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Driving organisational transformation through HR: the keys to success

On 15th October, Jurgen Appelo shared his knowledge and experience regarding the levers of HR areas to drive business transformation in the rest of the organisation. Discover in this article by Raquel Gavilán the webinar’s highlights and the video of the replay!

Beyond Agile Transformation: HR as a Driver of Change

On 15th October, in an exclusive webinar, Talan in Spain invited Jurgen Appelo to share his knowledge and experience regarding the levers of HR areas to drive business transformation in the rest of the organisation. The webinar, called “Beyond agile transformation: HR as a driver of change”, was hosted by Pablo Alifano, General Manager at Talan in Spain, andRaquel Gavilán, Agile Coach and HR Transformation Expert at Talan. During the webinar, Jurgen mentioned the keys to drive the transformation through the whole business in the organisation. Two of the keys that we consider remarkable are: 

  • How important it is to understand the different stages in which the business units are in order to apply strategies, policies and metrics.
  • How values are the key to achieve the company's vision and mission.

Regarding HR areas, one key is how important it is to spread out the desired culture and behaviours starting with the talent acquisition process and consistently throughout the employee lifecycle in the company. In addition, Jurgen explained the keys of HR transformation by leveraging on the four following aspects:

  • Experiment and Learn: leaving room for experiments and working through hypothesis validation in controlled environments will generate high value learning for business growth. In this sense, Jurgen recommended us not to celebrate the failure itself, but the learning obtained from it. This, from HR, can be promoted with a rewarding strategy that helps against the Fear of Failure (FoF) mindset. 
  • The Business Lifecycle: how can we distinguish up to ten levels or lifecycle stages in each business unit or product? While the first four levels are related to the exploration of new ideas and business models, the last six correspond to execution stages, where priority is to make the products profitable. This affects HR because people need different policies for the different cases, that its business units have: the same policies for the whole company can kill the company, as Jurgen said. 
  • Vision and Values: while Vision is where we want to go, Values are what help us get there safely. This interesting perspective puts the organisation's values at the centre of its strategy, as key drivers, and HR plays a fundamental role in its definition, promotion and alignment. For example, promoting a lead-by-example culture, where leaders are the ambassadors of the organisation's values.
  • The Innovation Funnel: all ideas are welcome, but they need a disciplined approach to grow along the lifecycle. With this premise, Jurgen shared interesting practices with us to promote innovation, such as hackathons. These practices can be of little use if there is no subsequent tracking and decision-making system to allow those ideas to grow. Managing a portfolio of ideas and teams, just like managing running projects, can help to create an effective funnel of initiatives that are taken to their maximum level of value contribution. In this aspect, it’s important that HR generates open and flexible policies that promote a culture of open innovation for everyone. 

Keys to HR transformation: how to implement them in the organisational ecosystem?

At Talan we are aligned with Jurgen´s philosophy that HR is key in transformation processes such as:

  • Experiment & Learning
  • The Business Lifecycle
  • Vision-Values
  • The Innovation Funnel

In the Business Transformation Line of Talan Spain, we work through a handcrafted and empirical process, based on the inspection and adaptation of the transformation process itself. Additionally, we take advantage of Collective Intelligence, to ensure customised solutions provide maximum value, long-term and deep transformation -not only changes- to our clients. Based on our experience, we currently consider three levers that help us drive transformation:

1) Cultural Transformation: the complexity of organisations requires a different approach to traditional cultural transformation management.

We find it necessary to approach transformation processes from a perspective of incremental, adaptive learning and continuous alignment. At Talan, we have experts in transformation management frameworks such as Lean Change Management, which allows us to exponentially increase the impact on the culture of transformation, always looking for experimentation, adaptative learning and adapted to the environment and the intrinsic scalability to the rest of the organisation.

2) Strategy-driven Management: the importance of a strategy-driven decision-making process at all levels of the organisation, which must be consistent with the vision and mission and guided by the values.

We work from a strategy-driven management approach, being experienced in designing and implementing unique solutions for our clients that involve the strategy design process itself, its iterative governance, portfolio and budget management (fund, test and learn approach), metrics to boost decision-making based on strategic alignment, and people-oriented initiatives that enable this approach at all levels of the organisation. In this respect, we promote value-driven metrics implementation to achieve a strategy-based decision making, such as the OKRs system. We are experienced implementing it in large areas and companies of different sectors, working through a top-down strategy and monitoring alignment through all layers involved. As different systems need different solutions, we know how to design a model in which OKRs can coexist with other methodologies and metrics, always looking for the value-driven decision making.

3) Reskilling and accompaniment: to transform, it is necessary for people in the organisation to acquire new skills, not only hard and soft but also cultural, addressing a mindset change.

We usually work in organisations to change the paradigm from project to product thinking. In addition, we know that when approaching a transformation process, companies often face a challenge with role transformation. That is why at Talan's Business Transformation Line we have designed a unique solution through which we train and accompany the new roles that your organisation needs, addressing both skills and culture.


Furthermore, it is important to know how to activate these levers in a real and complex environment. We promote the Walk the Talk philosophy -that is, always speak from your own experience-. In this regard, and thanks to our experience in designing and executing the transformation strategy in HR areas of large-scale companies, we know that it does not only consist of applying some practices and tools in teams. Transforming from the strategic function of the area to permeate business and people, working with the HR disciplines to achieve more transversal and employee-centred structures -and also putting in the centre the area/department that looks after the employee-, as well as developing a scalable Cultural Transformation roadmap, are some of our practices.

Changing or Transforming? That is the Question

Quoting Jurgen: "Different ages need different practices", which means that we must be able to understand the lifecycle stage and maturity of each system or product in the organisation, in order to apply the most appropriate solution. Otherwise, we can fall into the error of driving change, but not transformation: while change is related to doing -implementing new practices, shifting roles, changing methodologies- and transformation is related to being, value shifts, mindset and behaviour, then we´ll be truly transforming the heart of the business and the organisation. 

After several years of bringing agility to companies in many different countries and sectors, we know that there are no best practices or standard models that guarantee the successful implementation of these concepts mentioned by Jurgen Appelo. When we talk about something as complex and uncertain as Transformation, it is necessary to have expertise from the trenches, to be able to analyse in a holistic way and offer the best solution to each problem, which is unique in every company.

In this aspect, we recommend including the areas of HR in the transformation process from the very onset, even if this process has been already initiated from another business or technology area. Thanks to consistency with policies and initiatives aimed at people - talent, culture, organisation, reward-, and only if talent and people’s mindset is aligned with what we need to promote, we can make the successful transformation happen, and not just a series of changes.

In short, the trend shows that HR areas will have to be deeply involved in the transformation processes, even boosting them, to ensure their depth and sustainability.


HR areas should be involved as part of any transformation process, boosting the organisation and ensuring sustainability.

Jurgen Appelo


If you are immersed in the journey of transformation, or thinking of starting it, we are here to accompany you. We want your challenge to become ours, contact us