Navigating New Horizons: Agile Methodologies Transforming HR

Insights from a Keynote on Transformative Leadership and Organizational Adaptability

Photo of Sohrab Salimi
Sohrab Salimi
4 min. reading time

I recently gave a keynote to an audience of 150 HR professionals, delving into the concept of agility within organizations. We covered the essence of agility, its relevance, and how it shapes leadership in top-performing agile environments. Following the session, a multitude of questions emerged, sparking rich dialogue. Here is a compilation of those inquiries and my thoughts in response:

Does agility simply make processes more complex?

Agility is a response to the inherent complexity of certain tasks, such as innovation projects. Structured approaches, like Scrum, help manage this complexity because they provide a systematic method that enforces feedback cycles, reducing uncertainty. 

For tasks that aren't complex and don't carry significant uncertainty, like tax returns, these feedback cycles might be perceived as unnecessary overhead.

Thus, it's crucial to differentiate and not impose either traditional or agile methods on all tasks. There's no "one-size-fits-all" solution; we must decide situationally but have both approaches in our toolkit.

Supporting Scrum Roles: How can HR contribute?

Primarily, it's about providing the right training. We differentiate between initial training -- "I'm ready to take on the role" -- and sustainable training -- "I can successfully fulfill this role." For initial training, we recommend courses, whether live or e-learning. Many providers in the market are subpar. This isn't to boast about us, but many of our clients have had negative experiences. 

Courses should be conducted by experienced trainers who can convey content and have worked in agile roles. Most trainers merely quote the Scrum Guide instead of explaining the underlying "why." For sustainable training towards mastery, the most crucial aspect is hands-on experience. Nothing beats learning by doing. Coaching helps, as does further training in areas the individual needs to learn, like facilitation, visualization, and Kanban. 

That's why our E-Learning Academy offers many courses, and we're continually expanding.

Forecasting HR's Agility: What does the future hold?

I believe HR is indispensable as an enabler. I know there are specific applications for agile methods in HR, like employer branding, recruiting, and developing new salary models or career paths. It's beneficial if HR professionals gain firsthand experience with these methods. Moreover, individuals with an HR background can become excellent Scrum Masters or Agile Coaches.

Regulating Agile Work: How is it done?

For me, it starts with consistently applying a framework, whether it's Scrum or Kanban. Consistent application means changing certain practices. This cultural shift is the goal. That's why Scrum has a Scrum Master -- someone who acts like a personal trainer, helping establish new habits.

Learning Agile: What is more effective training or on-the-job experience?

I always start with training for any topic. Why? It helps avoid many avoidable mistakes and prevents forming bad habits. I taught myself tennis and skiing as a child due to financial constraints. It took years to refine my technique, often going back to basics. In medical school, I was fortunate to learn things correctly from the start. 

The concept was always the same: See one. Do one. Teach one. Nothing replaces a good teacher or coach when learning!

How to engage the "Skeptics" of Agility?

It's okay to be skeptical initially. I usually ask them, "Do we deliver all our projects within the initially planned scope, time, and budget?" Typically, the answer is "No!" This provides a basis for a conversation about why this is the case. 

Once we have internal success stories, the transformation gains momentum. Many skeptics can be convinced to embark on this journey or at least not hinder others.

Pursuing Multiple Agile Approaches: Is it sensible?

It's sensible, The choice between Scrum or Kanban, for instance, depends on whether a team is developing a product or performing operations. Deciding which approach to take requires a good understanding of these methods and often guidance from a coach. Fortunately, there are many good coaches within the company, so external assistance isn't always necessary.

HR's Product: What is it?

From my understanding: Qualified and motivated employees. HR plays a significant role in this, not just in training but also in other areas like payroll. These tasks can also be viewed from a product perspective.

Transformational Hurdles: What Stands in the Way of Company Progress?

The main impediments are excessive bureaucracy, fear of trying new things, and internal politics. But these are precisely the issues we aim to address in the transformation.

Expertise in Agility: What Does HR Need to Be Seen as a Competent Partner?

HR should understand the essence of agility. Beyond that, it's beneficial if HR gains firsthand experience or observes the implementation of frameworks in teams. 

Ultimately, HR will be judged on the training opportunities they provide and how these mesh together.

Consistency and Buy-In: How to achieve it across the board?

By engaging all levels on these topics. This doesn't mean everyone gets the same training, but everyone should speak the same language. The entire organization must pull together. To achieve this, everyone must understand the benefits they'll gain and the role they play.

As we wrap up this comprehensive Q&A session, I trust that the insights we've explored shed light on the nuanced interplay between agile principles and HR practices. It's a collective effort, where each of us contributes to guiding our organizations on a path toward enhanced flexibility and inventive progress.

For HR professionals and teams ready to embark on this transformative journey, rest assured that you are not alone. Whether you want to inspire your HR department with a keynote session that conveys the principles of agility or if you're seeking customized training to empower your teams -- we at Agile Academy are committed to facilitating this growth.

Don't hesitate to reach out. Let's figure out how we can implement agility in your HR area in a practical way. We're happy to tailor our offerings to the specifics of your company.

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