Monday, January 24, 2011

[sKale] getting the most of both world: Scrum and HR


coProcess S.A., 11 avenue de la Gare,

L-1611 Luxembourg, Grand-Duchy of Luxembourg


1.    Abstract

We launched the [sKale] Project to address first Human Resources issues and then it becomes evident that this on-going framework is evolving in a complete other way like Agile organization. When we discovered Human Resources legitimate aspirations to be Business Partner, we had remembered that IT’s got the same aims several years ago.

The management of people in organization is shared between Business Management and Human Resources (HR). As true as Business is concerned by operations, lot of HR services are kept far away from the front.

Too often regarded mainly as an administrative function, HR service can be the revelator of the competiveness of a firm. The development of an organization, in an Agile or co-production mode, changes the role and the responsibilities allocated to the Human Resources Department (HRD).

While retaining the “Agile” values, the [sKale] project provides a realistic framework to allow HRD to achieve its strategic development by becoming the key player in the definition of the skills and positions assertiveness. Thus, HRD is value oriented and participates this way to earn more market shares and more revenues for the whole organization.

Enhancing HR role turning it to the market ensures the ability to generate value for the entire organization. The [sKale] for HR research has uncovered a new matrix of Agile enterprise organizations involving humans, interpersonal relationships and customers in the heart of the global Value Chain.

Keywords: Agile Organization, Agile Enterprise, Human Resources, operational HR.

2.    Introduction

Erik Chapier-Maldague is a Coach and expert in Human Resources and he knew my strong engagement in Agile management techniques. He came to me with a special request according to the escalation of Human Resource Department as a real business partner.

On my side, as a Scrum Coach, I also discover that “Agile Thinking”, where the Project Management approach is very people centric, evolves in more “coaching” attitudes than pure managing techniques.

This publication is relative to our common research about the etablisment of a HR organization in Agile mode. We called this project the [sKale] project.

3.    The Context in details

Our research started first by analyzing the different issues according to the specificities of the HR context and the evolutions of large scaled Scrum projects.

a.    The HR context

According to the HR outsourcing (HRO) bigger players, the maturity of HRO globally shows that HR internal services focused more and more on strategic attitudes.

These new challenges are re-shaping internal HR services. To make it happens; the HR Senior Management has to be empowered by the board as a solid Business Partner. It surely helps to answer to:

·         How to enroll in a mode of production that simultaneously increases profits, the intrinsic value of the company and the feeling of Commitment to the firm?

·         How to implement a continuous improvement of skills?

·         How to succeed massive cultural changes, without a plan for "change management"?

·         How to develop operational presence for HR services?

·         How could the organization rapidly rise up and assume the risk of growth changes?

b.    The Scrum1 context: evolution of the ScrumMaster2 role as a coach

Observing the good practices like mature Scrum Projects, we can see an evolution in the role of ScrumMaster. As the initial set, ScrumMaster helps team to implement the methodology in smooth transition and with hard engineering techniques. Then emerges more organizational issues and a lot of communication defects: implementing self-organized people concepts in a rigid structure can produce chaos aspects.

Teams are self-organizing with the support of a ScrumMaster who protects it from all external impediments. So, that production team can focus on the release of what it is committed to.

The evolution of the Scrum framework allows us to say that the process doesn’t deliver only a “potentially shippable product increment” and a “leaner” process optimization but also delivers on-going organization architecture. According to these facts, ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner roles are evolving to management roles:

·         Scrum Product Owner is accountable for the deliverables and value creation

·         ScrumMaster is accountable for the whole “Process”: here “Process” groups both Scrum Process and organization architecture.

The empirical process aspect of Scrum lets the whole Scrum Team (Team, ScrumMaster and Scrum Product Owner3) inspecting and adapting the whole framework after iteration during the Retrospective Meetings. There is the place and time where emerging dysfunctions can be revealed and solutions found, like: transparency, over-commitment, lack of knowledge, conflicts, demotivation, etc.

