Breaking away from traditional HR models can be a challenge for any organization, but the cost of not doing so can be much greater. As the business landscape continues to evolve rapidly, organizations are under increasing pressure to be agile, innovative and able to respond to changes quickly. However, many HR departments are still operating under outdated models that prioritize stability and control over flexibility and innovation. In this blog post, we will explore some traditional HR processes that can get in the way of Organizational Agility or Agile Transformations and provide some solutions to overcome them.
Agile is the New Norm
Agile methodologies have become the norm, especially in the tech space. More traditional organizations are also utilizing this approach to stay competitive and adapt to changing market demands. However, for an organization to fully embrace agility, it requires a shift in culture, mindset, and practices. While many functions within an organization need to adjust and align to the new Agile ways of working, HR is often overlooked. Traditional HR processes and practices can create roadblocks and prevent organizations from fully realizing the benefits of Agile transformations.
There are 4 basic values of Agile that we explore and connect with how this could be thought about in HR.
Individuals and interactions over processes and tools.
Customer collaboration over contract negotiation.
Working software (tools) over comprehensive documentation.
Responding to change over following a plan.
1. Individuals & Interactions over Processes: Annual Performance Reviews
Annual performance reviews are a common practice. They are designed to evaluate an employee’s performance, determine their strengths and areas for improvement, and set goals for the upcoming year. However, these reviews are often viewed as a box-ticking exercise and fail to provide timely feedback and guidance to employees. They are often an excellent example of process orientation over focusing on the individual and the interaction that needs to take place between a manager and employee. In an Agile organization, regular feedback and communication are crucial for team members to continuously improve and adjust their approach. The annual performance review process can hinder this by creating a culture of waiting for feedback rather than seeking it out. Instead, organizations can implement regular feedback loops such as weekly or bi-weekly check-ins to provide real-time feedback and coaching to team members.
2. Customer Collaboration over Contract Negotiation: Rigid Job Descriptions & Hierarchy
In an organization, your employees are your customers. They have needs and wants, and care mostly about being heard, and feeling like they matter… very similar to any other customers. Historically, we have treated employees more like they are cogs in the wheel to make the enterprise work, undervaluing their contribution, unique skills and perspectives. By focusing on traditional job descriptions we tend to box employees in and limit their value and contribution. Job descriptions (ie the contract) are usually rigid and focused on specific tasks and responsibilities. In an Agile organization, roles and responsibilities can be more fluid, and team members are encouraged to collaborate and take on different tasks as needed. However, rigid job descriptions can limit team members’ ability to adapt and take on new challenges. HR can work with teams to create more flexible job descriptions that allow for cross-functional collaboration and encourage learning and growth. The conflict is stark; solving problems and evolving vs. creating boundaries. That said, one core aspect of Agile is also to make sure that people understand their role and responsibility in any given project, in Agile organizations we can be clear and fluid at the same time
HR structures are often hierarchical with clear reporting lines and job titles. In an Agile organization, teams are self-organizing and work together to achieve a common goal. The hierarchical structure can hinder agility by creating unnecessary bureaucracy and decision-making delays. HR can support Agile transformations by flattening the organization and encouraging collaboration across teams and departments. Creating cross-functional teams with a shared vision and purpose can increase agility and speed up the decision-making processes.
3. Working (tools/process) over Comprehensive Documentation: Lengthy Hiring Processes
Traditional hiring processes are often lengthy and involve multiple rounds of interviews and assessments. In an Agile organization, speed and adaptability are critical, and delays in hiring can hinder the team’s ability to respond to changing market demands. HR can implement a more Agile hiring process that focuses on the candidate’s ability to collaborate, adapt, and learn quickly. This can include using more collaborative hiring techniques such as pairing or group interviews and involving team members in the hiring process to ensure cultural fit. This can be applied by cutting down the “documentation” in the process, but also by expanding our perspective on what “makes a good fit” for a role. If we start to look more for qualities and capabilities than pedigree we can be more agile in hiring but also in expanding our diversity practices in hiring.
4. Responding to Change over Following a Plan: Leadership Growth and Development
Traditional leadership and development training often focuses on a certain style, guiding employees’ individual performance goals and charting out how to lead career advancement. But in a world and environment that is constantly changing, we often will need leaders to adapt their style, to be fluid in their ability to coach their employees, and see that career advancement can be more organic and focused on growth than just moving up a ladder. Agile transformation focuses on continuous learning, collaboration, team-based problem-solving and collective ownership of goals. This can conflict with individual performance goals, and so we need something that can bring all of these pieces together. HR can shift its focus towards team performance, and collective goal-setting, team building and growing leaders to cultivate and teach others.
How HR and Agile Transformation Can Come Together
There is a great opportunity to create a cross-functional team between HR and those focused on the Agile transformation to collaborate and align with the organization’s goals and values. Additionally, there should be a shared understanding of organizational agility and what it means for their organization. Developing values, principles and practices that are required to build a culture of agility is necessary. The cross functional team can include members from different departments and functions, and can work together to solve complex problems and drive innovation. Together they can work on meaningful shifts, ways to evolve the culture that are focused on high performance, but in a way that is fluid and supports individuals contribution to the whole.
Here are some important methods we could collaborate on to shift culture:
Engagement Surveys are a valuable tool that can help organizations identify areas where employees are engaged and motivated, as well as areas where they are struggling. These surveys allow HR to collect feedback from employees and identify areas that need improvement. This feedback can then be used to develop action plans and initiatives that are aligned with the organization’s overall strategy and goals, including initiatives that align with the Agile methodology. For example, agile coaches can help HR develop initiatives that focus on creating a culture of continuous improvement, which is a critical component of being Agile. They can also help HR develop initiatives that improve communication and collaboration across teams, which is essential for agile teams to be successful.
Engagement surveys can also be used to measure the success of Agile initiatives. By tracking engagement scores over time, HR and agile coaches can measure the impact of their initiatives and identify areas that may require additional focus. They can also use the data to adjust their initiatives and strategies, ensuring that they are always aligned with the organization’s goals and objectives for quick feedback and adaptability
Performance Management and Continuous Feedback
Agile goals can include HR to identify areas where there may be a lack of alignment between the Agile methodology and HR policies and processes. For example, traditional performance management processes may not align with Agile methodologies, which prioritize continuous feedback and improvement. This is an opportunity for HR to develop new performance management processes that aligns with the spirit of Agile and promote continuous improvement through the use of tools like 360’s, and giving feedback, coaching areas of opportunity and creating a meaningful plan to measure that growth.
Leadership and Development
This is such a high leverage opportunity to create the right mindset, cultural shifts and instill the principles of transformation thinking if Agile thinking were to be incorporated in L&D. Designing topics like, “Coaching vs. Feedback,""How to Create Collaborative Teams,” “Building Transparency and Clear Communication,” could powerfully align leadership skills, thinking and mindset with the culture we are trying to drive. This unlock can be a powerful way of creating shift change in an organization, and getting people to think in a new, different and powerful way.
It’s time to rethink traditional practices and implement more Agile approaches across an organization’s processes. HR can play a vital role in supporting organizational agility and creating a culture of continuous improvement and learning. By working together and partnering in a transformation, HR can help build a shared understanding of organizational agility and develop aligned goals that support the organization’s success. If this work interests you, or you think your organization could use help with this, please reach out to us at Cicada, this is one of things that we specialize in.