Learning from tech teams

image1I’ve worked with technology teams my entire career and if there’s one thing I’ve learnt, it is that their world changes faster than the seasons. As compared to the world of technology, the world of HR moves at snail’s pace or slower if possible. Some would disagree for it feels like you are caught up in a whirlwind ever so often. Now take that and multiply it by 100, that’s how swiftly tech changes. It is only natural that they’ve found magical yet simple ways to work efficiently in flux and have a thing or two to teach us. There are innumerable articles/books on ‘Agile HR’ yet we are hardly really agile. Consider this post yet another shove to get you moving in the right direction.

Here are four terms from their world that we’d benefit from bringing into our life:

  1. Agile: A long time ago, when the pace of technology was slower, the most popular model of software development was the waterfall model. However, with time, the need for a different model emerged – one that could accommodate swifter delivery cycles and quick iteration. The 12 agile principles are so simple and commonsensical that it feels as though an HR professional drafted them. Today over 70% of technology teams across the world use agile or a hybrid model. At the heart of agile, lies scrum and Kanban.
  1. Scrum: Scrum is a framework that allows delivery of solutions of complex adaptive problems. The scrum framework can be applied to any aspects of life including weight loss and fitness. Scrum depends on self-organizing teams that determine how to best deliver work assigned to them starting with what is known, tracking progress and tweaking as the work progresses. At the core of scrum, lies sprint and daily scrum meetings. Daily scrum meetings are a quick 15- minute stand up meeting that happens at the same place and time every day. The meeting accesses the work done the previous 24 hours and plans for the next 24. This allows identification of deviations and required fixes at quick intervals and allows for reset of plans where required. The Daily Scrum optimizes the probability that the team will meet the Sprint goal.
  1. Sprint: Sprint is essentially an iterative cycle. The length of these cycles depend on the requirements to be delivered at the end of the sprint. These usually last between 1 -2 weeks. In some cases, it might be longer. However, the longer the sprint cycle, the less agile your team is. Within each sprint, the team builds and tests a part of the program/project until the program/project owner accepts it and the functionality becomes a potentially shippable piece. When one sprint finishes, another sprint starts. A release occurs at the end of a sprint or after several sprints. Each sprint ends with a retrospective.
  1. Retrospective: No project is complete without retrospective. This no-brainer step is key to iterative improvements, the essence of an agile framework. While everyone I know intends to follow this step one way or another, it usually ends with good intentions. I can speak from personal experience of the multitude of benefits that emerge from a structured retro. Even if the project never repeats, there are takeaways that one can implement in any area of work. Make it a part of the project plan and put aside an hour or two to close this step. Retrospective meetings ensure that the lessons learned during the project serve as inputs into the next iteration. I use http://www.ideaboardz.com/ to do mine. It is an easy nifty tool and here is one example – http://www.ideaboardz.com/for/CT%20Event%202/2724490.

While you need not explicitly use these terms while executing work (except retrospective – use that word), using the terms explicitly has the advantage of putting your team in the agile frame of mind and makes it a part of daily life. However, the important part is to adopt the model and find ways to implement it in everything you do. We can learn much from the working of technology teams and from the world around us. Osmosis needs to become a way of life for the HR pro and I can’t think of better start than the agile framework.


4 thoughts on “Learning from tech teams

    1. Hi Joshua, There are a number of ways we can use these principles. The easiest one to start with are retrospectives. Conduct them for any task that you do and you’ll be blown away by the insights. For projects, you can adopt sprints and daily scrum meetings. The possibilities are endless.

      1. Thanks. I am curious what would you discuss in retrospectives as most HR work are quite predictable. Also what do you normally discuss during daily scrum meetings?

      2. For every process that is implemented, there exists room for improvement. Say for example you put in place a work from home policy. 6 months later do a retrospective to discuss with a set of people what worked, what could be done better etc. I do retrospectives for most new initiatives these days and also use it to revisit some older ones.
        Daily scrum meetings are not a requirement in all cases. However, if you are working on a project that involves multiple touch points, or if your team is working on something critical, it helps to take 15 mins to discuss what has been done so far to reach the goal and what’s to be closed in the next 24 hours, roadblocks if any.
        I would also love to hear thoughts on how you’d advice us to adopt it.

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