Before we go in more detail about the key role of HR in implementing an agile work structure, let’s first talk about the core principles of an agile organisation:

  • The primacy of customer: It’s all about delivering value to customers. In truly agile organisations, everyone is passionately obsessed with delivering more value to customers. The firm adjusts everything – goals, values, principles, processes, systems, practices, etc. – to generate value and eliminate everything that doesn’t contribute. If the work isn’t adding value to any customer or user, then an immediate question arises as to why the work is being done at all.
  • Descaling work for small teams: Agile practitioners share a mindset that work should, to the extent possible, be done by small autonomous cross-functional teams, working in short cycles on relatively small tasks and getting continuous feedback from the ultimate customer (working in iterations). In this sense, annual performance cycles become relics.
  • The organisation is a network: Communications flow easily in all directions – ideas can come from everywhere.

THE HR TEAM HAS TO GO AGILE FIRST

HR is the driving force behind the transition of a company to become an agile organisation. For this reason, HR should be the first department to change its self-image. The team should see itself not only as recruiter or labour lawyer, but also to present an agile mindset, enable others to transform and support with coaching. HR will move from being one person responsible for one topic to a team-based and cross-functional working unit.

HR has to deliver value to customers as well. Moving from a reactive position (doing things by request only) towards a more proactive position. In a sense that HR acts similar to a product owner and considers what is strategically important within and for the company, helping to deliver to the business and to solve problems for the customer.

Challenges are always viewed holistically by HR, because employees’ and top managers’ development is pointless if the organisation does not develop in parallel. HR becomes a personnel and organisational developer and a cultural designer.

HR ENABLES EMPLOYEES TO WORK AGILE

HR should encourage employees to work independently, flexibly, interdisciplinary and in iterations. At the same time, the HR team supports the self-responsibility and self-organisation of all employees and creates the right processes for this. For example: The teams select their own new employees. HR only takes care of the recruiting process. Or: Not HR, but the employees themselves are responsible for their further training. They know best what is important for their career within the company. Thereby HR only takes on a consulting role.

HR BECOMES AN AGILE COACH

Enabling others to take their further development into their own hands shows that HR should also become an agile coach. Especially team leads should be coached, as they are role models for others.

Their soft skills should include being flexible, agile, capable of transformation, having a dynamic attitude and supporting their employees. In the process, their management tools are also changing:

  • It is not about assessing the employees any more. It’s about their development and their learnings.
  • Feedback processes should happen more often. If possible, project-related or once a month – instead of once a year
  • Employee goals can also be adjusted flexibly during the year and are based more on collective team goals

ESTABLISHING AN AGILE COMPANY CULTURE

Furthermore, HR will promote a culture that works across hierarchies and divisions. It is all about networking and active shaping. Employees should develop a mindset that understands change as a permanent condition. To establish such a culture, the following tip is recommended: Basically, treat culture as a product with features as well. In this sense, topics such as values can be (further) developed by using methods like design thinking.

This shows itself by combining design and coaching methods: organisational design, people practice, training the leaders and focusing on culture.

HOW TO BECOME SUCCESSFUL?

  • Define outcome and driver metrics: What does the company want to achieve and how can we measure it?
  • Establish baselines
  • Create a definition of success and use feedback to track it
  • Measure and track success based on predefined Make sure to have a story behind it (why are we using these specific metrics anyway) and always use a combination of metrics to measure success, not only one
  • Communicate! What is working, what isn’t, etc.

WHAT ARE AGILE METHODS?

  • Design Thinking
  • Scrum
  • Business Model Canvas
  • Lean Start-Up

WHAT KIND OF ORGANISATIONAL STRUCTURES ARE HELPFUL?

  • Squads
  • Tribes
  • Chapters

If you have more questions about transforming into an agile organisation or need support, please contact our MD Marie (marie@doneberlin.com).