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Want to Develop a Strong Talent Pipeline? Four Things to Consider

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Wednesday, August 31, 2016


The following article was sparked from a tweet shared by Meghan M. Biro:


I absolutely agree.

Identifying, attracting and engaging the right people is key to building a strong workforce. But finding top talents is getting harder and harder. And all too often, HR fails to build a valid talent pipeline and can only fall back on a limited number of (more or less suitable) applicants.
Here are four things lean | agile enterprises do to build a sound talent pipeline:

  • Boost internal careers for employees
  • Turn alumni into great ambassadors
  • Proactively connect with potential talents
  • Engage with your current applicants


1. Boost internal career for employees

Most jobs are filled with outside candidates without prior knowledge or experience within your organization. And current employees are often overlooked. Unfortunately, in many organizations today, internal transfers are often restricted to a silo (you move up if your boss moves), die before they come to anything or are no more than a lip service.
Of course on paper organizations promote internal careers and usually have some example(s) at hand of such a growth story. But the reality is often far from it. There are several reasons including:

  • managers don’t want to lose their top performer to a different unit
  • employees don’t apply to avoid consequences if it might not work out
  • internal people lose out against outside candidates

(The last point always makes me wonder: Why do we trust the claims of outside applicants, whom we have not previously known, to deliver huge results, but we doubt our own internal candidates, who have proven themselves over and over again? BTW: This is just one of the things lean | agile People Operations successfully address.)

When it comes to enabling internal careers, HR plays a key role as adviser and people advocate. But here’s the hard and sad truth: Employees do not trust HR. We all know the story: Bright, highly engaged employee seeks out HR representative to discuss development plans and career options; even before he/she makes it back to the desk, HR has already made “the call” to the manager and soon after, the employee is looking for a new job outside of the company.

Unfortunately, this is neither a new nor a unique story and shows the reality in many organizations. The acting parties do not have any bad intentions, but the actions lead to an undesirable (and unnecessary) outcome.

Lean | agile enterprises actively promote and highly encourage career moves across the organizational network. After all, what could be more appealing than filling position with someone you already know and trust and who knows your organization and its values? You can boost knowledge sharing and strengthen internal networks while at the same time giving employees a great incentive for a great growth and advancement opportunities within the company.

They see their role as enablers and facilitators. They take pride if they helped to develop someone and see them take a new step. And that behavior is strongly encouraged and rewarded throughout the organization. The key difference is that lean | agile teams are not afraid to let their best people move on – especially not within the company.


2. Turn alumni into great ambassadors

Even if someone is moving on outside of their company, agile leaders accept it and ensure the transition is done with integrity, and the connection is not broken the minute the parting employee announces his/her departure or talks honestly and openly about pursuing other career options.

The first and the last day in a job are probably among most memorable times within a company. Typically on the first day we try to make a great impression, but the last day is far too often marked by bad feelings. That does not have to be like that.

Lean | agile enterprises make sure to part on the best terms and build a strong alumni network. After all you want your alumni to be great ambassadors for your company beyond their employment. They might choose to come back and/or refer you as amazing company to new customers and potential employees.


3. Proactively connect with potential talents

If you want to build a solid talent pipeline, HR has to reach out and engage with potential talents. And that has to take place long before you look to fill any open positions. Employer branding is essential. It must be authentic and takes place on different levels and will not only include your organization but also the personal branding of your employees and how they will speak about you.

Even though a distinct positioning of your organization is important, the more important part is to know your target audience. Understand their values and needs and determine their articulated and unarticulated motivations for potential occupational changes, and follow up with suitable initiatives.

Referral programs, interest forms, regular advertisements, social media activities and brand awareness campaigns are some of the things you can do. But above all: invest in personal interactions, one-on-one conversations and networking in and outside the organization. Go to meetups, events, conferences and other places your target people are likely to be and connect.

That way you cannot only showcase your great organization but also observe and get to know potential candidates in a more relaxed setting. That will lead to more honest and authentic experience and discussion than you are likely to get during a traditional interviewing process. You get a first indication of their suitability for your workforce and compatibility with your corporate culture.

So the minute you need to fill a position, you can tap into that pool of talents and address suitable candidates. And match them up with applications coming in through the normal recruiting channels. That will leave you with a stronger, more valid talent pool not only on a quantitative but more importantly on a qualitative level.


4. Engage with current applicants

You might wonder why this is the last point on the list and not the first one. After all, incoming applicants are likely to be the largest pool for talent sourcing within your organization. However, for all the reasons mentioned before, I believe that it does not have to be, nor should it be, that way.

