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Wednesday, July 27 • 11:30am - 12:00pm
Practicing Agility in Human Resources (Jeff Howey) POPULAR

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Have you ever wished "the business" teams would practice Agile as much as "technology" teams? Be careful what you ask for! It's not as easy, in practice, as it sounds in theory.
What began as a discussion to scale Agile across several Technology teams supporting the HR Business unit of a Fortune 500 Financial Services company quickly shed light on the need for active participation from the HR Business unit. As the HR organization worked to assess their readiness and discuss potential systems of delivery that would suit their needs, the leadership team agreed the same concepts of Agile could help them better manage demand in the operations of their HR Business units - from recruiting and employee communications to payroll and compensation management. What I learned is this: it's not as straightforward as one would think given the mixed nature of a business team trying to "just do their jobs" at the same time as "moving strategy forward" in an environment where most team members are truly specialists with specific job duties and spans of control, not so much a team of generalists working to deliver a unified service.
Through this experience report, I will explore:
  • The concepts and ideas that were important to the leadership team of the HR Business units as drivers for them to adopt Agility across more than just Technology
  • How the decision to include business operations teams shaped the structure and governance approach of the organization as a means of scaling Agile
  • What practices and behaviors adopted by the HR Business units were similar to those used by the IT teams, where they differed, and why
  • How the teams personalized the use of visual management tools to bring visibility to their work without feeling micro-managed in daily activities and where some teams abandoned the practice for varying reasons
  • How a "department" of HR Specialists was able to continue their specific job duties and begin to employ the concept of "team" working on a defined set of shared goals
  • Where the expectations of the leadership team hoped to build a culture of decentralized and empowered decision-making only to find a mix of delight and disappointment in the result
  • The challenges and temptations the team continues to face and how they present opportunities for the team to further adapt - or potentially fail, if unwilling to continue making needed improvements
Lessons Learned from Your Experience:
  • Many reasons to adopt Agile in Technology also apply to managing a business unit's operations.
  • Common frameworks for scaling Agile practices don't always fit perfectly when trying to scale beyond technology initiatives and require some ingenuity to build a useful structure and governance approach.
  • In a business operations setting, Kanban makes sense to manage flow but can feel uncoordinated in some cases or micro-managing in other cases - finding balance for these teams required a blend of some Scrum ceremonies with the Kanban approach to feel comfortable. In fact, some "best practices" of Scrum for technology teams seem to make life more difficult for business operations teams.
  • While many team members expect a cultural transformation in parallel to the new practices of Agile, it is normal for the cultural change to follow Agile practices and behaviors, not lead it - in fact, some Agile-at-Scale practices seem to contraindicate cultural goals - at least in the early stages of a transformation initiative.

avatar for Jeff Howey

Jeff Howey

Agile Transformation Consultant, LeadingAgile
I enjoy transforming how an organization does business by helping them think differently about how they define strategy, prioritize work, trust people to do their jobs and align the delivery system to the capabilities the organization provides. In addition to changing how people... Read More →

Wednesday July 27, 2016 11:30am - 12:00pm EDT