People Management

People Management

People management goes by many names, including human resource (HR) management, talent management, staff management, people operations, and work force management to name a few.  The fundamental goal of the People Management process blade is to attract and retain great people who work on awesome teams.  This article addresses several topics:


Why People Management

There are several reasons why people management is important for your IT organization:

  1. People and the way they work together are your primary determinant of success. Organizations are a collection of teams working together to support the rest of your enterprise. The implication is that you need to attract and retain the right people and build awesome teams comprised of these people.
  2. You want to support people’s career aspirations. To retain top talent your organization needs to help these people remain so by providing opportunities for fulfilling work, training and coaching in new skills and new ways of thinking, and in mentoring.
  3. Greater employment flexibility attracts a wider range of people.  To what extent will your organization support flexible working hours, flexible working locations (e.g. allowing people to work from home), flexible device options (e.g. BYOD), job sharing strategies, and many more strategies?  Greater flexibility increases the attractiveness of your organization at the cost of requiring more robust collaboration, management and governance strategies.  One employment strategy does not fit all.
  4. Many people-oriented activities fall outside the scope of what occurs on your work team(s). The hiring of people, people leaving the company, moving between teams, getting trained in skills not directly related to their current team efforts, and many more activities partially or fully land outside the scope of a team. Yes, a team should be actively involved in the decisions surrounding who is on the team but that doesn’t imply that they do all of the work surrounding the hiring process.
  5. Legal requirements.  Every organization must conform to the laws of the territories in which they operate, and there are always laws around how organizations can treat the people that work for them.  These laws vary by country, and sometimes even by territories within countries, and evolve constantly.  The laws pertaining to how you hire, reward, and fire someone in San Francisco are different than the laws for someone in Toronto which are different again than the laws for someone in Moscow.
  6. Organizational sustainment.  Your organization has long-term staffing needs, including succession and capacity planning. Succession planning focuses on identifying and supporting the people who are being groomed to fill key positions in the future. Capacity planning focuses on ensuring you will have enough people with the right skills in the right places at the right times to get the work done in the future.
  7. You need to manage your staffing mix.   There are several employment options available to people: They may be full-time employees (FTEs) of your organization, they may be independent contractors working for a defined period of time with your organization, employees of external service providers who are assigned to work on your teams, or they may be consultants working with your organization on more of as-needed, ad-hoc basis.  Each of these employment options have advantages and disadvantages and your organization needs to actively manage their overall staffing portfolio to ensure that they are meeting their long-term needs.  This is an aspect of capacity planning.


A Disciplined Agile Mindset for People Management

There is all sorts of great advice out there for how human resource (HR) professionals can become more agile, including Pia-Maria Thoren’s book Agile People and the Agile HR Manifesto.  Here are what we believe to be the critical philosophies that underpin a Disciplined Agile mindset for people management:

