Fi Agile P2

Might Agile Methodology Be Just What HR is Looking For? Part 2

In the first part of this article, I gave a brief introduction to what agile methodology is and how this can be applied to the HR practice – however, before you launch into creating squads and inviting everyone to be part of your new way of working, let’s check in on the potential limitations or obstacles you might face so you can work through how to overcome them, and/or ensure that the outcome you strive for will benefit from an agile approach.

Firstly, there may be some growing pains when it comes to teaming people up. We must remember that the concept of ‘teamwork’ has evolved dramatically since the pandemic. With the mass adoption of hybrid and remote working styles, using new tools such as Miro, Trello and other interactive job management and collaboration tools, will be new to most people and will take some time to get used to. In-person teams and individual collaboration may also be a skill some have yet to flex their muscles in – especially in a context where each member of the team is very reliant on the other to ensure that the project can continue moving forward at pace.

Squads can also suffer from friction between members if they approach the work by ‘protecting their territory’. As teams are multi-disciplinary, there will be a healthy sharing of views with some team members making suggestions and interjections on aspects of the activity set that is outside their domain. This can be perceived badly if the squad has yet to move from storming to norming. The fusion of skills is the entire reason the process is so successful, as it allows for obstacles to be worked through quickly and carefully so that valuable insight and innovation can be embraced and used.

The size of the squad can be another enabler if the members are chosen well. It can be difficult to avoid upsetting someone who had wanted to be part of the squad when trying to stay within the 8–10-member limit. However, squads that are over-representing a particular insight or skillset can run the risk of having conversations dominated. Therefore, having equal representation will help to avoid this and keep things running smoothly.

Ambition can be another obstacle to overcome if you want to succeed. It’s not easy to set goals that are realistic and can be achieved within the determined timeframe. Agile is all about delivery of components of a larger goal in shorter timeframes, and includes lots of insight, trial, and error. Sprints are in short bursts so that, as a squad, you can present your findings, receive feedback, and venture into a second sprint with valuable lessons learnt, progress made, and knowing that you are on track to deliver something the customer will benefit from.

In HR, we have been guilty in the past to have operated in the same way the technology function can be guilty of, and that is to squirrel away on developing a tool/process that is best in class, but has no function in your organisation, or creates more work and less value for leaders and staff. Agile brings about amazing opportunities for a different way to ensure the tool/process is fit for purpose and harnesses all skills, strengths, and passion from the right people.

A watch out for pushing your squads too hard, however, comes in the form of deploying squads on multiple sprints. Operating sprints back-to-back may increase the risk of team members burning out, and it can be easy to get caught up in the progress being made and want to set even more ambitious goals for each sprint period. Agile methods require each member of the squad to be on top form throughout the sprint, and preferably without distraction from other work, as each member is reliant on the other for the flow of the work to continue and the goal to be achieved in the allotted timeframe. Therefore, it is advisable to have a small break in between sprints so team members can recalibrate before their next burst.

Agile working could be a game-changer for HR, from delivering projects and programmes that create value for teams and organisations, to HR team members being a part of other functional squads. It’s unlikely agile would work in the reactive operational environment, or indeed when HR partners are needed to be close to leaders and managers on a daily advisory basis. But HR can reap rewards from this way of working with a considered and managed approach; balance, transparency, and cohesiveness are key.

If you would like to discuss the practicalities of activating agile methodology in HR in more detail, please get in touch with me at

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