How To Facilitate AgileHR – with Eoin Cannon
There is an interesting intersection between Agile and facilitation – the two naturally crossover in any area of a business, as Eoin Cannon can tell you.
Having worked with marketing teams and now as an Agile HR practitioner, Eoin knows how and why this approach works.
In Eoin’s words, Agile “takes fundamental human psychology and behaviour and works in a way that makes it congruent and takes advantage of those things, rather than working against them.”
While it was developed for software project management, but applies directly to many areas of work – including HR.
The opportunity to explore this in more detail, to really analyse how these two practices complement each other and produce unique outcomes and outputs, was one that Myriam was eager to take up.
So, she invited Eoin onto the Workshops Work podcast and was delighted that he accepted. What follows is a brief summation of Eoin’s combined approach of facilitation and Agile HR. For a takeaway of the key points, you can download Myriam’s one-page episode summary, or you can listen to the full episode.
What does an Agile HR workshop look like?
Explaining the theory, process, and outcomes and outputs of an Agile HR workshop takes more than a single blog post, but we can come to understand, albeit briefly, the way Eoin might structure one of his workshops.
Of course, as with any workshop, the structure is changeable and every group requires a different approach.
Despite this, there are some common themes and threads in many Agile HR workshops that Eoin runs.
Identify the problem
To solve a problem, you first need to know what it is!
The client needs to identify and articulate the behaviours and problems they’re seeing, what they’re driving, and why those things don’t align with your behaviours and culture. “It doesn’t have to be much more than that,” says Eoin.
Once you know the problem, you can then start the process.
Gather the team
Agile works for small teams – ones with no more than eight members. This is because if you are “working tightly with a team of 5 to 8 people”, you “can get to know them really well and intuitively know how they operate.”
“If you push to 15 or 20,” Eoin believes you will “lose track” and need to turn to “formal mechanisms to keep in contact or keep track.”
Eoin thinks Agile works at its best when the team is interdepartmental, as it allows for broader representation and neurodiversity. Whatever the makeup of the team, Agile is built on trust and openness – and that starts from the very beginning.
At the start, Eoin will “check with their enthusiasm levels” and for “any impediments or things that are holding them back.”
“You’re trying to get that transparency and openness”, so vital to Agile, established “early on”.
Collect the data
Once the team is set up and they are aware of the problem they are trying to solve, the next step is to conduct user interviews.
The ‘user’ in any application of Agile is the person who your output will affect. In software, this is the person who buys and uses it. In HR, this is the team or employees who will experience changes as a result of your decision.
Each person should try to interview five colleagues. “You need to let the conversation go where it goes… you are not in control of what this person says, all you are doing is nudging and guiding it” to focus on the problem.
“The most important thing”, believes Eoin, “is that they open up and they talk frankly and honestly about this problem.”
Completing these interviews is essential to the process, as once they have been conducted, the team are “not thinking about it from their own perspective anymore. They’re thinking about it from a user perspective.”
Downloading patterns, profiles, and personas
“You usually have 40-50 interviews, and that’s plenty, because the themes emerge.”
Patterns, profiles, and personas can be established after the interviews are complete and the information downloaded. The goal in this process isn’t to forget the individuals’ perspective, but to ensure voices from across the organisation are being included and a better, fairer picture of the problem is painted.
Eoin then asks the team to summarise their learnings from the interviews. “It doesn’t have to be really formal – it’s probably just bullet points around themes – and they explain it in a time-bound way, say 10 or 15 minutes.”
With this information, the team are engaged and aware of the problem, its nuances, and the way it affects different groups around the organisation.
Mapping and prototyping
Not every persona can be taken forward or looked at in more detail, but the ones that the team does select undergo experience mapping. The team will, essentially, dive into their experience more and understand the structure and lifecycle of their experience of the problem.
Once the experience mapping is underway or complete, then the team can start looking at ideas and solutions. This is when the ‘usual’ facilitation techniques become more apparent, as the workshop leader will guide the discussions in an open but focused manner.
After going through the experience mapping and solution ideation, the team can start to look at prototyping solutions.
This is when the team present their prototypes to each other – their best ideas of solutions to the problem identified at the start, informed by data-rich user personas and experience mapping.
Oversimplified but illuminating (hopefully).
That was a very quick, incomplete overview of how Agile HR might work in practice. There are dozens of asterisks, caveats, and footnotes to accompany all of that, but the best thing you can do to better understand the process and practice is listen to the full episode and connect with Eoin.
Check out the show notes, download your one-page summary, and enjoy diving further into the fascinating world of Agile HR.
You can listen to the show on your favourite podcast player, searching for “Workshops Work” or stream the episodes on www.workshops.work.
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