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HR's role in implementing Agile

CRITICALEYE | MARY-ANNE BALDWIN | 8 JUNE 2017

Amy Dickinson, people and talent expert at PA Consulting Group, shares her insights on HR and Agile. The article is a result of thoughts that were shared during a Criticaleye conference call on HR’s role in building a new organisations structure. Amy offers her insight on the blockers she has met and shares her expertise on best practice.

The article notes that over the last eight years, Amy has helped companies deliver large-scale transformation. She has recently responded to business’ increasing interest in adopting Agile.

Speaking about Agile in businesses she says that it: “values individuals and interactions over processes and tools, it’s also about being very close to your customer, really understanding their needs, involving them in solution design and testing. It’s also about building in increments by deconstructing the complex into manageable pieces and rigorously prioritising them according to the value they’ll deliver to the business.”

Amy also goes on to comment about Agile change programmes. She says that: “Creating Agile in a bubble means when that bubble hits another area of the business it creates friction.”

She believes that the best way to look at this is to ask how HR can support the business in developing greater agility across an organisation. She states that: “Agile often requires a faster pace as well as new talent. HR should look at the likely recruitment requirements, how to speed up the on-boarding process and how to build a talent pipeline. That must be done alongside the change consultant or leader so that the new needs of the business are met.”

The article goes on to examine how businesses can keep up momentum when implementing an Agile change programme. She notes that: “it’s common for businesses to lose traction when they hit dry areas like compliance. One tool she uses with clients is an App called ‘20 Days later’, which helps people form new habits. The tool sends push notifications to remind and encourage people to adopt the new approach. After 20 days, the team re-groups to evaluate the programme’s success and values.”

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She says that change champions can be effective, but that: “many companies simply push communication through them, wanting them to disseminate information. You’ll find far greater value in creating strong feedback loops that capture sentiment around the business. It really helps locate the blockers.”

She adds that organisations should consider what they want from their champions: “Do you want them just to boost wider engagement or shape, design and implement change? If it’s the latter, you must decide how much autonomy to give them. Establishing a group of ‘product owners’ with accountability for specific parts of the change programme could be more effective.”

When quizzed about creating the right environment for Agile, Amy notes that:  “Agile works on the value of building face-to-face communication. It’s really important to create space for more informal meetings so people can collaborate.

“Wall space is also very important. It sounds very basic but having white boards and pin boards on which teams can chart their progress helps the flow of information. Because they’re public it also allows open communication across teams, which may then see opportunities to step in and cross-pollinate.”

Amy concludes by stating that: “even relatively small changes to the physical environment can have quite a big impact on culture. Investing in a modern décor will feel to staff like you’re investing in them, boosting engagement as well as rebranding the business as progressive and innovative.”

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