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The Agreement Revolution: Transforming Workplaces by Ditching Policies

Updated: Sep 26, 2023


This weekly twork* is part of our series to make work better together - get it direct to your inbox.


Consent-based decision making is all about inclusivity and efficiency that can also help make remote work more engaging
Photo Pexels by Diva Plavalaguna

Recently in our ‘Make Work Better’ series of blogs we talked about organisational debtthe build-up of inefficient or ineffective processes, practices and technologies over time” which can slowly grind your business to a halt. Couple this with the term “best practice” (one of our least favourite terms at A Better Work) and suddenly you have a business that is slow moving, where people struggle to get things done and innovation is rarity.


This week's ‘Twork’ for a Better Work is about making our workplaces more efficient and enjoyable, where we say goodbye to those countless policies piled up that make it impossible to be creative and innovative, while also costing your business money.


This week we are replacing policies with agreements.


Understanding the Problem: Organisational Debt


So what is the problem? We know from our blog on ‘Organisational Debt’ that no one sets out to build a slow-moving, bureaucratic business. Yet it happens time and time again, where employees often find themselves drowning in a sea of policies. Each one is added with good intentions but leads to a tangled mess that impedes productivity. It's that pile-up of rules and regulations that accumulate over time, making it increasingly challenging to get things done efficiently.


Why "Best Practice" often isn’t the best


While ‘Best Practice’ sounds good on the surface and is often a buzzword used throughout the business, it often implies that there's no room for improvement. If something is deemed the "best," does that mean we can't do any better? Or that it is always right? This type of thinking can hinder innovation and make it difficult to be creative in the long term.



Replacing Policy with Agreement:


Now, here’s the game-changer—replacing policy with agreement. Think of agreements as dynamic, ever-evolving guidelines for how things should be done. Unlike policies, they're not set in stone; they adapt to the current situation and the resources available.


How many times have you seen employees struggle with overburdensome policies and procedures without any power or mechanism to input to make a meaningful change?


Employees and teams can input into the agreement from the start so it’s not just dictated to a team or group of people but they have been part of the discussion. This doesn't mean everyone needs to agree, but that it is safe to try (more on that here). They can propose a change to the agreement at any time based on their lived experience.



Better Work Twork - Creating Agreements


  1. Collective Input: The first step in this process is to get buy-in from the affected team. It's crucial that everyone has a say in shaping these agreements. This ensures that the agreement makes sense and is the best choice for your current circumstances.

  2. Make it safe to try: Our blog on consent-based decision-making talks about trying decisions above the water line. Taking risks that are manageable, safe to try and which are not going to sink the boat (your business).

  3. Documenting Agreements: Once you've a suitable (good enough)agreement, it's time to document it. Make sure it's clear and accessible to everyone in your organization. Transparency is key, and this documentation serves as a reference point for everyone involved.

  4. Embrace Change: The beauty of agreements is that they're not set in stone. At any point, anyone in your organisation can propose changes to the agreement, unlike a policy which is likely to be “death by committee”. This fosters a culture of continuous improvement, where everyone has a voice in shaping the way things are done.


So, as you embark on your journey to make your workplace a better and more efficient place to work, consider replacing policies with agreements. You will empower your team, promote flexibility, and encourage innovation—all essential elements of a thriving work culture and often the exact opposite to what you will get with “policy and best practice”.


Let us know how it goes, and together, let's make work better—one agreement at a time!



At A Better Work we work with our clients to make work better and more fulfilling. It's not about happiness, it's about feeling a sense of accomplishment, and building teams that work brilliantly together in good times and bad.


The best bit is all of this is good for your business - for your bottom line, for retention and for customer satisfaction. If you think we can help, reach out for a chat.


Let’s make work better together.


Michelle Wallace

Founder

A Better Work

 

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