1. Scrum is an Agile framework for completing complex projects. Scrum originally was formalized for software development projects, but works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are endless. The Scrum framework is deceptively simple. (Source Scrum Alliance)

2. ScrumMaster is the Process manager in the Scrum Project.

3. Scrum Product Owner is person who is accountable for the delivery of the Product into a Scrum Project.

Our experience with Scrum reveals that the role of ScrumMaster let appear the need of more coaching presence to go with individuals on a development pathway, for them and so induced for their company.

c.    The Vision of a new HR centric framework

During the development of this project we discovered that the “Agile thinking way” is in line with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), part of the “[…]Europe 2020 strategy for smart, sustainable and inclusive growth” supported by the European Commission.

To make that happen, to find some links between both Scrum and HR approaches, some assumptions must be done:

·         If HR Service wants to be a real countable actor in an organization they need to be valuable. The values of HR’s are described beyond but they need also to have a Process to fix maturity

·         ScrumMasters are more involved in “Resource Management” and coaching getting closer to HR’s because they are the keepers of HR’s values at the project level

·         Management aspects need to be redefined. To manage more efficiently self-organized people, we need servant-leadership. To have servant-leadership4 we decide that management should be a part of the whole organization getting the same values of sustainability than self-organized teams. Servant-leadership is more emerging than a must. It’s based on:

o   Leadership actions

o   And the alignment of management processes.

4.    The Concept: building an Organization like a Team

The approach that we decide to follow is based on “Systems Thinking” who enables an “Agile” oncoming to link people, programs and value (e.g. Declaration of Interdependence ©2005).

The challenge of the [sKale] Project was to create an ideal framework to keep the focus on self-managed teams and “servant-leadership”. We do agree that those concepts sound a bit “high level” but fact is that it works into Scrum Projects.

Posted via email from pierreneis's posterous


  1. I fully agree with "evolution of the ScrumMaster role as a coach". I never got clear with the difference between "Scrum Coach" and "ScrumMaster". For me the "Scrum Coach" is a "label" created by the Scrum Alliance for a "basic level Scrum Trainer", and not a "Coach".

    Hans-Peter Korn

  2. Hi Hans-Peter,

    I agree with you on the special aspect of Scrum Coach: I do have huge discussion with ICF's coaches.

    You have clearly identified the ScrumMaster's role is evolving to Scrum Coach. Here, we must understand Scrum Coach like ScrumMaster + coaching knowledge (eg ICF coaching).

    In 2nd hand, I wasn't really happy, in my experience, with Scrum of Scrum + Meta Scrum + Scrum Implementation (like described in "Enterprise and Scrum"): too much layers to address a simple problem "do we have a system?", "do we have a portfolio?".

  3. I agree the ScrumMaster should increase his/her coaching skills, but the SM's focus is and should remain the team. (to clarify: not *only* the team, but focusing as much as needed on it)

    There is still the need IMO for somebody who cares about the organisation as a whole and ensure all the teams are sharing common goals (but not defining them - we still need leaders!), are harmonising the way they work (for example: have an inter-team understanding of what a story point) and keep the continuous improvement going at the organisational level.

    This professional figure is what I would call Scrum Coach, though at that level it doesn't have much to do with Scrum anymore and much more to do with organisational coaching.


  4. @ Pierluigi

    You're right.
    During the research and in our test phase, we used the term [sKale] as a "spin-off" framework of scrum. This was not to create another new model, but more to do no harm existing scrums.

    According to leadership, I use this term with moderation: to not sully leadership. I think that in large organization leadership is emerging during your journey in the agile transition.
    We faced some problems according existing “leadership” roles and we do not handle this frontally but we managed a smooth approach: coaching leaders. The fundamental problems that we faced, if we you also, was to coach the senior management out of “Peter’s Law” and to built a real team mindset. This is almost on-going.
    The review of Scrum in our project was based on my personal opinion: I found boring and “no mature enough” to skip NFS problems and HR issues to management. That’s probably fine if you run a defined scrum project (clear scope) but not consistent enough if you try to re-design an agile organization.
    It’s only my point of view. What’s yours!

  5. I agree organizing systematically (ie, creating a process in place) is the most essential step. However, its easier said than done. Thats one area where its wise for small business to invest money on professional project management certifications like
    agile scrum certification courses.

  6. Perry, thanks for your advertisement, but I guess you didn't grabbed the point here.
    Can you provide me some additional information how your agile certification course are linked to the |sKale| project?