Traditional HR typically focuses on a range of processes, activities, and responsibilities that include hiring workers (recruiting, interviewing, screening, and placing workers) to employee relations, training, benefits, and payroll. HR managers plan, coordinate, and direct administrative functions in an organization.
While all of these are great, the way these functions are carried out in a typical HR setting may be a problem in today’s world of uncertainty and volatility. Many organizations are looking to be more customer-centric and agile, and traditional HR may, in some cases, become an internal obstacle against high performance. This has led many HR leaders and managers to search for a new way to solve this challenge.
The answer may well be for HR to become agile and begin implementing scrum. What we aim to achieve in this article is to create a guide to the agile scrum framework for human resources that can help meet this challenge.
We will examine what it is, why and how it works, and the necessary tools.
The scrum framework is a framework for implementing agile. It consists of several steps taken sequentially to make product development incremental and iterative. Continuous feedback is built into each step of the process to make the right iterations possible.
For anyone who doesn’t know what agile is, it is an approach to project management and product development that enables cross-functional teams to deliver value to their customers quicker and continuously, all the while receiving feedback and acting on them.
Another way to put it that may be beneficial to HR people is this: agile is an iterative approach to coming up with initiatives. It is organized around experimentation, review, and iteration by a cross-functional team. Agile itself is not a methodology; rather, it is a way of thinking (a mindset) around which frameworks such as scrum is built.
Agile indeed has its roots in the tech world – specifically, the software development world. But this doesn’t mean that it is only useful in tech or software development. Its principles, mindset, and frameworks (such as scrum) are currently being experimented with within the human resource world, with some accompanying successes.
Scrum is a term derived from the game of rugby, and much like it, it encourages teams to self-organize and learn through their experiences, all while working together on a problem, reflecting on their losses and wins, and making continuous improvements. The scrum framework is based on making adjustments to fluctuating factors and constant learning. It acknowledges that the team members do not have all the information or know everything they will need to know at the onset of a project but will evolve through the experience and feedback they get.
Scrum is a term derived from the game of rugby
If it isn’t yet clear, don’t worry. It will all come together.
In a scrum, a cross-functional team puts their heads together to come up with solutions to complex problems. The team begins with a product backlog, which is like a master list of work to be done or features, fixes, enhancements, and requirements that need creation when it’s a product, the team is developing.
The product owner maintains this master list. In a sense, this list is the ‘To Do’ of the team. As the team works, they regularly visit and revisit the list to tick off work done, re-prioritize job, discuss what’s left undone, and how long it will take.
All of this is to ensure the list is clean and ready to work on time.
These reviews of work and re-prioritization are carried out in a daily scrum. It is a short meeting in which team members evaluate progress and the possibility of meeting the sprint goals.
These meetings, also called Daily Standup Meetings, help to improve the communication between team members and eliminate the need for other meetings.
During the sessions that happen in small time-boxes of about 15-minutes per day, the team identifies setbacks or developmental impediment that needs to be removed and foster quick decision making and product backlog refinement.
All of these highlight ways, HR could work differently in achieving its goals, but before we shift to HR, let’s discuss what sprints are. We mentioned Sprint goals in the last paragraph, so what are sprints?
A sprint is a period (usually two weeks to a month) marked out for the completion of an item from the backlog. In tech and product and software development, the goal of a sprint is typically the creation of a sellable product.
When a sprint ends, the team performs a sprint review and another item chosen from the backlog, marking the start of another sprint. This goes on until they reach the project deadline or spend out the project budget.
One way HR can apply this is in hiring. Instead of overwhelming itself with hiring multiple positions at the same time, and making many mistakes in the process, it can break down it’s hiring into sprints.
It could find, interview, screen, and recruit talents for a position and then move to the next position. Another place it could employ this is in ensuring that employees are happy and productive (more on this later).
Besides the example mentioned above, another way that HR can implement daily scrums and sprints is in employee performance. Instead of the conventional performance reviews and recommendations to get training or whatever the case may be for the specific employee or organization, HR can be a part of the team that works on the project.
A scrum team, by definition, is cross-functional, so it doesn’t only need team members directly working on the project to be a part of the team. HR personnel can be part of the team too.
