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People over process: 6 changes to HR in Agile organizations

When you hear "Agile", do you think of teams buzzing with energy, colorful sticky notes, and morning huddles? While that's a part of the picture, there's a much bigger canvas. Dive deeper into Agile, and you'll realize it's not just about how teams work together but how it reshapes entire organizations. It's like upgrading from a tricycle to a sports car; everything speeds up, and everything changes.
So, here I am kicking off the "People Model" series! Over the next few posts, I'll explore how embracing Agile sends ripples (or maybe waves!) through your HR departments, affects how we talk about performance, and reshapes career dreams. If you're all buckled in and ready for a deep dive into the human-centric world of Agile transformations, let's set the wheels in motion!

Change #1: Charting New Career Maps

In the Agile universe, teams are more like flat terrains than hierarchical mountains. They self-steer and self-organize, dancing to their own rhythm without a manager leading every step. The ripple effect? A noticeable drop in the number of managerial spots available.
Remember when eyeing that manager's chair was the ultimate career milestone? Well, with fewer of those chairs around in Agile circles, the narrative is shifting. But fear not! Career growth hasn't hit a roadblock. In fact, it's branching out.
Agile organizations are now drawing up two career highways: the seasoned 'individual contributor' track and the traditional 'manager' route. The twist? Pros on the individual contributor path might not oversee a team, but they’re rocking the same prestige and perks as their managerial counterparts. So, while the paths may have changed, the destination - growth, recognition, and rewards - remains as alluring as ever!

Change #2: Balancing Team Goals with Personal Aspirations

Let's talk about goals! In the Agile world, we're big on achieving shared team goals that deliver real value to our customers and business. But, while we're all rowing our boat towards a common destination, does that mean there's no room for personal ambitions? Not quite.
Personal goals aren't out of the picture; they just take on a different flavor. Instead of being about hitting certain numbers or outputs, they revolve around personal growth - like honing a skill, learning something new, or stepping out of your comfort zone.
However, here's the catch: While individual growth is fantastic, when it comes to rewards or assessments, it's about the team's success. Think of it this way: We're on a soccer team, and while practicing penalty kicks might be your personal goal, the team's win is what we all celebrate the most. In Agile, everyone's a star when the team shines bright!

Change #3: Embracing 360° Performance Reviews

In the dynamic world of Agile, micromanagement is a relic of the past. Teams are given the reins to self-organize, and with the managerial spotlight dimming, your immediate boss might not always be clued into your daily grind. So, when it's time for a performance check-in, should they be the sole judge of your achievements? Think about it: who better understands your contributions than the very team you collaborate with day in and day out?
Of course, when it comes to performance reviews, objectivity is the golden grail. While it's nearly impossible to nail down a fully unbiased evaluation (we're talking about qualitative traits like values and behaviors, after all!), the 360° review process gets us pretty darn close. Here’s how it unfolds: You'll first write down your self-assessment. Next, your team chips in with their insights. And then your manager blends these perspectives with their own, crafting a comprehensive review that influences not just your paycheck, but the stepping stones of your career journey.

Change #4: Navigating Contribution Models

Imagine you're a digital marketer working in an Agile team, right next to a software engineer. Comes performance review time, and you're asked to evaluate that engineer. You appreciate his friendly demeanor and willingness to lend a hand, but beyond that, you're treading unfamiliar territory. How can you give a nuanced assessment of his code quality or software architecture decisions? This conundrum arises as Agile teams turn cross-functional, blurring the distinct lines of specialized roles.
Enter: Contribution Models. Think of them as a roadmap, offering clarity on expected behaviors and contributions for each role, tailored to levels of seniority. And as the name suggests, these models zone in on contributions. It's less about having a particular skill and more about actively using that skill to advance the team's mission.
These models serve a dual purpose. On one hand, they're evaluation tools, enabling team members to provide meaningful feedback across different roles (So, as a marketer, you'll know exactly what benchmarks a senior product owner should be hitting, like spearheading data-driven A/B tests). On the other hand, they're guiding lights for individuals, laying out the milestones they need to hit to climb the career ladder.

Change #5: Embracing the Feedback Frequency

Imagine cruising through the year, confident in your work, only to have the rug pulled out from under you with a surprise negative annual review. The immediate thought? "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Sadly, in many traditional settings, feedback conversations are like those dreaded dentist appointments – often postponed until absolutely necessary.
However, in Agile ecosystems, feedback isn't a once-a-year affair. It's a consistent rhythm. Think of it as the heartbeat of professional development. Rather than annual mega-reviews, Agile organizations lean into more frequent, yet manageable, review cycles. Quarterly check-ins are pretty standard. But it doesn't stop there; regular 1-on-1 feedback sessions are encouraged, not just between managers and employees but also amongst peers. This proactive approach ensures that everyone is aligned with expectations, and no one is left in the dark until year-end.
Feedback isn't just about pointing out areas of improvement; it's an essential tool for growth. By weaving it into the daily fabric of work, it becomes as habitual as your morning coffee. If you're keen on mastering the art of feedback, dive into my dedicated blog posts about giving and receiving feedback with finesse!

Change #6: Reframing Leadership in the Agile Era

Once upon a time in the corporate realm, the term 'manager' often conjured up images of corner offices and top-down directives. But the Agile landscape has painted a new portrait of leadership, one of a 'servant leader'.
In this new Agile narrative, managers aren't the all-knowing decision-makers, handing down objectives from on high. Instead, they are enablers, there to provide their teams with the resources, guidance, and coaching they need to succeed. The manager's role is flipped – it's less about setting the goalposts and more about assisting others in reaching and even moving them.
When it comes to evaluations, the spotlight isn't just on the leader's achievements. It shines brightly on their ability to foster growth within their teams and their knack for contributing to team goals. These evaluations are often influenced by feedback directly from their teams, making it transparent and holistic. In the Agile age, leadership is about diving into the trenches, facilitating growth, and solving challenges head-on. It's a world where leaders are recognized more for the growth they inspire in others rather than just their personal accomplishments.
If you are embarking on an Agile transformation it's vital to see the bigger picture, especially when it comes to reshaping the way we manage and grow our most invaluable assets – our people. And while we're at it, maybe it's time to retire the term "human resources" and embrace a more human-centric term, like "People Model."
In today's discussion, I've given you a bird's-eye view of this evolving landscape. But rest assured, this is just the beginning. I'll be diving deeper into each facet of this model in upcoming posts. So, bookmark this space and join me on this enlightening journey into the heart of Agile transformations. Until next time!
Agile transformation Leadership Business Agility