“It’s always been done that way”

06 September 2019

There is a difference between being agile and being flexible. Working in an industry such as ours, it is important to distinguish between the two as often such confusion or indeed misuse could lead to some difficult situations.

The Oxford English Dictionary defines flexible, an adjective, as “able to be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances” whilst agile is defined as “able to move quickly and easily”. Broadly, the two are similar yes? but put these into a working context and in delivering service, being agile allows us to react and rapidly adapt to changing circumstances. The key is speed.

Flexible working is an employee way of working that suits their needs, employee-centric as it were e.g. having flexible start and finish times or working from home, essential in this day and age with technology advances allowing us to do so. Agile working however, is more of a commitment, a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose, with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints, to optimize their performance and to do their best work. As you can see, being agile is of upmost importance and along with adherence to legislative, regulatory and policy allows teams to be innovative, adaptive and deliver faster and in doing so enhances productivity and provides for healthier work environments.

The ability to create and respond to change in order to succeed in an uncertain and turbulent environment is vital in today’s Oil & Gas world. Taking a decommissioning project as an example, the outcome will be the same but reacting to changing circumstances, technology, conditions, unknowns such as breakdown or protests etc. through the timeline by being agile the result may be reached more efficiently and under budget. On a project by project case no one really knows until the work commences what lies ahead, or indeed beneath. By being agile, having a plan that can move quickly could save money, time and resource.  

It is important to view being agile as a mindset and not a methodology. Using a project scenario once again, traditionally it’s the scope that is fixed with cost and time being flexible however turn this into agile thinking and it is the cost and time that is fixed with the scope being flexible. The end result or objective is always going to be the same but being able to adapt the scope by quickly changing the way things are done may lead to improving the flow and greater efficiencies.

At AAB, we have adapted an agile approach to the way we work and the techniques we use to deliver to our clients. These new methods help us create an environment for success and have required a change to behaviours from everyone across the business. Already we are seeing the benefits, but with work still to be done, we have seen an increase in staff morale, increased utilisation and improved the quality of service delivered to our clients.

However, being agile isn’t easy. Many companies nowadays adopt flexible working practices but that doesn’t mean they are agile organisations. Organisations themselves can get in the way of being agile due to size, team structures, culture etc.… To adopt an agile mindset everybody needs to be onboard and ensure there is the willingness to adopt a newer approach. 

It is a skill to be able to step back, look at how things are done and bravely make changes. The saying “it’s always been done that way” however, no longer cuts it.

By Graeme Robertson, Senior Manager – Upstream Oil & Gas, Anderson Anderson & Brown LLP

To find out more about Graeme Robertson and the Specialist Upstream Oil & Gas Team, click here

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