Human Resources needs to be part of your company's agile transformation!

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Categories: Agile, Project Management

When we think about the journey from traditional delivery approaches to agile, the focus is normally on delivery teams or on those areas of the organization which will need to transition from being project-focused to becoming product, capability or value-stream centric.
Human resources is a good example of an organizational function which you might not think would experience significant change.

For large companies which have defined job families and roles, agile might introduce new roles such as Scrum Masters, product owners or agile coaches. Not only will organizational design professionals have to develop the required competencies and accountabilities of such new roles, they'll also need to design career transitions from other roles into and out of these.

In many markets, experienced agile coaches might be worth their weight in gold so compensation staff will need to identify what will be reasonable median salaries for such roles and then calculate the impact of potential compensation ripple effects on the feeder roles into such positions. This is critical, otherwise the effort spent hiring, onboarding or promoting staff into these roles will be wasted if compensation doesn't reflect market realities. As with other hot skills, retention can be as challenging as procurement.

Companies are often organized into departments of distinct, specialized skills and performance measurement programs emphasize the individual instead of teams. Traditional recognition programs reward individual performance with team celebration or recognition getting short shrift when it comes to budgets.

Agile delivery flourishes when you have long lived teams of generalizing specialists who collaborate closely. The team, rather than any one team member is the lowest level of granularity when it comes to decision-making, commitment and performance.

What this implies is that people managers who might previously have discouraged their staff from straying outside the boundaries of their specific competencies or roles will need to alter their approach and HR will need to lead this charge on encouraging the right types of leadership behavior. Performance management processes will also need to evolve to emphasize an individual's contribution towards team performance to incent the right type of behaviors from former primadonnas.

A successful agile transformation impacts all parts of a company, including those which are usually not directly involved with project delivery.

(Note: this article was originally written and published by me in September 2016 on

Posted on: January 12, 2018 08:30 AM | Permalink

Comments (9)

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Agile roles tend to hop around, I guess that is the case with most emerging popular roles due to demand.

Absolutely - whenever there is a sellor's market for talent, it is that much more challenging to retain good people.


Good article Kiron. Agile has arrived. HR needs to understand it's role.

Agile transformation means a cultural shift and it impacts the human resource element the most, starting from top management to team members. A successful transition needs to focus on HR element as these are the people who will ultimately make this transformation a success or failure.

Thanks Drake, Najam & Eduin for the feedback. It's unfortunate that many agile transformations focus purely on delivery teams but forget that it takes a village to deliver a project!

'Transformation', in itself, implies across the organization, as opposed to a 'shift'. Transformations are [sometimes seemingly] highly underestimated and overly simplified.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this.

Thanks for the feedback, Andrew!

In one of my presentations I provide these four different components which could be part of an agile transformation - it's definitely more than just "agile for all projects"!

- Moving from traditional to agile delivery for a department or enterprise portfolio
- Moving from a project-centric to a product-centric value delivery approach
- Only starting as many concurrent projects as can be optimally staffed
- Breaking down the walls between development & operations


I take the same view as you. HR needs to understand that Agile can help a team to focus on the most valuable work and deliver meaningful results more frequently. Thanks for your article.

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