The reason many organizations believe that they are not able to employ the best talents usually has little to do with their recruitment process but with the fact that they do not have a strong talent pipeline to begin with and are forced to choose employees from a B-rated candidate pool. If you now factor in that the risk of hiring an “unknown” person, the chances of a successful hire are even slimmer.

This is not to say that it is not a valid and important source of new talents. Applications that reach you through your traditional recruitment efforts are important and there is no way we can do without a stream of new applicants. But we simply cannot limit it to that. If we want to build a powerful workforce, we must also invest into the strategies outlined above – and then create an amazing experience for top candidates.


Are you ready to fill that talent pipeline?

This article was originally published on Just Leading Solutions, by Fabiola Eyholzer

Tags:  agile  hiring  HR  talent 

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Save the Date!

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Friday, August 26, 2016


About this Event

The AgileCareers Virtual Career Fair connects you directly with employers that have open career opportunities from the comfort of your home or office.

You will log in and see employers that want to hire talent, the specific opportunities they have available, and information about each hiring organization. You will choose which employers you want to interact with and then engage in a one-on-one chat directly with a recruiter from those organizations. You can share your background, experience, resume, and ask questions.

Following each chat interview, you'll be able to go back to the Event Lobby and select additional recruiters to chat with from other participating employer companies!

The AgileCareers Virtual Career Fair connects you in real time with employers seeking to recruit top talent. 

Who should attend the event?

AgileCareers is built on best-in-class, enterprise-grade job board technology! Job seekers will gain a massive increase in relevant job opportunities, as the AgileCareers job board will be fueled by YourMembership's large network of the top career sites around the world. You will have the ability to customize your profile, job alerts, and upload your resume for passive job searching and will have access to a regular flow of new content and resources.

AgileCareers is powered by Scrum Alliance®, the largest, most established and influential professional certification organization in the Agile community with more than 400,000 practitioners worldwide. Its vision is to "Transform the World of Work.” Its mission is to guide and inspire individuals, leaders, and organizations with practices, principles, and values that create workplaces that are joyful, prosperous, and sustainable. Scrum is at the foundation of all its products, services, and solutions.


Many of the job seekers on AgileCareers have been trained and certified by Scrum Alliance and have achieved their Certified ScrumMaster® certification or Certified Scrum Product Owner® certification. These individuals are ready to join your Scrum and Agile teams!

Tags:  agile  career fair  scrumpractices 

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Posted By Meghan Robinson, Tuesday, August 16, 2016


In 2005 I had the privilege to participate in the first occurrence of this fantastic technique for organizing large numbers of people into Agile teams.  It happened at Capital One in Richmond Virginia and my colleague of the time, Kara Silva, led this successful experiment.  The problem was that the “teams” that management had set up didn’t make much sense from an Agile perspective.  They were functional teams (e.g. a team of testers).  But to do Agile well, they needed cross-functional, multi-skilled teams that could work well together to deliver great results each iteration.  So Kara and a few other senior people got together all the staff in the department into a big room with a big whiteboard and facilitated a 3 hour meeting to sort out who would be on which team.  Everyone was involved – all the people who would be on the teams were in the room.  Those teams stayed together with the same membership long after that meeting.

This “team creation event” was a fantastic success for that particular department.  What made it a success?

  1. Everyone participating already had Agile training and experience.  They knew what they were getting into and why they were doing it.
  2. Everyone was encouraged to participate through the way the meeting was facilitated.  No one felt like their opinion was ignored.
  3. The meeting was long, but also time boxed.  It wasn’t an open-ended discussion that could go forever.
  4. It was in-person!!!  Everyone was physically present so that not just abstract facts, but also feelings were clearly visible to everyone else.
  5. It was honest: tough things were discussed including potential personality conflicts.  This open discussion required expert facilitation.
  6. Management was not involved in the decision-making during the meeting.
  7. The overall purpose of the exercise was clear: here’s the business we’re in, and here’s the people we have to work with – how can we organize ourselves to be most effective?
  8. A big diagram of the proposed teams and their membership was constantly being updated on a whiteboard: visual and concrete for everyone to see.
  9. Preparation: the meeting was scheduled far enough in advance that everyone could make it and management was informed about how important it was (don’t schedule over top of it!)

In the Real Agility Program, the team creation event is used to launch a Delivery Group.  The key people at the meeting include all the potential team members as well as the three Real Agility Coaches from the business, from technology, and from process/people.  Depending on the number of people involved, the team creation event can take anywhere from two hours up to a full day.  Longer is not recommended.  For larger Delivery Groups, we recommend that the team creation event be held off-site.

