the wbrain blog

If Agile is not yet a reality, HR may have the answer

Agile Transformation: What is it? How to do? Does it work? Although the agile software development manifesto (or just agile manifesto) is about to turn 20 years old, “Agile” is still not a reality in most companies, despite being treated as the ball of the day, fashion or even as salvation in the Covid era.

It is a fact that companies that adopt or are born following the model in its essence stand out even for the frequent deliveries, in short cycles, listening to feedback constantly and improving the service or product. But these are results obtained precisely because of this “essence” unknown or misunderstood by the market. And for these reasons, agile transformation in most companies fails.
After all, agile transformation is culture change, behavioral change, while agile in turn is about people, not methods or processes. These are just tools that help people to perform in a performative way and adopt new behaviors as well as a new way of thinking, relating, developing and developing as a professional. So, if we are talking about people, behavior, mentality change and cultural change, why does this transformation insist on occurring initially in IT and by IT in a business environment? Or worse – as in most cases – disregarding HR ?!

The tools that are part of the agile culture emerged (even before the practice of the term) in response to a crisis. In the 90s, the IT work model was mainly based on the Fordist industry (model thought and developed in the industrial era), and as is known, this model has influenced and still influences organizations today.

It was by looking at Toyota’s Lean that some professionals of that time decided to create the tools that today the market calls “agile methods” and later a manifesto with four values ​​that always highlight people, before any process, bureaucracy, business at any cost and rigidity at work.

We even had a new people management model, Management 3.0, presented to the market in response to the conflict that the chain of command and control was waging with teams that needed autonomy and self-management to develop their products.

It is precisely at this moment that HR makes all the difference. After all, the challenge is not only for the teams that now work with new rites, ceremonies, artifacts and roles, but for the leaders who will need support to manage and lead, and even be able to direct under the new work paradigm. We are in the era of the creative economy, no longer in the industrial age.

Depending on the defined tool, the transformation can occur in an evolutionary or revolutionary way – and here is a provocation: if the first value of the agile manifesto is “individuals and interactions more than processes and tools”, why does a transformation begin already defining a particular method or framework?

Are leaders and followers alike prepared for this? Wouldn’t it be better to have the support of an area whose vocation is to care for people and their interactions? The benefit of having HR involved and supporting a cultural transformation is not only for IT, but also for HR itself, as well as for the company as a whole.

As much as the area that is undergoing the transformation is independent and makes its own hires, as is the HR in the matter of understanding the difference of roles and positions, or in relation to the control of hours, performance evaluation where the leaderships in the teams do not correspond to the organization chart, among many other dysfunctions that can prevent HR from acting as it should in the company, creating an even greater barrier between the areas.

If IT had been prepared to deal with people and had done it well, over the years, we would not have so many cases of stress, burnout, depression and other pathologies, be they psychological and emotional or even physical. Just as the values ​​expressed in the manifesto would not be interpreted in an inverted way, giving priority to the processes more than the individuals, and mistaken as to the term, demanding more and more performance of the teams at all costs.

Shortly after the manifesto, the market reacted by creating a true agile industrial complex, which is still fed by departments and areas that, due to the lack of knowledge, define criteria that go against the agile culture. And this generates a vicious cycle between professionals looking for opportunities, the market itself and companies that, due to the need to stand out or simply not to be left behind, turn to companies that sell agile as a product.

This whole system and the inversion of agile values ​​has become what is called “false agile”, but despite the harms of this, companies that tried to supply this market demand should not be generalized or held responsible. TI tried to act as it always did, logically, and now, with what it had in hand: a new model that required a paradigm break in all aspects previously reported. Being agile based on empiricism, that is, on experimentation, why not do it differently today and learn from the mistakes already experienced and recognized by the market? Wherever the agile goes, this cycle has happened, so why not avoid the stage of misunderstanding regarding the essence of agility? Why not experience a transformation between IT (or wherever agile is emerging in your company) and HR?

It is not about transforming HR into agile overnight, talking about processes and everything. On the contrary, it is to follow the first value of the manifest and to deal first with people and their interactions, regardless of the company’s model or culture. An HR that has knowledge about agile, despite not working under the model or using any tool, will be able to understand and assist managers and leaders, as well as the area that is adhering to the new model, precisely in breaking the paradigm, in the adoption of this new culture. HR will be able to facilitate the formation of teams from hiring to their maintenance, a benefit not only for the company but also for the market, which in turn will face vacancies that really make sense, better preparing candidates who seek opportunities together to the area and experience in the model. And once you understand and help support agile transformation, what is the impediment to becoming an agile HR? In fact, it will be a much easier way and living up to what was described 20 years ago as “values”.

Otherwise, there is the reality of most companies: the manager opens the vacancy and passes the profile to HR (when he does not ask to open it simply waiting for HR to set up the profile), who seeks professionals in the market (directly or through hunting) ). Most of the time the job description has more to do with the roles of a technical leader or project manager with knowledge and experience or simple experience with agility (using terms and jargon that often shouldn’t even exist). Until the interview arrives and it is not known exactly how to evaluate a candidate for a certain role, or with the necessary skills. And it is this exit (descriptive of the vacancy and interviews) that ends up being demanded and shaping the market. Professionals, in turn, adapt, and that is where the vicious cycle is made.

Once this is understood, that you have an agile mindset, there is for example the understanding that a job is one thing and a role is another, and from the moment the job goes to the market in a different (correct) way and that at the time of the interview the correct profile for hiring is established, you generate a market that does not use jargon or wrong terminology, or that is only looking for alphabet soup, but for quality in professionals.

Unfortunately, large companies that claim to be agile actually have IT that is still changing, following the wrong path regardless of the hiring flow. Therefore, the time has come for us in HR to stop being a service area and truly assume a strategic position, placing people in the focus and no longer processes and systems.