RESHAPING ORGANIZATIONAL CULTURE BY EMBRACING AGILE
In a historical moment of extremely high uncertainty and complexity, in which challenges affecting our businesses show no sign of slowing down, the HR community is facing what I call the second moment of the truth.
If the first moment of the truth, which took place when pandemic and lockdowns made Executive Boards in all organizations turn look at HR for direction, meant a live assessment of the HR executives’ capacity to manage unprecedented crisis, the current context is now assessing our capability to really partner with the business in leading and transforming organizations. Hybrid work, leadership effectiveness, structure design and organization culture are key priorities pushing HR professionals to take a step forward and lead the business transformation together with General Managers and CEOs.
CULTURE AS PLATFORM FOR CHANGE
Culture is no longer a “boring” and traditional HR topic that brings discussion only once a year with the results of a survey used to define conceptual actional plans. Beyond famous Peter Drucker´s quote “Culture eats strategy for breakfast”, we have many examples of the real importance of Culture in organizations and business results.
Amongst others, Southwest Airlines’ business model, built around a unique Culture and leadership style by Herb Kelleher, is studied in business schools; Eric Schmidt, former CEO of Google, placed Culture at the top of the list when considering a job.
If we consider Culture as the shared assumptions, values, behaviours and artifacts that determine and reflect “how and why we do things around here” – following James Heskett’s definition - it is no surprise that almost no single company gets rid of saying its Culture hasn´t changed or has no need to change in the last two years.
In a moment in which every industry, without exception, is experiencing dramatic and deep transformation, an effective culture has become a competitive asset to support organizations with successive strategies and constant change. Therefore, top management in all companies need to address Culture as a “platform from which all kinds of change can be executed” (Heskett).
DON´T MISS AGILE´S FAD
Considering Agile as a fad has been one of my biggest mistakes as HR professional. Now I can only thank those who helped me raise my eyes and realize Agile is not a trend, nor a methodology, but a mindset. And we, as HR, are aware of how important is the impact of mindset in organizations.
The reason why HR has taken so long to embrace Agile is because we’ve taken it in the wrong way. It all started with the Agile Manifesto in 2001 as a set of values and principles to help IT professionals provide customers with better and faster solutions. The second evolutive wave took place some years later when some of the agile practices inspired other objectives and functions (lean management, product development…). Finally, the known as third wave was initiated around 2010 with the extension of Agile to the rest of organization and management aspects.
“Hybrid work, leadership effectiveness, structure design and organization culture are key priorities pushing HR professionals to take a step forward and lead the business transformation together with General Managers and CEOs.”
Why is it successful then? Because it is not just about some sort of project management practices that help functions develop internal or external products faster, but a different way to shape organizations in order to adapt in a continuous and systematic way to gain and maintain competitive advantage in a changing environment.
This is why Agile is Culture: both are intrinsically linked. This is a key insight that HR professionals have missed until recent times. We have confused the usage of Agile practices like Scrum, Kanban or Design Thinking with the philosophy behind them.
Thus, there are two different roles for HR with regards to Agile. First obvious one is as users. Just like Marketing, Product Development Innovation or Sales, we can design our products (training, performance management and so on) by using Agile practices. But more important is our role as facilitators of the culture. HR must be aware and proactive in ensuring an adequate set of leadership behaviours, principles and values that allows the entire organization embrace this mindset.
ONE PRACTICAL EXPERIENCE
Some of the reflections above, together with the challenging environment in Food Industry, have inspired us at Southern European Cluster at Hero Group to embark on an exciting project to reshape our culture.
Hero Flex, as we named it, has two main objectives. First of all, design the cultural and organizational framework that will help us drive our business strategy. Secondly, it will allow us become one of the best places to work in our market.
Taking into account one of the main recommendations from Agile experts, we haven´t just tried to implement Agile as a “plug & play” resource kit, but rather taken the values and principles and somehow “translated” them into our own, making sure they fit with our language and unique style.
In a first stage we have defined the behaviours we want to see in our management, our people and our organization. Concepts like purpose, target oriented, accountability, autonomy or transparency are found in the list.
As a following step we have identified the champions in the organization that will help us bring all those behaviours into reality. It has been absolutely key in this phase to consider all layers in the company. For this reason we haven´t only targeted top management, but also new hires and especially change agents: those employees who have longed worked at our company, embrace change in a natural way and perceived from our people as a positive reference. They are real “cultural influencers”, whose opinion and attitude is strongly considered. We have supported them with training, visibility and empowerment to help the rest of the organization believe in the changes and the new culture.
Our successful journey towards becoming one of the best places to work continues with a different set of actions grouped in three pillars that structure Hero Flex: how we manage ourselves (Corporate Governance), how we structure ourselves (Winner Structure) and how we work and behave (Culture and WOW) with a clear focus on Employee Experience