All over the world, organizations carry out Agile transformations. Often, those transformations started already long before the pandemic. Increasingly, though, Agile transformations are a response to becoming more resilient and adaptive to an environment, which changes constantly.
Agile is often seen as an artifact from the IT industry. But also in Vietnam, this seems to be a myth. Based on the ideas of the statistical process control heroes, Shewhart and Deming, Toyota and other manufacturing companies created new ways of being able to adaptive and more customer-oriented already form the 1950s on. Only afterwards, those ideas should find their way into the context of Software development (1986s almost legendary HBR article “The new new product development game“). The first users of the word “Agile” within this context were Software developers in 2001. But history has shown, that it’s working style has been famous in other industries long before that.
Working with a product company developing solutions for emerging markets, we first-hand experienced the role of one important functions, which many agile transformations unfortunately forget: HR. This company looked at HR initially as a service to the operational part of the organization. The rest of the organizations loved and respected the team from HR. However, from our outside perspective, HR looked like only an enforcer of the will of the rest of the organization; along the lines: “We need candidates for this role”. And the HR’s role would be just to push to get those list of candidates.
The more, the company grew, the more the above approach was proving to be ineffective. Therefore, the organization started a 4-week onboarding program for all new hires under patronage of HR. The goal is to bring newcomers up to speed in their daily cooperation within their teams. From an outside perspective, the collaboration between operations and HR seemed to become less event-driven, but more collaborative and cooperative as a strategy. Newcomers, who joined initiatives with us (e.g. Agile Training or group mentoring) looked like to be more part of the organization and having the organizational values in their behavior, than before this onboarding program.
In another organization, where we accompanied a Product, Sales and Marketing team on their Agile journey on releasing a new product initiative on the market, we were sparring mostly with an HR business partner, who was the ideal Scrum Master for this particular team. Through her role in the organization as well as prior knowledge on Agile, she could help to remove impediments faster as well as was an ideal first contact point for the team if they hit impediments somewhere else in the organization.
The product initiative was ahead of schedule about one month after starting the new agile cross-functional initiative.
These two examples of our collaboration with clients show, how a changed perception of HR can change the organizational outcome. While often seen as an enforcer of a policy and therefore as a pure service role, in an Agile organization, the results can improve, when HR starts to redefine their role to become a facilitator rather than a simple enforcer.
Obviously, often this is more difficult than said. In our Agile people or Management 3.0 trainings, we therefore learn about the 6 principles of Agile systems. If you are looking on changing the role of HR in your team to improve the results, those 6 principles can help you to achieve exactly that:
To stay resilient, adaptive and on top of the market in fast changing environments, the function of HR can be one of the tipping points to make the transformation or journey failure or success. The above 6 principles might help you to remind yourself, what an ideal future agile team could look like. The role of HR should be to facilitate that it becomes reality.
Learn more on the role of HR in agile organizations in our upcoming Online ThinkTank on 28 July 2021.