  1. People aren’t resources. This was certainly a lament as long ago as the early 1990s and I suspect even earlier than that. Calling someone a resource is insulting at best and agilists simply don’t tolerate it. Step one on your agile journey is to jettison the term resource once and for all, an implication being that “human resources” must be dropped too. I prefer People Management, although others suggest pretty much any combination of Talent/People/Human and Management/Coordination/Operations. Pick what works best for your organization, but please abandon the term HR. Enough is enough.
  2. Support agile teams. We need to enable teams to organize themselves, manage their work, and evolve their own process or “way of working.” The concept that a team owns their own process, that it isn’t inflicted upon them by “all seeing management,” is a fundamental of agile. Having said that, in the Disciplined Agile (DA) toolkit we recognize that teams must still be governed appropriately.
  3. Be flexible. Our organizations are complex adaptive systems (CASs) where teams will work together in an evolving, context-sensitive manner. One People Management strategy does not fit all, and any strategy we adopt must adapt as the situation evolves.
  4. Energize people. People who are energized, who are happy, who love their work are far more productive than people who are not.
  5. Enable people. We need to help teams get the funding and time required for training and coaching, to help set up communities of practice (CoPs)/guilds where people can help each other to learn their craft, and to help set up communities of excellence (CoEs) that offer explicit learning support to people. We also need to help leaders to push decision making authority to the people who do the work and help these people to accept this authority and responsibility.
  6. Inspire leadership. We want to inspire the leadership within our organization to be agile themselves, to move away from command-and-control management and become true leaders who motivate and enable our staff.
  7. Reduce cycle time. People managers must be able to move fast to support people when they need it, to hire good people when they become available, and to support the evolution of teams and their way of working when required. The implication is that People Management professionals need to perform key activities such as recruitment and supporting learning in a continuous manner, rather than the episodic efforts of traditional HR that are often motivated by the needs of a specific project or budget.
  8. Enable cultural and structural fit. When culture and structure become misaligned we effectively throw sand into the gears of our organization, reducing our ability to delight our customers. Our People Management efforts must actively strive to monitor this fit and then work with teams to help them become better aligned.
  9. Reward for agile behaviors. If we want to have an agile organization then we need to reward staff for behaviors that lead to this. The implication is that we need to reward people for delighting customers, for effective teamwork, for collaboration, and for learning.
  10. Govern lightly. Yes, there are still legal requirements and financial constraints that we must operate under. But, it’s important to recognize that we often have significant leeway in how we choose to respond to those requirements and constraints. So respond lightly. Effective governance is based on educating and motivating people to “do the right thing” and then making it as easy as possible for them to do so. Wording this as an agile value – Motivation and enablement over command and control.


The Process

The following process goal diagram overviews the potential activities associated with disciplined agile people management. These activities are performed by, or at least supported by, your people management (often called a human resource) team.

Figure 1. The process goal diagram for People Management (click on it for larger version).

Disciplined Agile People Management

The process factors that you need to consider for people management are:

  1. Enhance culture. An important aim for your people management efforts is to enhance the agile facets of your organizational culture.
  2. Guide careers.  Your organization should support the career aspirations of its staff, providing opportunities to people and supporting their efforts to achieve their goals.
  3. Reward staff.  There are many ways that people and teams can be rewarded, including base pay, bonuses, and non-monetary rewards.  For some people in some organizations their pay is publicly known (for example, in Canada public employees who make over a certain amount have their salaries published annually) whereas for most people their remuneration strategy is private.
  4. Manage staff.  Your organization needs to perform basic functions such as hiring (onboarding) staff, letting people go (offboarding), promoting, demoting, transferring them and providing benefits to people.
  5. Organize groups.  What is your strategy for organizing your IT department? Your Marketing department?  Your Finance department?  For example, for IT do you do it by job function (e.g. have a business analyst group, a project management group, and so on), by geography (e.g. a North American IT department, a European IT department, and so on), by business division (e.g. an IT group to support Retail banking, an IT group to support brokerage, and so on), or by value creation (e.g. an IT group to support a specific product line).  Or combinations thereof?
  6. Staff groups.  You need to identify, and plan for, your organization’s staffing needs.  This includes succession planning for senior people, critical technical positions (yes, that includes all those legacy COBOL programmer positions), and other critical roles such as product owners.  This also includes staff capacity planning/forecasting as well as determining your mix of full time employees (FTEs) and contractors.
  7. Form teams.  There are different types of teams that can be formed to address IT functions, each of which are (self) organized differently.
  8. Evolve teams.  Team membership and structure evolve over time, and there are several common strategies that enable this.  Some teams are ad-hoc, forming when their needed and disbanding when they’re not, with little or no management intervention.  Sometimes people are assigned to teams and sometimes people volunteer to be on a team.  Some organizations are holacracies where teams are self-organizing and have defined strategies for enabling collaboration and communication between teams.
  9. Govern people management.  Your people management activities, just like all other activities, should be governed effectively.  An important aspect of people management governance is the definition of roles and responsibilities (see Roles on DAD Teams and DA Roles at Scale for suggestions), as is the usual measurement and monitoring activities.  Governance of HR is an aspect of your overall Control strategy.

External Workflow With Other Teams

This section is a work in progress.


Further Reading