I didn't realise Agile HR was a movement
“This Meetup is great, I’ve been working this way for a little while now, and I didn’t realise AgileHR was a movement”.… “Well, that’s why we are here, it’s time to make it a movement!”
Following two Meetups in London and one in Amsterdam, the AgileHR community is building momentum. The energy and buzz in the room, as people explore a fresh approach to Human Resources a.k.a. people and culture, is quite infectious.
What started as a coffee with my mate and fellow host, Matt Keen from Leadership58, has now gained a life of its own. Indeed, not even a chemical spill evacuation could deter participants at the last London Meetup!
What is AgileHR?
- A mindset, that applies the Agile values, normally associated with 'tech', to HR.
- A deliberate move away from HR ‘best practice’ and blueprinting one-size-fits-all solutions.
- Its evidence-based and uses experimentation to learn directly with your people what works and what doesn’t.
- It embraces Agile work practices, like Scrum and Kanban, to get things done.
- It applies a Lean Start-up approach to human centric HR product design.
- And aims to build a shared value in organisations between the customer, business and people.
What happens at an AgileHR Meetup?
It’s all about building an ongoing learning network, where people share stories, ideas and their direct experiences of trying out AgileHR. As such, it’s a type of support group, because when you work outside your comfort zone and give AgileHR a go, it can be a bit scary at first. AgileHR takes many forms and looks different depending upon your type of organisation, HR team and industry. So just like Agile, there is no blueprint for doing AgileHR and we need to learn from a variety of case studies and experiences.
Who comes along?
- People trying new things in areas like learning, performance and leadership.
- People tired of the waterfall, big bang change style of HR.
- People working in Agile organisations and experiencing a disconnect between how HR works and other teams, like tech.
- People in organisations that have announced they are going Agile and are now working out what this means.
- Agile and Scrum experts wanting to partner with HR to transform organisations and support the Agile values.
- And people who are simply interested.
Excitingly, our community represents many industries and organisational structures. With members coming from world leading start-ups like Booking.com, established banks like ABN Amro and Barclays, to huge retailers like Ahold Delhaize and then ground-breaking companies supporting an AgileHR future like The Honeycomb Works and Saberr.
What are people saying?
The first is that AgileHR is truly a mindset shift. To experiment and learn directly with your people, you must be ready to fail. This is quite scary for many in HR, with a background of always wanting to role model best practice.
The second is the power of co-creation and feedback. It transforms buy-in and the pace of organisational change. By inviting your people to participate in workplace experiments or cross-functional and self-organising project teams, the people who are your ultimate ‘customer’ in HR, are already directly involved and committing to the change. The feedback loop so essential to good change management, is automatically built into each iteration.
By inviting your people to participate in workplace experiments or cross-functional and self-organising project teams, the people who are your ultimate ‘customer’ in HR, are already directly involved and committing to the change.
The third insight is the impact on leadership. For example, some members discussed their experiences in creating Scrum based teams within HR or as part of a wider business initiative, only to find these self-organising teams hitting major roadblocks when key decisions or sponsorship was needed from senior leadership.
As Steve Denning notes, “the reality is that “management” and “Agile” are two different worlds.” The more vertical approach of Agile is based on a dynamic of enablement and the primary goal is delighting the customer. In Agile, the manager trusts the people who are in touch with the customer, on what work needs to be done and how to do it. This ability to lead in a networked, distributed way, is a big behavioural change for leaders, particularly those use to a more hierarchical, horizontal form of management, based on roles, rules and pre-set plans.
Yes, AgileHR is not a panacea. Instead it offers a set of values and an approach that will help people in HR find the answers to complex problems within the workplace.
AgileHR also doesn’t imply that everything in HR goes Agile. It’s important to learn when and how to use it. For example, to solve a complex issue, to innovate or design human-centric products for a digital world. For many organisations this means AgileHR work practices sit side-by-side with more operational, task-based HR activities. In the Meetups we use the Cynefin framework to help us explore this co-existence of different work practices and decision making.