New Ways of Working

When I first started working on this programme at the back end of last year I was pretty excited by the title. I love change and quite frankly talking about anything new and fresh really gets me going. This programme was to be developed with Airbus (and is actually still being developed now #agile) as a year-long journey with four touch points, allowing up to 200 people learn new approaches to work. Fantastic, I thought. I’m ready.

But what I didn’t quite realise until the scoping and hacking process – a key part of our design here at IW – I was struggling to make a connection between these new things and the leadership angle which the Airbus Leadership University pride themselves on.

Take working practices for example. Most people work longer hours than they are meant to – starting an hour early, not taking lunch, staying late and even logging back in at home after they’ve had dinner. This practice is not sustainable and everyone knows it. Everyone wants to work less, spend more time with loved ones or on hobbies, learn new skills outside of work, paint that wall they’ve spent all year saying they’re going to paint. Do all the things which allow the brain to stay in tip-top shape, but they don’t. Studies show it’s actually worth the business allowing employees to take this down time, or ‘change time’, exercising their brains and increasing productivity at work. But they still don’t. Why not? And what are leaders going to do to help?

It’s a simple answer really. Empowerment. Even with the most obvious required changes to the norm, we don’t feel comfortable making them if we’re not empowered to do so. There is a fear of retribution, push back, questioning, being told you’re wrong. And so, as I’m making my way through the development of this exciting programme – which does, by the way, also explore new literal ways of working – I’m realising that equipping leaders with the skills to empower their people and themselves to act on these new ways of working is of much more value than the ‘ways’ themselves.

We’re starting the final sprint of design in the coming month and I’m eager to see how we lace the empowerment red thread through the learning this time. My head is already buzzing with ideas…

Our wonderful facilitation team!