Facilitation of the team creation event is usually done by the process/people Real Agility Coach.  If you wanted to use this process with other enterprise Agile frameworks such as SAFe (Scaled Agile Framework) you would have the “equivalent” person such as SAFe’s Release Train Engineer as the facilitator.

The team creation event should only be done when the business is ready to get a Delivery Group started on actual product, project or program work.  If there is any significant delay between the team creation event and the launch of the Delivery Group on it’s work, then the teams can fracture and you may need to run the event again.  A few days should be the maximum delay.

One client we worked with ran the team creation event but had some significant problems afterward because they weren’t really ready.  In particular, they still had to make staffing changes (primarily letting go of some contractors, hiring some new full-time employees).  As a result, the teams created in the team creation event were not really properly stable.  This caused a great deal of disruption and even significant morale problems for some teams.  It is essential that the Leadership Team be committed to keeping the team membership stable for a significant period of time after the team creation event.  That includes any necessary means to encourage people who are thinking of leaving to reconsider.  It also includes a commitment from leadership to respect the self-organizing choices made during the team creation event unless there is an extremely urgent problem with the results.

So, to make it systematic, here are the steps required to run a team creation event:


  1. Make sure that everyone who will participate has Agile training and has been on an Agile team for at least a few iterations/sprints/cycles.
  2. The Leadership Team needs to publish a notice (usually through email) explaining the upcoming team creation event and their unqualified support for the event.
  3. The people/process Real Agility Coach needs to schedule the time for the event, and if necessary, book the venue.
  4. In the weeks and days leading up to the event, some communication should be provided to all the participants about the overall business purpose of the Delivery Group.  Is it for a specific Program?  If so, what is the objective of the program from a business perspective?  It should not just be a one-time communication.  This should come from the business Real Agility Coach.
  5. The Leadership Team needs to decide which management stakeholders will attend the team creation event and make presentations.  These presentations should be about setting a vision for the Delivery Group, not about assigning people to teams.


  1. The team creation event starts with the people/process Real Agility Coach welcoming people and reiterating the purpose of the event.
  2. Management stakeholders make their presentations to ensure that participants have a clear vision.
  3. The business Real Agility Coach summarizes the vision presented by the management stakeholders.
  4. The people/process Real Agility Coach provides instructions about the constraints for a good Agile Delivery Team:
    • Cross-functional
    • Multi-skilled (see the Skills Matrix tool for ideas here).
    • Correct size (usually 7 +/- 2).
    • People who want to work with each other.
    • People who want to work on that particular team’s goal (if such is set).
    • Everyone must be on a team.
    • Every team must choose the people who will fill the Agile Delivery Team roles (e.g. ScrumMaster and Product owner for Scrum Delivery Teams).
  5. Everyone starts self-organizing!  Usually the three Real Agility Coaches circulate through the teams as they are working to organize themselves to offer gentle guidance, to answer questions, and to see if there are opportunities to optimize across teams.  These optimization opportunities should always be offered as suggestions rather than being directive.
  6. As the self-organization is happening, the people/process Real Agility Coach needs to clearly indicate the passage of time so that people are “finished” when the time has run out.
  7. Once the self-organizing is done, the Leadership Team (or a representative) thanks everyone for their work in creating the teams and agrees to let everyone know within a short period of time if there are any changes required (to be done before the teams start working).
  8. The people/process Real Agility Coach closes the meeting.  It is critical to record the final results of who is on which team.  It may be easiest to get the teams themselves to do this before leaving the meeting.


  1. The people/process Real Agility Coach makes sure that the Leadership Team receives a complete and accurate record of the results of the team creation event before the end of the day.
  2. The Leadership Team reviews the results and makes any (minor but critical) adjustments within a few days, at most, and publishes the final list to everyone.  Failure to do this in a timely manner can deeply demoralize the staff who will be in the Delivery Group.
  3. Any updates to org charts, management tools, time tracking tools, job descriptions, etc. that need to reflect the new team organization should also be made immediately and certainly before the Delivery Group starts working.
  4. A final thank you message from the Leadership team should be delivered immediately prior to the start of the Delivery Group doing its work.

Have you experienced an event like this? Did it work? What was different from what I described?

This article was originally posted on Agile Advice.   

