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European SAFe summit interesting lectures from Agile HR - takeaways

It’s easy for people to keep their old behavior – unless there is an exceptionally good reason to make such a change. A reason so compelling that the status quo becomes simply unacceptable. A reason so strong that change becomes the only reasonable way forward to success.” (- Scaled Agile Framework Article: Reaching the Tipping Point)

At the European SAFe summit there were two very interesting lectures from Agile HR (Lean Agile Implementation in HR – SAFe Approach and 10 Greatest Ideas For Agile HR) where I made a takeaways.

Lean Agile Implementation in HR – SAFe Approach

Lecture “Lean Agile Implementation in HR – SAFe Approach” from Padma Satyamurthy, CPRIME. This was a clear and standard topic from one side, but interesting from a way how it was presented and what is critical I would say - from HR technocracy view.

Agile isn't just for tech anymore - it's transforming how organizations hire, develop, and manage their people, - HBR

Personal Note: I think that the concept of presentation was based on Harvard Business Review “HR Goes Agile” and extended with SAFe principles, ok, why not.

  • Embrace the new talent contract

  • Foster Continuous Engagement

  • Hire for Attitude and Cultural Fit

  • Move to Iterative Performance Flow

  • Take the Issue of Money of the Table

  • Support Impactful Learning and Growth

Relevant HR Strategy based on Leadership Development, Employee Engagement and critical part with process of Hire, Train, Develop and Retain individuals.

What are differences in a phase of Hiring?

  • From Traditional Teams where is Team Lead / Project Manages to Agile Teams, where is self-organizing team with Servant Leader / Facilitator as part of team.

  • New Hiring Strategy that includes Daily Stand Up, Weekly update to Bus and Weekly Retrospective

Takeaway / Personal Note 1:

Sometime it is fun how HR people are lost with two simple changes in their work. Not only HR people, but CXO managers too. So, what are these major changes? Implementation of Scrum and Kanban way of work.

Scrum way of work:

  • They should split their work into a list of small, concrete deliverables. Assign someone to be responsible for that list and to sort the list by priority. The implementation team estimates the relative size of each item.

  • They should split time into short fixed-length iterations (usually 1 – 4 weeks), with potentially shippable work demonstrated after each iteration.

  • They should optimize the release plan and update priorities in collaboration with the BU, based on insights gained by inspecting the release after each iteration.

  • They should optimize the process by having a retrospective after each iteration.

Kanban way of work:

  1. Visualize the workflow by

  • Split the work into pieces, write each item on a card and put on the wall

  • Use named columns to illustrate where each item is in the workflow

  1. Limit WIP (work in progress) – assign explicit limits to how many items may be in progress at each workflow state.

  2. Measure the lead time (average time to complete one item, sometimes called “cycle time”), optimize the process to make lead time as small and predictable as possible.

And that’s really all, believe me.

What are differences in a phase of Training?

  • The jobs are there, but the skills are not… That’s important premise

  • There is New Way of Working:

What are differences in a phase of Developing?

Personal note: The 70:20:10 Model for Learning and Development (also written as 70-20-10 or 70/20/10) is a learning and development model that suggests a proportional breakdown of how people learn effectively.

What are differences in a phase of Retaining?

10 Greatest Ideas For Agile HR

Lecture “10 Greatest Ideas For Agile HR” from Gez Smith, was very inspiring for me, as it has really good structure based on Hypothesis, Discussion, Experiment.

  • Hypothesis that that support of problem topic

  • Discussion about problem topic and

  • Experiment that covered problem topic. What you should try in your organization

This structure was very clear and it allows to anyone follow the presenter.

Take Away #0: Simply the best! Even with so wide topic it can be easy handled with clear track for listeners so they can follow you

Hypothesis 1: People can review their own performance better than their managers can !

The Agency For Feedback Has To Go Somewhere...

  • Feedback needs to come from somewhere

  • If a manager refuses to give it, the person will need to generate it themselves

  • They likely know themselves better than the manager does

  • Therefore, the feedback will be higher quality

Experiment 1: “Agree a framework for what performance areas others may review, then decentralize everything else back to the employee

Take Away #1: There is several ways that we can find in coaching practice about giving feedback. You know that worst case is to be trained for giving feedback and expect to use it always and anywhere. Like sandwich feedback method, it looks like grotesque shot and has contradiction results for person who provides feedback in wrong way. In team performance feedback to individual is much better.

Hypothesis 2: Your people struggle to receive feedback, limiting your organizational learning

You Can Give All The Feedback You Want...

Experiment 2:Find volunteers who find feedback hard to receive, and use them to learn the cultural and systemic blockers around freely and happily receiving feedback within your organization

Take Away #2: Yes, this happen all time and this is where coaching culture can do change. There are individuals that resist to receive feedback from different reasons. You can decide to go with my way or highway. Anyway, I think that in this case can all loose and better way is to find the way.

Hypothesis 3: Your organizational fear of failure is limiting your organizational learning

Failure Is Bad, Right? Not When You Learn From It.

