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Recruiting hiring and retaining talent for companies that use the “Agile” methodology for project and product management requirea different approach to recruiting and retaining talent than what is used at the traditional command and control organization.

The traits of people who are best suited for roles within Agile companies are different than those traditionally hired. So finding and persuading them to join the Agile team is also different. What are the unique talents and qualities that will make someone a good candidate for working at an Agile based company? At all levels Agile companies look for “service leadership”. The “service-leader” is someone who looks for ways to help others be successful. A more self-centered and competitive person who looks for self-promotion will not do well and is not a good candidate for an Agile company. People who enjoy collaboration and teamwork are better fits from a cultural point of view than the individual achiever is.

Leadership Styles

Traditional, command and control based leadership style companies look for people who are experts in only one area. The Agile based organization needs people who are experts in one field but have enough experience in others to make credible contributions to the team they will ultimately join. The Agile employees are well dimension rounded and conversant about several things. The result for the Agile company is smaller teams, but with members who have more breadth. The “T” model of recruiting illustrates the multiple skill sets of the Agile person, compared to the “I” model which illustrate the more one dimensional approach.

Welcome Risk

People who are better suited for roles at Agile based companies are more risk takers than most. Not dangerous or perilous, but those who are willing to take a chance, see what happens, learn and move from there. “They are the types of people who are willing to crawl out on a limb with you,” Melberg said. “In a lot of companies, keeping a low profile and avoiding risk is a better strategy for getting ahead. This will not work inside an Agile company. There is no where to hide with Agile based teams.”

Collaborative vs. Competitive Culture

Skill and will are hallmarks of the Agile organization. Their “will” is about how someone fits the Agile company in terms of work style. Do they like to learn? Are they good team members? “These are intangibles that are hard to see on a resume but important,” said Melberg.

More Competitive With Other Companies

Remembering that the competition is outside the building and not inside seem like things no one would ever have to be reminded of, but do. Agile processes harness change for the customer’s competitive advantage, even at the end of a process. Things like that would bother most folks, or would it? People inherently dislike change. Typically, when rapid and sudden change occurs, the riskier, scarier and out of control people feel. This is part of what makes change communications in any environment so challenging. The Agile company and processes demand that changes be made in the name of added product value. Silos, kingdoms, and other internal barriers to progress will not survive in the truly Agile organization. But to transform will require a firm resolve by the leadership. “Resistance to change is emotional,” Melberg said. “ Keep focus on business value and what needs to happen to maximize business value, this will take the emotion out of it. If you can remove the emotion from change you have a better chance of being successful.”

The pace of work and change for people at Agile companies is different than at others? No one at an Agile based outfit will ever “coast” for too long.

“It is not possible to hide in an Agile organization,” Melberg said. “If something does not work, it will be found out, where in traditional organizations, its easy to hide.”

Government is a prime example of where and how people can hide. Military contractors are an example. With Agile, employees will learn very quickly that making a shift will be hard. “The emotional aspects of change are what make people uncomfortable, and they will start to resist,” said Melberg. “Ultimately, the pace of work will even out and benefit the people who work there.”

The workflow at a traditional company ebbs and flows. From Thanksgiving to New Year’s work at a lot of places is very slow. But from the 1st week in January to spring break there is a mad push and then another lull in the summer. At Agile companies, there is a steady pace. If someone is out, the other team members pick up the other members work. It’s a lot calmer and predictable than other companies. Executives like predictability. Planning in a steady state for teams is only a few weeks out so an organization will have high predictability which is far more manageable than the pace in other places where it goes from frantic to stopped.

Self Organizing H.R.

Sometimes the same self-organizing teams that lead Agile product development also select the candidates to work with. Strong leaders and resolute H.R. are required when the team should self select and not. Humans will lean to homogeny. For the best teams fresh thinking and new ideas are required. So H.R. leaders should look for candidates who offset the existing team’s mindset.

Good Agile people are naturally curious and will want to explore new areas of work. They will not be interested in boring, repetitive work. “The number 1 reason younger people leave a job is boredom,” Melberg said. “We’ve moved to a knowledge workforce not a task-oriented workforce and will have to accommodate this new style.”


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