Tags:  agilepractices  f organizing  le teams  umpractices 

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Posted By Meghan Robinson, Tuesday, August 16, 2016


I interview candidates for a living – candidates for our clients’ technical positions, as well as candidates for our internal sales, recruiting and resource management positions.  Rarely do candidates ask good questions.  I typically get the standard questions about how many candidates are interviewing for the position, how soon we’ll be making a decision and what are the next steps.  Don’t get me wrong, these are ok questions, but they aren’t giving you much worthwhile information.  Here are six questions every candidate should ask during an interview, the earlier in the interview process, the better:

1. What did you see in my resume that prompted you to contact me for this position?


The information you gather from this question will help you with the current position and potentially with tailoring your resume for future positions.  With regard to the current position, the answer gives you additional insight into what is important.  Asking this question early in the interview process enables you to tailor your answers to what they deem is important.   With regard to future positions, the answer helps you understand how recruiters review resumes and what caught their eye.  You may be able to use this to your advantage when applying for future positions.

2. What is the profile of the ideal candidate for this position? 

This is an obvious question to ask, but is rarely asked by candidates during the interview process.  Again, asking this early in the interview process will give you an edge.  With this answer in hand, you’ll be able to focus your answers and ensure you cover the interviewer’s actual hot buttons, rather than perceived hot buttons.

3. In what areas do I match that profile? 

A seasoned sales professional once told me that convincing someone to buy rarely works.  Instead, you need to help them convince themselves that they want to buy.  This question follows the same logic.  Your goal here is to help the interviewer solidify in their mind why you’re a good fit for the position.  It also helps you to validate whether or not you’re effectively communicating your strengths.  If they fail to mention experience that you obviously possess and that is obviously necessary for the job, you may want to rethink how you’re communicating that experience.

4. In what areas are you unsure whether I match the profile? 

Notice that this is a softball question by design.  Using the word, “unsure,” helps to soften the question.  It implies that they are unsure, not that you are lacking in some skill.  The interviewer is more likely to give you quality feedback just based on how you ask the question.  In contrast, asking the interviewer what they perceive to be your weaknesses puts the interviewer in a difficult spot.  No one wants to tell someone else about their “weaknesses” or how they “don’t fit.”  If you ask the question with such finality, you’ll likely receive a fluff answer, such as, “Nothing comes to mind” or “I think you’re a great fit.”  As a result, you’ll never have the opportunity to help them be sure.

5. What else can I provide to help you make the correct decision – more detail, references, personality test, etc.? 

As with question #4, phrasing is everything.  It’s not what you say; it’s how you say it.  With this question, it’s implied that the “correct decision” could go either way.  You’re not being cocking by assuming you are the “correct decision.”  Instead, you’re a consultant of sorts, trying to help them determine the best course of action.  Just by asking this question, you’re exuding qualities that most employers are looking for – selflessness, team work and honesty.  In addition, if they do have unanswered questions, it may provide you with the opportunity to provide information that sways them in your direction.

6. With regard to other people who have been in this role, what have they done well and what were their biggest challenges?

This is one of the best questions you can ask.  It typically results in cornucopia of valuable information.  This question often times helps you get under the hood, so to speak, to see what really is happening, and more importantly, the baggage you’ll be inheriting.  Regardless of your decision, it is always good to enter a new situation with reasonable expectations and your eyes wide open.

Asking these six questions will help you refine your interview performance, provide insight into what recruiters / managers are truly seeking in candidates, and help you determine whether or not this is a good fit for you.  Don’t ask questions for the sake of asking questions.  Instead, ask questions to obtain valuable information that will help you succeed – whatever that means for you.

This article was originally posted on The Quantix Corner

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Six Behaviors to Consider for an Agile Team

Posted By Meghan Robinson, Tuesday, August 2, 2016


Summary: If you’ve been tasked with creating an agile team, first consider what differentiates an agile team from a non-agile team. In this week’s column, Johanna Rothman highlights six behaviors of people on successful agile teams that candidates for an agile team should possess.

Are agile team members different from people on other teams? Yes and no. Yes, because some of the behaviors we see on agile teams are more pronounced than those behaviors on non-agile teams. And, no, because we are talking about people!

But, successful agile team members exhibit certain behaviors more often than non-agile project team members, because agile requires these behaviors to create a successful team and product. If you’ve been tasked with creating an agile team, what qualities should you look for? Below are six key behaviors people on successful agile teams exhibit. I’ve also included interview questions to determine if an agile team candidate has what it takes to join a great agile team.

1. People Who Collaborate

People who can work together—really collaborate—are much more valuable than people who need to work alone. But, what does it mean to really collaborate?

The first thing you see in an agile team is that people work together on features. It’s common on a non-agile team for people to take features or requirements and work on them alone, but that’s uncommon on a well-running agile team, where several developers and a tester or two may work together to make sure they—as a team—have completed a story. You may see several testers working together to develop tests, or (one of my favorites) you may see developers and testers working together to develop the test automation framework for the project team.

