In the 1990s, two Japanese scientists laid the foundation for Scrum in the field of knowledge management. This method of project development once revolutionised cooperation in IT and made it more agile and efficient. Four decades later, there is a whole range of agile methods such as Kanban, Design Thinking, DevOps or agile frameworks. More and more companies are adopting them for other departments in addition to IT. Although HR is not always ahead in terms of numbers, the specialists for human resources and leadership play a central role in this development.
Only 11 percent do not use agile methods
The management consultancy Horváth & Partners, together with IDG Research Services, surveyed over 200 decision-makers in companies in the DACH region about their use of agile methods. The study “Agile Business & IT Collaboration Model 2019” clearly shows that agile methods have long since arrived in companies. They use the following techniques most frequently:
36 percent ScrumAgile personnel management
34 percent Design Thinking
33 percent DevOps
30 percent Kanban
27 percent agile frameworks (e.g. SAFe)
Only 11 percent of the companies surveyed said they did not use agile methods at all.
Important role of HR: driving the change to an agile organisation
Organisations are facing enormous changes. Everyday work has become more fast-paced – what is up to date today may be outdated tomorrow. Agile processes make it possible to adapt more quickly and flexibly to the new framework conditions. And in order to actually implement them, HR has a decisive role to play: as a link between the executive board, the management level and the operational employees, HR can initiate, accompany and drive forward the necessary structural adjustments to the organisation. The goal is to enable the transformation process and steer it in the right direction.
How does Scrum work?
The reason why Scrum is suitable for almost every business sector that pursues larger projects lies in its structure. All team members work together on one big goal, a long-term plan (backlog). Scrum in human resource managementThis plan is not rigid, however, but flexible and can be adapted at any time. The backlog is broken down into individual subtasks (sprints). Sprints are specific interim results that should be available after a defined time (maximum four weeks). These are in turn broken down into individual sub-steps (tickets), which the team members work on as they progress. The teams ideally consist of five to nine members. The coordination effort is relatively high in the Scrum method, which is why larger teams become too confusing. Scrum projects always follow the same process:
1. Step: Basic idea & objective
The Scrum team works out the backlog together, based on ideas of the ideal state. This results in the characteristics that the finished project should have.
2. Step: Prioritisation
Which characteristics must the project have in any case (must-have), which characteristics are optional (can-have) and which specifications are not sufficiently important and can be eliminated directly? Prioritisation follows before implementation.
3. Step: Planning the sprints
In this planning step, the sub-goals to be achieved in the sprints are defined.
4. Step: Creation of the sprint backlog
The defined sub-goals for the sprint are broken down into individual tickets, which the members of the Scrum team work on independently during the relevant period. They are recorded in the sprint backlog.
5. Step: Daily Scrum
During the course of a sprint, the team members meet daily in the so-called Daily Scrum Meeting and give each other an update on their work of the previous day and their plans for the day ahead.
6. Step: Sprint review
Once the current sprint is completed, the team members report to the product owner, who is responsible for the final project outcome, on the goals achieved. From this, possible optimisations of the backlog and the next sub-goals are derived.
Agile method in HRSteps 5 and 6 are repeated until the project is completed. The iterative structure is important. Every step, every problem that arises can mean a change. On the one hand, this agile approach produces quick results, but it also allows for the continuous adaptation of the goals to new framework conditions or desired changes of the stakeholders.
Scrum in HR management: HR processes rethought
HR not only takes on the role of enabler for other departments, but can also use Scrum tools for its own projects. Old-established HR processes in particular often offer great potential for optimisation. HR projects are often very extensive and long-term. Thanks to the iterative process of the Scrum method, results can be achieved quickly, implemented in everyday life and tested.Agile HR Thus, the experiences from the first interim results can flow directly into the next sprints and make process optimisation even more sustainable. Whether recruiting, onboarding or talent management, with Scrum HR experts can work on most processes along the HR value chain.
HR can benefit from many advantages by using Scrum:
- Motivation: Fast interim results and the independent and autonomous way of working increase the motivation of team members.
- Fast results: The iterative process enables tangible results faster and projects can be completed quickly.
- Transparency: HR processes can be made transparent.
- Image: Agile working approaches such as Scrum increase the attractiveness of the employer (positive influence on the employer brand).
- Collaboration: Team members quickly get used to the Scrum methodology and work together better and more smoothly.
- Priorities: Thanks to the detailed prioritisation, employees suffer less stress. Unnecessary tasks are eliminated. In addition, there is less pressure at the end of the project because milestones have to be reached regularly beforehand.
A prerequisite for the successful use of Scrum methods is corresponding competence in the HR department. This applies equally to the role as a pioneer for other departments as well as for own projects in the agile HR organisation.
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