you log more hours and complete more objectives.   The end result of course is that you become more powerful and effective with results in greater overall success in your endeavors.

Needless to say, this isn’t at all unlike the way agile working functions in the workplace.  Every employee starts with a set of qualifications, experience and specific unique abilities, and over time they will undoubtedly go on to further develop these traits.   The point is that a career should function as a journey of sorts, not a concrete destination that’s etched into stone, but an adventure that requires personal development, group-based interaction as well as creative problem solving.

As an experiment you could theoretically take two individuals, perhaps twins, and place them in identical jobs within the same company in order to monitor their development.  Chances are they’re not going to end up in the same place; they’re going to display separate results, experiences and levels of success.  In this way, most careers are very similar to an open-world / open-ended RPG-themed video game – you can play through it several times and end up following a radically different path and end up with dissimilar results.  The point is – this uncertainty also exists within the world of business, and agile working presents us with a way of capitalizing on the situation as opposed to suffering from it (turning your perceived “problems” into potential solutions).

Agile working is defined as a way of uniting the processes, methodologies, technologies as well as people in such a manner as to increase overall effectiveness in the workplace.  The idea being that you establish guidelines which are meant to direct the action, while at the same time leaving things open enough so that employees aren’t constantly bombarded with useless boundaries.  In other words, good results are always valued above the actual methods used to reach a favorable conclusion, and if getting there requires a sometimes unorthodox approach, then so be it.  The point is not to completely abolish the idea of strict methodology, instead, use it as framework of sorts.

Getting back to our video game theme we have going here; you could divide different types of workers into separate classes, each of them having special perks or traits which they can access, for example:

  • HR – possesses the “silver tongue” perk, is able to control groups more effectively with a higher chance of hiring a special character which might boost the attack power of the organization

  • IT – wizards of the machines, possessing abilities which allow them to perform feats which many might say are nearly “magical” in nature

  • Property management – systematic people who seem to be generally focused on safety and security.  Most of them are known to provide extra defensive perks for their entire clan / group

  • Business and operational processes – those with an interest in business tend to be very well-rounded, in other words, they generally possesses a wide range of skills which make them useful in a variety of situations.  Likewise, the business-minded also tend to carry perks such as “enhanced intuition & leadership”, which allows them to avoid stepping into potentially dangerous situations

Clearly you can see the parallels between the various characteristics associated with different types of job titles with that of the warriors, merchants, elves, dwarves and orcs you might find in a modern open-ended video game.

At the same time, these types of games almost always have some type of major multi-part main quest which serves as the centerpiece or “raison d’etre” (fr. Reason for being), if you will.  Similarly, every company relies on some type of business model, which will in turn consist of a series of short and long-term goals.   An organization’s long-term goals are analogous with the function and purpose of the aforementioned “main quest” found in various video role-playing games.  You strive to improve the efficiency and capabilities of your work force (raiding party, if you will) in order to accomplish these goals in the business world.  What makes Agile working special is its unique way of capitalizing on the strengths of team members.

Moreover, in many of the more recently released epic open-world RPG’s (the aforementioned “SKYRIM” being one of the better examples), even after the main story portion has been completed, you can continue to complete tasks, build your character and explore the map.  Obviously this is a direct parallel to the business cycle, which is also perpetual.   Yet another component worth mentioning is the concept of “leveling” itself.  For instance, in the game you’ll encounter stronger enemies as you reach higher levels.  When you consider the fact that your character also receives a strength increase, you might say that what you’re actually experiencing is change, not necessarily increased difficulty by itself, right?  Well, now we’re talking about the very nature of business again, of which constant change is just another part of day-to-day management.  Likewise, improvement is also a top consideration which is equivalent to leveling up yet again within the video game world.

Additionally, people tend to do better work overall if they’re happier, and workers who are on task and able to maintain a certain level of contentedness are going to bring greater success to their enterprise.   Now, imagine that you have an entire office or factory full of these types of satisfied individuals, each of them possessing certain skills which are emphasized…sounds good, doesn’t it?  This is in essence what can be achieved through agile working; and the best part is that there is still a framework that’s holding everything together if the situation begins to “run afoul”, as they say.  This approach ensures that certain risks and hazards are avoided easily enough, which in turn allows everyone to concentrate on their specific job.

Even though agile working is generally looked upon as a way of building a more effective workforce, it might be considered a mistake to underplay its “game-like” nature.  You want your employees to be free enough to consider quicker, better alternatives which might be both more efficient as well as easier to implement.  The result being that the company saves money and they complete their task in a shorter amount of time, which affords the person responsible with certain perks, perhaps.

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