The Rise of Agile Management



In 2001, seventeen people met to discuss alternatives to old-school, documentation driven waterfall software development processes – and what emerged was the Agile Manifesto. The Agile Manifesto outlined new values and principles for software development. As we’ve seen the move to cloud computing and global development teams, every company is now a tech company. Everything from Nordstrom to Jeep, Amazon to SoundCloud – from Walmart to Skype – from Expedia to Delta, companies have all moved to an agile development process, which has radically changed delivery cycles – and the focus on the user experience is unprecedented.

Given the impact on the production practices in the tech industry, can these practices influence the way managers or HR professionals operate? Here are a select few of the values and principles:

  • Working software over comprehensive documentation
  • Responding to change over following a plan
  • Continuous Delivery
  • Requirements can change, even late in the game
  • Build projects around motivated people
  • Sustainable Pace
  • Self-Organizing Teams
  • Reflect, Tune, and Adjust

We are living in a time of great change. Globalization, smart devices, ubiquitous connectivity, social media, and the influence of technology on virtually every industry are all changing the way we work.

Management as a discipline is influenced by these fundamental changes. Command and control hierarchies have been disrupted. A new generation is entering the workforce and we need to think about how management and HR professionals respond to the needs of “the user” just as agile development has shown the way. As Professor Julian Birkinshaw of London Business School explains, “we need to rethink how management works by focusing on the needs and aspirations of the managed, rather than on the perspective of the one doing the managing.”

We can look to agile principles for guidance. These have served the technology industry well in the move from boxed software to rapid iteration to build cloud services – and will serve managers as we move from Gen X to Millennials and Gen Z.

How might self-organizing teams might work in your industry? Are there things you can do to create centers of gravity to allow motivated people to opt-in to special projects? How do you recruit new and diverse talent? How do today’s leaders remain adaptable with their plans and how do they create an environment where a new hire has the opportunity for immediate input?

We are entering a new age, where machine learning, artificial intelligence, and big data are all influencing and changing the way we operate.

As this revolution moves forward, it’s important that HR professionals take an agile approach – thinking about the “customer” – the “lives of the managed” – and how can managers iterate and rapidly innovate in the way they manage to help motivate next gen workers to deliver great value and experiences.

As an HR professional – how are you challenging the managers to adopt agile practices – to focus on the lives of the managed, to take feedback and iterate. What are the measures and heuristics you look at to guide future direction to build more effective organizations?




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