This is the first in a series of
Flexibility articles aimed at human resource
managers, line managers and others responsible for organising,
managing, supporting, recruiting, training and retaining staff and
with an interest in introducing more flexible working methods.
managers understand, and many have introduced, conventional
flexible working practices such as flexible working hours and
non-standard contracts. The new flexibilities made possible by
technology are however alien to many and this series
seeks to provide practical advice and guidance.
for new ways of working
Lessons from history:
Good organisation and communication has
always underpinned great enterprises - empires, nations, civil
administrations, fighting forces, public services, successful
strong organisations have been built on clear objectives,
command structures, leadership and roles.
These principles have been applied by commercial
enterprises and still form the basis for much of today's
accepted good management practice.
The legacy of geography:
Structures within distributed organisations
are often based on geographic location.
Competing, overlapping or duplicate functions can be
located at different sites for reasons often lost in the mists
of the organisation's history.
Managers (and others) in organisations
accumulate information for many reasons.
A positive reason is to help them do their job more
often, however, information is used to reinforce hierarchy.
Management by presence:
Towards the learning organisation:
The concept of the learning organisation
turns conventional thinking about the "command and
control" culture on its head.
Instead it recognises that people perform better if they
are respected, trusted and motivated.
staff are aware of and identify with the vision, mission
and strategy at all levels: corporate, division,
individual has the responsibility to acquire the skills
and access the information, support and tools necessary
to do the job
organisation provides the necessary infrastructure and
services to support the individual
to information is constrained only by the competence of
the individual and genuine security considerations,
rather than outdated concepts such as "need to
know"; information is not censored, except for good
accepted that the best ideas do not necessarily come
from the most senior people
debate and constructive criticism are encouraged,
without fear of management reprisal
staff, even those at the top, are committed to acquiring
new knowledge and understanding and learning new skills
Recognition: skills, abilities and learning achievements are recognised through
organisation cares about the lives, careers, interests
and well-being of its employees
organisation is itself committed to continuous
improvement in its structure, processes and working
methods, including learning from its staff.
It can sometimes be constructive to use this as a checklist to indicate
organisational readiness for new ways of working.
A foundation for flexible working:
point of all this is that, in order to benefit fully from
flexible working, the culture of the organisation and the style
and skills of managers need to be prepared for it.
new technology, new facilities and policies for more flexible
working will generally achieve little if the organisation
remains wedded to the values, culture and management methods of