The transformation of IT is a perfect parallel to the transformation of HR. Digitalization and the pace of change put so much pressure on IT, that out popped Agile (kind of like a diamond). Agile actually is the transformation of IT. For years before this set of values took root, IT had a reputation for rolling their eyes at “stupid” users and being frustrated that business analysts would dare to change requirements before the product was released, often a year or more after the initial need was identified. Essentially, their process for gathering requirements became the focal point and actually diminished the value of the real product: the software. By the time the software was in production, either the business had changed; the functionality required extensive and unreasonable training; or the software wasn’t used as anticipated, all of which rendered it only partially functional, which meant incredible waste.
IT people just lived in this space for a long time. Certainly, there was frustration, but it didn’t occur to most to question the organization or the methods they learned in school and throughout their career. And even for those who knew that the IT function wasn’t as effective as it could be, most wouldn’t know where to start to build a brand-new way of working and then implement it. It takes vision, discipline, integrity, influence, confidence, and courage to change everything that you’ve known your whole career (and were taught by the amazing leaders that came before you), and do it in a way that makes sense for your organization.
The Agile values helped IT focus on what mattered most; working software. Like an air vent in a conference room suddenly shutting off, this philosophy took all of the white noise out of the antiquated process and brought clarity on how to deliver their product with laser focus. And most of them do just that. They deliver working software better and faster than ever before.
So here we are: HR is in a similar scenario in that our objectives don’t change: talent management, organizational effectiveness, and risk mitigation is what we do. But the urgency of accomplishing those objectives faster, more comprehensively, and with immediately discernable value to the user (managers, candidates, business leaders, employees, vendors) in a world that is incredibly complex and change-laden is putting enormous pressure on us too. Lucky for us, our very smart colleagues in IT have some ideas about the values and principles we should be promoting in order to move quickly, while also ensuring quality. Methodologies like Scrum, Pair Programming, Extreme Programming, and others have something to offer us in HR, but they’re leveraging Agile values to the specific end of programming software. So, it is up to HR to learn about Agile values and principles, but also to think hard about practical application in our own function and areas of expertise.
Implementing Agile isn’t a non-invasive undertaking. For HR leaders who think that it is only impactful to the inner workings of HR, I want to ensure you’re making a well-informed choice. As mentioned previously, Agile is the transformation for IT. It changed the structure of teams, expected leadership competencies, team expectations, and how the function interacts with the business leaders it supports. Do y’all hear that? It changed the interaction with business leaders. This means it will be visible, at least eventually, outside of HR. When you’ve designed your structure around adding value and moving quickly, you should probably assume your organizational structure will be different than today. And you should probably assume, too, that parts of your process will change for business users. This is disruption. You can manage it well and thoughtfully, or you can manage it haphazardly. But disruption it is and will be. And you will not be perfect.
So get in front of the disruption, and start managing change now, even if you’re not ready to move to an Agile framework. Increase your chances of success by deliberately shifting your team’s mindset.
- Educate yourself and others on growth mindset. Make it a priority for your leadership team to understand this concept and to understand how other organizations are using this research.
- Become familiar with HR transformational terms and internalize what they mean to you in the practical sense. And then set aside time to facilitate a good discussion with your team about them in every meeting. Be sure to always bring the discussion back to how this makes your team more effective.
- Be the change. Agile teams are self-managing. Stop delivering feedback on behalf of others and set expectations that your team support each other by delivering feedback directly. Do not except anything less and do not try to manage feelings or politics. Let it play out and learn from these interactions.
- Inspire your teams. Find examples internally and externally where HR influenced the business and added value leveraging expertise and experience. This may seem simple, but the impact is big. Not everyone on your team gets to interact with business leaders so it will drive them toward a greater purpose and remind them what an amazing time it is to be in HR.
- Lastly, get comfortable talking about change, because it’s coming. Be transparent with your teams about the fact that the pace of change is unprecedented and will impact you. Ask your team to get in front of it rather than waiting for it to happen. Ask them about changes they might be excited to make and how it makes you more effective. And be vulnerable with your team that you need them to help lead the way.