Why agility begins with your HR induction

Agile organisations can't exist without Agile people

by Adam Gale
Last Updated: 20 Sep 2018

Think of an Agile company that has successfully responded to changes in customer behaviour, or perhaps has been on the forefront of leading these changes. Picture yourself as a fly on their office wall, and imagine how this firm was able to move so quickly and effectively.

Call it a wild guess, but are you by any chance picturing bearded software developers in some flashy tech firm, standing in a circle in a room filled with bean bags, Lego, touch screens and brightly coloured post-it notes?

The stereotypes persist, but in reality you don’t need to be a tech company to be Agile, and not all agility is found in the tech department.

Indeed, truly Agile firms recognise that you only move at the speed of your slowest component. This encompasses all functions, from finance and procurement through to marketing, sales and even HR. After all, there’s no point in your engineers developing a fantastic minimum viable product, if they then can’t get it to market to test it, or if they can’t get budget approval for two months.

But what does agility actually look like in, say, the finance department or the legal team? Don’t worry, it doesn’t mean accountants doing scrums, or lawyers prioritising speed over substance. What it really means is integration.

In Agile firms, executives in these functions are not isolated from the front line troops like some distant general staff. They work alongside them, collaborating across functions in ad hoc, multi-disciplinary teams, ensuring what they do actively contributes to the wider objectives of the business.

Achieving agility in every corner of an organisation isn’t always easy though. It’s just not possible to change how your organisation works without also changing how your people work – and old habits die hard.

It helps if you can hire people who’ve worked in such environments before, but that can’t be guaranteed, especially in traditional back office roles. Ultimately, Agile behaviour requires both Agile systems and Agile culture, which is why the HR induction is so important...

Don’t take this too literally – one HR meeting is never going to change the world. It’s rather that the company needs, at the earliest opportunity, to set the tone for what behaviours it expects, and then demonstrate them consistently at every stage thereafter.

In this way, individuals will quickly learn how to operate in an Agile way, no matter what function they’re in. For its part, HR can play a critical, ongoing role in supporting people in what may be a new way of working for them.

This ‘generation Agile’ could be the first for whom concepts like rapid testing and iterative development are simply second nature, which ultimately will be good for everyone.

Cultivating both individual and organisational agility requires ongoing effort, but the rewards can be immense. To find out more about how agility works in practice across all sectors and all functions, book your place at the Agile Business Conference in London, September 26-27 using the code MTREADER15 for 15% off.