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During SUMMIT 2018, we connected with opening keynote Peter Cappelli (professor of management, The Wharton School, and director of Wharton Center for Human Resources) to learn more about his background and dive deeper into his thoughts on the agile revolution.

In his presentation, Cappelli discussed why agile is not just for tech anymore and how it is transforming how organizations hire, develop and manage people. Read on to discover some of his key points.

HR Leader: What do you think human resources needs to do to become more agile?

Peter Cappelli (PC): There are two issues here. First, how we can support the use of agile approaches in operating the business. Second, how we can adopt agile approaches in running HR projects. In both cases, it involves empowering the teams running the projects and backing off on top-down controls and plans.

HR Leader: For those who missed it, can you summarize key takeaways on the “agile revolution” that you want HR leadership to take away from your keynote?

PC: The main takeaway should be developing a point of view on agile: What’s involved in doing it? Where does it make sense to do?

We know that projects run in agile fashion can be done faster and cheaper, and can lead to move innovation. We also know that doing so requires that the project teams operate effectively, that their dynamics are healthy. Where innovation is not important, agile gets you little. If we are executing something that is already well-defined, don’t bother with agile. And, where capital costs are paramount, it may not be useful to have financial controls pulled back. Agile requires an enormous change in culture – from top-down control to front-line autonomy.

HR Leader: In your April 2018 TED Talk (watch below), you spoke about the power of ideas. What is one idea you’ve generated and implemented that you are most proud of?

PC: I think the idea that is most important, although it hasn’t really been taken up, comes from my book Talent on Demand: We have to recognize and address uncertainty and not just assume it away. Taking your best guess and running with it is not a good strategy when your best guess is lousy.

HR Leader: Coming out of SUMMIT 2018, what is an impression of the event you’d like to leave with HR Leader readers?

PC: It’s an engaged community of practitioners who are very friendly and open about their concerns. Also, a very big room!

HR Leader: As a longtime educator, what is the best tip you have for dealing with change that either comes from your own wisdom or the wisdom of a past mentor/colleague?

PC: Something that has changed in my lifetime is that HR has become a huge business. Parts of that business are driving the discussion of what the challenges in HR are, and they are doing that not because there is any basis in what they are saying but because they are generating business for themselves.

The most important tip, therefore, is to be very skeptical about what you are hearing, especially about problems with the labor force.

Learn more about Peter and his work here. We hope to see you at SUMMIT 2019 at the Hyatt Regency O’Hare, November 19, 2019, or a future HRMAC event.