More than ever, we are looking for new ways of working that fit our rapidly changing society and way of life. We want to make our organizations as future-proof and resistant to change as possible. COVID-19 has not only ensured that we have been digitized at lightning speed, but has also opened our eyes towards the future. We can organize work more efficient, more productive and with more fun. There are various approaches to a ‘new way of working’. We know Activity Based Working (ABW), Agile working and nowadays, the ‘Hybrid working‘ is used a lot. What these terms have in common is that they all have to do with making the organization and the way of working more flexible or adaptive. What exactly do these terms mean, and how do they differ from each other?
Activity Based Working
Activity Based Working is a way of thinking, working and organizing in which the individual is leading. The term was coined by Veldhoen + Company in the 1990s. ABW looks at the various activities that an individual performs in his or her daily work, and what environment suits best with that activity and his or her preference. This can be at the office, but also at home, in a co-working space, in a park or in a café. Activities you can think of are: meetings, focus work, a creative process or calling. The employee decides where, with whom and when he or she does the work so that he or she can get the best out of him or herself. This requires freedom and trust from a manager, and creates responsibility and job satisfaction with the individual. At ABW, management is based on output, not on the process towards this output. Watch this video for a visual explanation of Activity Based Working.
The term “Agile” originated in the late 1990s in the rapidly innovating IT business. Software developers and IT teams discovered that they could not work with elaborate plans, entangled rankings and lengthy process descriptions. So they developed a new way of thinking, working and organizing that revolves around agility. The Agile work style is about bringing individuals together to initiate a creative process. The focus is on team autonomy and multidisciplinary collaboration. No long-term plans, but short sprints in which there is a lot of room for adjustments and improvements, and where information is often visualized. Imagine: with different disciplines around a scrum board, brainstorming sessions on post-its and short stand-ups to discuss the status of the project. The result of agile working is that teams become more innovative and productive, resulting in a better end result. Watch this video for a visual explanation of agile working.
The difference between Activity Based Working and Agile
Both ABW and Agile are change systems applied in an interactive, people-centered way. Both systems are used to organize a company in a better and more flexible way. The major difference between Activity Based Working and Agile working is the focus on the individual (ABW) versus the focus on the team (Agile). ABW focuses on the individual’s flexibility, self-awareness and results. Agile focuses on building a team and the creative team outcome. The engine of ABW is a working environment, in Agile it is visualization. Both working styles combine very well to create a hybrid way of working.