Agile HR: Leadership, System Coaching, and Large Groups Facilitation

Finally, as the last blog about the Agile HR in this series or talent management if you like, is focusing on the skills and experiences of good HR. Primarily it’s about the understanding of Agile mindset and ability to create an environment where Agile culture can flourish. Environments supporting collaboration, transparency, open peer feedback, trust, team spirit, ownership, empowerment, and responsibility. The more Agile your organization is, the higher the need for coaching and facilitation skills it creates. The role of HR is critically important to grow coaching and facilitation skills in the organization and support individuals and teams with education on coaching, facilitation and guide them on their journey.

Another fundamental shift is from management which is based on decision making and delegation into leadership which is not given by any position but is a state of the mind. Anyone can become a leader. It’s only your decision if you are ready to take over the ownership and responsibility and lead an initiative, team, or product. The peer feedback will take care of enough self-awareness so leaders can emerge through the organization. Very often we speak about emergent leadership as one person can act as a leader of one initiative while at the same time being a team member of another one. As the evaluations transform into regular peer feedback and coaching for development, the key goal of the leaders is to help other leaders to grow where again, the need for good coaching and facilitation skills is inevitable. 

The fact that HR changes the focus in Agile organization to the overall employee experience is only the beginning. So let me suggest another idea. The good HR shall act as an organizational ScrumMaster or agile coach if you like, operating at the third level of the #ScrumMasterWay concept, focusing on the overall system. At this level it’s not that much about coaching individuals but coaching teams and organizations as a system, leveraging tools from system coaching like ORSC. It’s not that much about team facilitation but the ability to facilitate large groups with 100’s people, leveraging tools like world-cafe and Open Space. It’s about being a model of an Agile leader growing the ‘we-culture’ and mentoring other leaders to grow to Agile leaders. In short, Agile HR is Agile leadership, system coaching, and large groups facilitation. 

Agile HR = Agile leadership + system coaching + large groups facilitation.

Agile Leaders are the beginning of modern management

In order to achieve success at the organizational level, we need to start management talent development program to create leaders who will help to grow a company, make quick decisions and stay ahead of others. Modern leadership style is no longer applying the traditional model of the “leader-follower”, i.e. one decides and the other executes orders. Nowadays, when most employees are from the category of creative workers and the company is looking for innovation and creative ideas to stay competitive, the leader-leader model is a more effective one, where the leaders’ main goal is to help others to be successful leaders. What is modern Agile management or Agile leadership about?

Excellent Agile Leader has four core competencies: Ability to define the vision, motivate, gain feedback, and ability to influence through themselves, others and system.

The ability to formulate a vision is the engine of change and motivation. A vision is not necessarily linked to product and business but should be focused on the organization and its purpose. The second competency is the ability to motivate and give the energy. It is a competence closely related to the vision. If you have a good vision, it motivates itself. Agile leadership builds on so-called internal motivation to strengthen the autonomy of individuals and teams. The third of Agile leader’s competences is feedback. Feedback is DNA component for Agile Organization together with openness and transparency. The art of getting system-level feedback is critical for the leader. The last is the art of influencing complex environments. Change things, people and their behavior, support and consolidate culture. Agile leadership begins with a change of self, your judgments, values, and behavior, style of work. Great leaders start with themselves as a role model, to change the way they show up, how they interact with others, and how they can inspire people around them to collaborate, create a team spirit, and become leaders. They are capable of working with the entire system and influence the whole organization and its culture.

Agile Leader-Wheel

Agile Leader Wheel also defines four supporting competencies to help leaders define the right approach. When is it better to decide and when decisions can be delegated and it’s better to collaborate. At the same time, when it’s better to take a role of facilitator and when start coaching. We do not talk that much about coaching individuals, which of course may be useful, but coaching the whole system – teams and organizations as a whole. Excellent Agile Leaders have not been born as Agile Leaders, but they are constantly looking for new ways to get better and to gain and strengthen the above-mentioned competencies.

ScrumMaster State of Mind Model

The state of Agile and Scrum understanding in organizations is not, in any way, great. Many Scrum implementations are failing not because Scrum doesn’t work for the particular organization, but because companies lack the core understanding of the Agile and Scrum mindset. During the Certified Scrum Classes (CSM) I have taught across the world, I realized that even ScrumMasters who were supposed to be Scrum experts are often struggling with understanding the consequences. That was the key motivation for writing a book dedicated to all ScrumMasters and leaders of Agile transformation in organizations: The Great ScrumMaster – #ScrumMasterWay, which is published on Amazon.

ScrumMaster State of Mind model

One of the concepts described in the book is the ScrumMaster State of Mind. It shows ScrumMasters how their day should look like. What are the approaches, they should use in different situations. The ScrumMaster State of Mind model defines four quadrants, with four different approaches you can decide to apply. They are all equally important and each of them can be used in all team development stages.

Teaching, Mentoring, Sharing Experiences

This approach builds on top of your knowledge and experience. Especially at the beginning of your Scrum adoption journey, you have to be clear on the purpose of the individual practices. Teach individuals, teams, and organization about the mindset. In later stages, you shall share your experiences, teach new practices, and help people to improve.

Removing impediments

The second approach you can take is removing impediments. It’s critical to take off the team’s frustration, but this is not the goal of great a ScrumMaster. A great ScrumMaster is not any team assistant, so don’t take this approach too often.

Facilitation

Facilitation is more than just leading Scrum meetings. As a facilitator, a ScrumMaster should know how to make conversations efficient and smooth. A ScrumMaster should know how to help people and team to agree and make a decision. The ability to facilitate is critical for team success.

Coaching

As the last approach, there is coaching. The fundamental difference between coaching and mentoring is that as a coach, you don’t share your own experiences, but ask questions so the team will realize where they want to go. They are the experts, not a ScrumMaster. This approach is critical to your long-term success, as without good coaching, you can never create great teams.

ScrumMaster State of Mind Model
ScrumMaster State of Mind Model

Observing

Even though the mentioned approaches are important, there is one in addition in the middle. This middle circle is about observing and making intentional decision on where to go. It should always be your base position. The place where you start, and return back again when you apply one of the approaches, to see how it landed with a team. It helps you to react on different situations differently. Even when you make a wrong decision, and for example, teach a team who believes they know everything better already, using the State of Mind concept helps you make corrections early enough.