One of the responsibilities of the HR personnel that works on the Scrum team would be to identify bottlenecks any employee may have and find solutions to helping that employee solve them and making recommendations on the spot. This can happen over a friendly chat since bonding is one of the things that occur within a scrum team.
This way, team members grow daily instead of waiting for performance reviews to come in at the end of the quarter or whenever HR presents one.
This is a far more potent way to help employees become better versions of themselves by making little improvements daily while working on projects. Employee performance reviews can sometimes be dreadful but delivered this way; employees will be more open to it.
Please note that the job of the HR personnel on the scrum team isn’t about performance appraisals, as this will only serve to diminish or hinder the success of the scrum team.
Team members will be under pressure to impress managers or whomever the HR manager is, and that goes against the core reasons scrum teams succeed.
Some of those reasons include self-motivation and morale, feedback, and product-requirement alignment. Rather than appraising members in the team, HR’s job is to help them achieve the goals they set out to accomplish.
Most people in HR often ask why they should adopt scrum seeing that scrum has its origins in software development, and they have nothing to do with building software. The answer lies in their question.
One of the first reasons HR should adopt scrum is that it has its origin in software development. To be more specific, they should embrace it because the framework makes something as complex as building software simpler, faster, and attainable.
If HR applies it to teams across the organization, irrespective of the project being worked on by the teams, the end results would always be worth it.
Another reason is that the idea of working in scrum teams, which are cross-functional teams, help team members bond very well. This can help in ensuring a favorable workplace for everyone.
Besides, when team members bond well, the results they produce are often better than when there is any level of hostility among team members.
The same goes for when one or more team members are seeking to make a quota and impress the manager on their own because of appraisal issues.
A third reason HR should champion scrum in the organization is that since the framework relies on team members doing bite-sized chunks that can be delivered per sprint, teams can accomplish much without incurring as much waste as other methodologies do.
Iterating them depending on the result of a sprint review is also easy and less expensive. Traditional product launches require teams to work on projects and deliver the full product before a product launch date.
The downside to this is that sometimes, teams often spend time working on products or features that the consumer will not make use of by the product’s launch because of changing demand and consumer behaviors.
But with scrum’s focus on breaking down a product or project into smaller functional units that can be delivered in batches, making iterations in response to any changes in consumer behavior becomes easy. It also often incurs less because only a bite-size of the product will be iterated.
This is as opposed to having to make significant changes to an entire product that the traditional product launch approach fosters.
For any good methodology or framework to produce results, especially consistent ones, it has to have a set of tools or components that make it work. The scrum framework is no different. It has a set of rules, artifacts, events, and roles that make it work.
The three essential roles required to achieve success in scrum are the Scrum Master, the product owner, and the scrum development team (scrum project team). The scrum master runs the daily sprint, coaches the team, and everyone else involved in the scrum process.
They are like an anchor for the meetings as opposed to a manager that other frameworks or processes rely on. They fine-tune the practice of scrum within the team.
The product owner is the one who champions the product and manages the product backlog after creating one. They ensure the members of the team understand the items on the product backlog and guides the team on the features to be delivered next.
If a change has to be made due to changing consumer behavior, he okays it before the team goes to work on it. Finally, he ensures that the scrum team delivers the expected value to the business.
The scrum project or development team is the third role required for scrum success. It consists of members with different functions, experiences, and skills needed to accomplish the project.
Team members cross-train each other to prevent any one person from becoming a bottleneck in the delivery. The team is responsible for driving the plan for each sprint, whereas the scrum master anchors the sprint.
Of importance is the team size. To make scrum teams work, they should usually be kept small.
The events and ceremonies that a scrum team may participate in include organizing the backlog, sprint planning, sprint, daily scrum or stand up, and sprint review. Each of these events has its goal, most of which we have touched within the article.
The scrum artifacts are another essential tool that must be mentioned. The artifacts are like tools made to solve a problem, and there are three of them in a scrum.
They are three constants that team members continually revisit, and they include the product backlog, the sprint backlog, and increment or sprint goal.
In summary, we have gone through the basics of what the scrum framework is, how it works, and the necessary tools that make it work. We have also seen how HR can use it in hiring and driving organizational change (helping to change an organization into an agile company). So by now, it should be clear that the scrum framework is worth adopting by HR.