The entire team works together to define, start, and finish features. Successful agile teams avoid the problem of having many features started but none finished at the end of the iteration, because they collaborate to complete features.

A question you can ask a candidate is “Think back to a recent project. Give me an example of a time you had to work with other people to make sure that you could finish something. What happened?”

2. People Who Ask for Help

It’s not easy for many of us to ask for help. In many organizations, it’s not even right to ask for help. Yet, people who can ask for help are people we want to hire for an agile team.

Why is asking for help so important? We all know something about the project, but none of us knows everything we need to know. So, we need to be able to ask for help, and we need to do this from a position of strength—not a position of weakness. On an agile team, it’s not a problem to ask for help. In agile, we don’t want to incur the delay of people being stuck before asking for help, and it’s more important that the team deliver all the features the team committed to at the end of the erasure than that any one person be a hero.

Here’s a question you could ask a candidate about his or her ability to ask for help: “Think back to your most recent project. Tell me about a time you did not understand something. What did you do?”

3. People Who are Willing to Take Small Steps and Get Feedback

Agile is all about feedback. We use iterations so we can do something and get some feedback. We build in increments so our customers have a chance to provide feedback on our work to date.

One of the behaviors you want to look for in a candidate is the ability to take small steps and get feedback on whatever work he or she performed. People who seem to need to finish a feature perfectly (whether those people are developers, testers, writers, or whoever) before anyone sees it are not well suited to an agile team.

One of the series of questions you can ask is “Tell me how you like to work. Think back to the last feature you worked on. Did you try to finish the whole thing before you asked for feedback?” Wait for the answer. Now, ask, “Why?” The candidate might tell you he or she had one shot at getting feedback. Or the candidate might say he or she was expected to complete everything perfectly. Now you can ask, “When you work on your projects outside of work, how do you work?”

4. People Who are Willing To Do Something That is Good Enough for Now

Similarly people who are able to take small steps and get feedback might also be willing to do something that is good enough for now. One of the problems in agile is we don’t have time to do everything perfectly at one time. That’s why we use timeboxes. We do what’s needed for now, and based on feedback decide whether or when to return to it later.

The ability to do something that is just good enough for now and come back to it later, when doing so has more business value, is not a common behavior. You can see this in testers who want the absolute best test system at the beginning of the project. You can see this in architects who want to fully define the architecture at the beginning of the project.

One of the problems of agile is that we cannot tell what will be perfect at the very beginning of the project. Sometimes, we can’t tell in the middle either! So, we need to do something that is good enough for now and come back to it later when we will get more business value from focusing on it.

To tell if the candidate has this ability to do something that is good enough for now and to postpone finishing it perfectly, ask: “Tell me about a recent time you did not know everything at the beginning of the project. What did you do?”

5. Adaptable People

In agile projects, as in all types of projects, conditions are not always perfect. We may not have a team room, we may not have acceptance criteria for all the features, and we may not even be able to remove obstacles, but we still have to get work done.

We’re not looking for saints; we’re looking for people who are adaptable to current conditions. We want people to do the work even with imperfect conditions.

You’ll know if you have one of these adaptable people based on the answer you get to the following: “Tell me about a time when you did not have the conditions you would’ve liked for your project. What did you do?”

6. People Willing to Work Outside Their Expertise

One sign of adaptability is a person’s willingness to work outside her area of expertise. I’m not suggesting that people do things that they have no idea how to complete—for example, a developer shouldn’t turn into a marketer (unless the developer wants to). I am suggesting that if someone is very comfortable with the database, she also should try to work a little bit in the GUI. If she’s comfortable with middleware, maybe she’d like to work a little at the platform level or at the upper level of the application. If she’s been an exploratory tester all of her test career, maybe she’s willing to try a little scripting. If she’s been an automation weenie, maybe it’s time to try a little exploratory testing.

We see this willingness to work outside expertise in agile teams when people collaborate to swarm around a feature. People are willing to work outside their expertise but not far from it. To learn more about this ability, ask, “Tell me about a time you took on work to help the team. What was that like?”

A candidate may not be able to answer that question. You may then have to set the context with something like, “We work on things we may not be comfortable with in order to finish a feature for an iteration. Have you ever been in that position?” If the candidate does not say yes, you’ll have to ask the question differently. For example, I’ve had some success with the following: “Tell me about a time you did something you thought was not in your job description. What did you do?”


These may not be the only behaviors you need for your agile team. Make sure you do a job analysis to see how your agile team is different, and then you’ll know the kinds of candidates to consider.

© 2010 Johanna Rothman. This column originally appeared on

Like this article? See the other articles. Or, look at my workshops, so you can see how to use advice like this where you work.

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