“I would have made nothing if I had not made mistakes...Success is stumbling from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”

Experiment 3: “Create internal events for people to meet and share their learnings from failure in a safe and blame free environment

Take Away #3: From my perspective, this is critical point for any organization that tries to transform to agile. Without learning from failures, it is not agile (I would say any good organization) and organization culture is critical for this level.

Hypothesis 4: A lack of psychological safety limits experimentation and innovation, and may be hidden

Bureaucracy Kills Psychological Safety.

  • Bureaucracy destroys initiative. "There is little that bureaucrats hate more than innovation, especially innovation that produces better results than the old routines. Improvements always make those at the top of the heap look inept”, Frank Herbert, Heretics of Dune

  • "In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one can argue, to whom one can present grievances, on whom the pressures of power can be exerted” Hannah Arendt, On Violence

Experiment 4:Run a psychological safety audit, asking people to flag up any things in the organization that make them feel scared or at risk of penalty, then look to see how many of these things you can remove

Take Away #4: From my experience, with Bureaucracy suffer any corporation or company where is more than 70 people from different reasons. And some organization are nutrition their managers (see: Peter Principle effect). Sometimes the managers thinks that this is role of Scrum Masters, but this is wrong. It is culture issue.

Hypothesis 5: Your organizational learning is locked up in people’s heads, because they don’t know how to teach

But What If Teaching Makes Them Feel Like This?

Experiment 5: “Run a pilot to train people in training others, book rooms and organize events for them to practice knowledge sharing, and watch the effect it has on your organization’s generative learning

Take Away #5: Establish peer training culture and motivate.

Hypothesis 6: Traditional job descriptions are big up-front design, unfit for a lean-agile learning organization

A Genuine Job Advertisement... (personal note: isn't it too long pages? Have fun? this is just sad reality... )

...What If Instead?

“As a ...

I want ...

So that ...”

Experiment 6: “Find a role that’s going to be hired soon, and see if you can write the job description into a series of user stories, open for conversation and negotiation

Take Away #6: It doesn't make sense to hire smart people and tell them what to do; we hire smart people so they can tell us what to do. --Steve Jobs

It make no sense to create a big job descriptions and try to find right people for lean-agile learning organization. The right people have to reach you and have conversation how they can do something you are looking for.

Hypothesis 7: Your internal HR fluidity limits your value stream alignment as much as your cost-center budgeting

But Surely No-One Does This?

Experiment 7:Create a self-declared skills database and use a workforce fluidity metric to track how often people move freely between teams to share skills and knowledge

Take Away #07: I would closely reference to job rotation with one change – it is done freely.

It promotes flexibility of employees and to keep employees interested into staying with the company/organization which employs them. (Employee Learning, Employer Learning, Employee Motivation)

Hypothesis 8: Helping certain people to leave a transformation will be better than forcing them to stay

· Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior:

  1. Organizations are implicitly optimized to avoid changing the status quo middle- and first-level manager and “specialist” positions & power structures.

  2. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be reduced to redefining or overloading the new terminology to mean basically the same as status quo.

  3. As a corollary to (1), any change initiative will be derided as “purist”, “theoretical”, “revolutionary”, "religion", and “needing pragmatic customization for local concerns” — which deflects from addressing weaknesses and manager/specialist status quo.

  4. As a corollary to (1), if after changing the change some managers and single-specialists are still displaced, they become “coaches/trainers” for the change, frequently reinforcing (2) and (3).

Experiment 8:Advertise HR career option sessions for those that really don’t want to make the change

Take Away #08: definitely Larman’s Laws of Organizational Behavior. See Laman

Hypothesis 9: Decentralize workspace control to your teams

Small Changes Can Make A Big Difference

Experiment 9:Trial telling teams that they wholly own their workspaces, and for them to escalate any blockers to a nominated point of contact

Hypothesis 10: Truly cross-functional people in high-performing teams also need to learn HR skills

One Day, Our Retrospective Read Like This...

  • The same person everywhere...

Experiment 10:Ask teams for areas where they’d find it more useful to be able to run HR related work themselves, then train and coach them in how to do so

Take Away #10: Partially agree (some activities require huge amount of time and require dedicated way of work) and I would like to point that it could be good for these activities:

  • Determine needs of the staff

  • Determine to use temporary staff

  • Recruit and train the best employees.

  • Supervise the work.

  • Manage employee relations, unions and collective bargaining.

  • Ensure high performance.

  • Ensure equal opportunities.

  • Deal with discrimination.

  • Deal with performance issues.

  • Push the employees' motivation.

  • Upgrade learning knowledge of employees

  • Disseminate information in the organization so as to benefit its growth


Both lectures were cool and inspirational. Related to my takeaways I believe that New Way of Working in HR is not so critical point. I see as most critical the change of mindset, that is on individual level and on organization. There are still critical areas for improvement like giving feedback, learning, setup of environment including bureaucracy level to minimum, change the way of job advertisement and write job description. Some people are not able to absorb change and therefore is better to let them leave organization. Some level of HR skills should be part of knowledge of high performing teams.

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