In recent years, the Agile Model for software development has gained in popularity. Agile develpment allows for shorter cycle times and more flexibility to adjust to specification changes than the more traditional Waterfall approach. In a recent article from Bersin and Associates, the parallel is drawn between the Agile Model for programming and the need to use this principle in HR Management.
Here is an excerpt from the article:
The Agile model is now revolutionizing management, HR, and L&D.
Everything which makes Agile work for software also works for management, leadership, and HR. Management and HR Processes are too slow, they don't reflect business changes fast enough, and they dont give people fast-enough feedback and learning.
Think, for example, about the frequently-criticized traditional employee performance management process. The traditional process (which more than 60% of all organizations find highly ineffective), is a year-long waterfall process. Managers set goals (annually or quarterly) using some cascading process, track these goals periodically, and at the end of the year the managers collects feedback and "deliver" the performance review. The result: in most companies the process is uncomfortable, riddled with frustration, and often out of date.
Consider the problems inherent in this "waterfall" process:
- Goals change continuously during the year. While corporate objectives may not change, business conditions change constantly so employees and their managers must continuously adjust their priorities. What happens when new goals appear? Can we rewrite the quarterly goals on a regular basis? Not easy.
- Feedback takes place continuously. Employees are getting feedback every minute of the day (hopefully). They are doing great things and they are making mistakes. When they make a mistake, they should get feedback immediately and the organization should immediately adapt. In the military when something goes wrong, there is an "after-action review" that week. Why should all this be "saved up" for the end of the year? The concept is really crazy.
- Performance feedback comes from all directions. In the old days (when I worked at IBM), we all had managers who sat in the corner office and we actually talked with them every day. Today most workers work in teams with highly distributed teammates - and we are likely to get performance feedback from every possible direction (including from customers and partners). This "continuous feedback" loop takes place without the manager involved. Just like in Agile development, we need a process for continuous improvement to take place with or without the manager.
- We cannot predict the future. Yes, it is important to set goals and establish long range objectives. But the world changes. Shouldn't our performance management process be flexible enough to adapt immediately when business conditions change? Our new research in goal development shows that companies which revise goals regularly (and this means multiple times per quarter) are getting nearly three times the output than those which review goals annually.
- Old information is lost information. When feedback and performance information is available, it should be acted on immediately. As it gets older it becomes less useful, and eventually becomes irrelevant. The whole concept of Lean process improvement (the essence of the Toyota Manufacturing System) is to give all employees real-time information and let them act on it immediately. Why would we institutionalize a process which takes an entire year before employee feedback is delivered?
There are many ways to improve the way people are managed - and performance management (which is typically viewed as something which HR lays upon us) needs to evolve - and fast. Managers are adopting agile approaches right now - and Human Resources is starting to adapt as well.
The type of flexibility needed to adjust the Performance Evaluation cycle can only be achieved with the right technical tools. Managers and employees need an online system available to enter in their feedback real time and adjust goals and priorities. StarGarden clients have seen huge process improvements through use of an online Performance Evaluation workflow. Workflows are configurable to client requirements and provide real time interaction with the performance process.
Check out the StarGarden site for more details http://www.stargarden.com/Federation%20Server/Business%20Process%20Management.aspx