A Disciplined Agile Mindset for People Management

There is all sorts of great advice out there for how human resource (HR) professionals can become more agile, including Pia-Maria Thoren’s book Agile People and the Agile HR Manifesto. Here are what we believe to be the critical philosophies that underpin a Disciplined Agile mindset for people management:

  1. People aren’t resources. This was certainly a lament as long ago as the early 1990s and we suspect even earlier than that. Calling someone a resource is insulting at best and agilists simply don’t tolerate it. Step one on your agile journey is to jettison the term resource once and for all, an implication being that “human resources” must be dropped too. We prefer People Management, although others suggest pretty much any combination of Talent/People/Human and Management/Coordination/Operations. Pick what works best for your organization, but please abandon the term HR. Enough is enough.
  2. Support agile teams. We need to enable teams to organize themselves, manage their work, and evolve their own process or “way of working.” The concept that a team owns their own process, that it isn’t inflicted upon them by “all seeing management,” is a fundamental of agile. Having said that, in the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit we recognize that teams must still be governed appropriately.
  3. Be flexible. Our organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) where teams will work together in an evolving, context-sensitive manner. One People Management strategy does not fit all, and any strategy we adopt must adapt as the situation evolves.
  4. Energize people. People who are energized, who are happy, who love their work are far more productive than people who are not.
  5. Enable people. We need to help teams get the funding and time required for training and coaching, to help set up communities of practice (CoPs)/guilds where people can help each other to learn their craft, and to help set up communities of excellence (CoEs) that offer explicit learning support to people. We also need to help leaders to push decision making authority to the people who do the work and help these people to accept this authority and responsibility.
  6. Inspire leadership. We want to inspire the leadership within our organization to be agile themselves, to move away from command-and-control management and become true leaders who motivate and enable our staff.
  7. Reduce cycle time. People managers must be able to move fast to support people when they need it, to hire good people when they become available, and to support the evolution of teams and their way of working when required. The implication is that People Management professionals need to perform key activities such as recruitment and supporting learning in a continuous manner, rather than the episodic efforts of traditional HR that are often motivated by the needs of a specific project or budget.
  8. Enable cultural and structural fit. When culture and structure become misaligned we effectively throw sand into the gears of our organization, reducing our ability to delight our customers. Our People Management efforts must actively strive to monitor this fit and then work with teams to help them become better aligned.
  9. Reward for agile behaviors. If we want to have an agile organization then we need to reward staff for behaviors that lead to this. The implication is that we need to reward people for delighting customers, for effective teamwork, for collaboration, and for learning.
  10. Govern lightly. Yes, there are still legal requirements and financial constraints that we must operate under. But, it’s important to recognize that we often have significant leeway in how we choose to respond to those requirements and constraints. So respond lightly. Effective governance is based on educating and motivating people to “do the right thing” and then making it as easy as possible for them to do so. Wording this as an agile value – Motivation and enablement over command and control.

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