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How can HR take the leading role in the agile transformation?

4 February, 2021

One of the greatest cultural and structural transformation is underway amongst businesses worldwide. The implementation of agile approaches has gone from belonging to start-ups and IT companies to become an obvious part of many organizations’ future. The goal is to become faster, more flexible, more profitable, and a more attractive employer. In a short amount of time, you as a company can introduce agile tools, such as Kanban, and organize yourself in cross-functional teams and thereby come closer to working as companies such as Google and Spotify. But is it enough to reach the outcomes you strive for?

The simple answer is no. There is a big difference in “doing agile” and “being agile”, of which the latter is a lot more complex. To be agile, the business culture must be in line with agile principles, and leaders need to develop their leadership towards working more with coaching and employee development. Simultaneously, agile leaders must continuously remove obstacles and provide their employees with the means to succeed. Leaders must be genuinely convinced that responsibility and self-leadership grow with confidence as larger mandate and responsibility are given to employees.

In other words – to go from “doing agile” to “being agile” is not necessarily something that just happens because an organization start using agile tools. Cultural change is complex and takes time. Fortunately, most companies have an organizational unit with the tools and prerequisites to create real change – HR. HR exists on all levels of an organization – participating in management teams, influencing recruitments, developing educations, and coaching managers in leadership matters – just to name a few. HR is the key player to move an organization from today’s working methods and culture to the future’s agile organization.

So, as an HR-employee, how do you go about if you want to drive the agile transformation? To start with, the delivery of HR-services needs to be agile: “living as you teach” lays the foundation for the remaining organization to succeed. Is there still a performance management model that builds on yearly employee interviews? Are recruitments primarily handled by HR and not by the business’ teams? Does the length of employment still play a significant part in promotions? Or does HR not have a central role in the strategic discussions of the management teams?

Speed and flexibility are more critical than ever, and there is a unique opportunity to challenge current ways of working and HR’s role in the organization. Few companies will succeed in their agile transformation without HR being a central part of the development. Previously it was important with charismatic leaders, eye-catching marketing, and modern technology to be considered a successful company. In the future, it will be crucial to have a modern HR organization that delivers HR services – supporting and driving development towards creating agile successful companies!

Want to know more about the role of HR in agile transformations? Get in touch!


Johanna Murby & Oscar Forslund

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