Author: Charlize Vogelsinger
HR is considered to be a catalyst for agile transformations. However, up until now, most HR leaders and teams have not yet explored Lean-Agile and what it means for them and the people working in their organization. In his talk, Armin Trost encourages HR to make a decision: “Do you want to function as a controlling instance and provide an HR system based on central planning & reporting? Or do you want to support your (agile) people by becoming a people-centric enabler?”
HR seems far away from the place where the real work is done. They are not connected to the employees working in Agile Teams. Consider the following: HR has different customers to whom it provides services. Sometimes the customer is an executive, sometimes it is a group of managers or a single line manager and in other cases it is the employee. According to my experience, communication and feedback loops between HR and the employees in Agile teams can be improved a lot. Because the Agile Team itself is essentially a new customer!
Smart organizations strive to fulfil a higher business goal by becoming Lean-Agile enterprises. To enable them, HR needs to question their values, develop a new mindset, and work on improving processes and services that are centered around the changed (and ever changing) needs of humans working in 21st century organizations.
Here are my recommendations of how HR can gain a better understanding of the needs of employees who work in Agile Teams:
- Get out of your office and join the dance floor – take the Lean idea of Gemba serious and start your field observation to find out how Agile Teams and their ceremonies work. Communicate to the team that you are interested in their work and you want to learn from them. Tell them why you are here! Build trust – it is crucial. Engage in an honest way. Discuss the options with your Scrum Master and join the party.
- Try apprenticing – ask a Product Owner to train you in how (s)he manages the backlog and prioritizes the work being done by the team. Inform yourself about why and how the work is visualized. Make a list of vocabularies you do not understand and translate it into “your” language.
- Watch Dan Pink’s video – Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
- Eat their dog food – Think about why and how to apply the things you learned to your own work and daily routines. Discuss ideas with your team members. (I truly believe that an internal Agile Coach or Scrum Master would be happy to help and guide you through the first steps of the dance.)
- Look for Meetups and groups in your area and start networking. Search for keywords such as: Agile HR Meetup, Agile HR Conference, Agile Leadership Day, Business Agility Conference, Kanban, Scrum, SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework), LESS (Large Scale Scrum) or Lean-Agile. Become curious and don’t be afraid of not being able to make a contribution to the community yet. It is okay to look around (while dancing and enjoying the music).
These ideas are a great starting point for HR leaders and teams. They help to better understand the pains and gains of employees working in Agile Teams. And they encourage HR to explore Lean-Agile. As soon as the needs of Agile Teams are understood, it will be key for HR to co-create and evolve people-centric services. This is done not only for – but also in collaboration with – their (new) customers. That way, HR will add more value to the Lean-Agile enterprise and function as a catalyst for agile transformation.
Be #curious and join the dance floor
Charlize Vogelsinger is Senior Consultant and Agile Coach at SwissQ Consulting AG in Zurich (Switzerland). Please feel free to reach out to Charly via LinkedIn.