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

Traditionally, HR workstreams could be organised into four sections: cyclical activities such as engagement surveys; reactive client focused work such as performance management; proactive business improvement such as organisational design and learning initiatives; and projects such as change programmes and process improvements. Often, as the speed of organisations influence the ability to deliver well, HR is left wanting in non-operational areas.

However, agile HR methodology may be a solution to keeping pace.

Agile in HR is quickly gaining traction across the globe, proving particularly popular in countries such as Australia and New Zealand. Essentially, agile methodology aims to achieve a unifying, specific goal in a much shorter amount of time. This is often done by combining a team of multi-disciplinary individuals from across the company and having them each take on activities that together, create momentum behind the activity that is broken down into smaller components of a larger goal. This group, known as a ‘squad’, will exchange and update their progress on a regular basis, gathering stakeholder feedback along the way so they can adjust their work real time, and deliver an outcome that more closely matches the needs of the recipients. This way of working is conducted in short cycles, or ‘sprints’, and keeps the squad focused, energised, and on the right track.

Whilst agile methodology will look different depending on the desired goal, there are a few staple factors of this methodology that will be consistent no matter what the intent:

  • Multi-Disciplinary Teams – when forming a squad, it is important to identify all the relevant perspectives you will need to be represented in the team. The idea is to bring different perspectives and skillsets together to operate more efficiently, and to consider all perspectives in order to achieve the desired outcome. Within the HR function, a multi-disciplinary team might include various members of the HR sub-functions as well as stakeholders and external consultants.
  • Stricter Timeframes – sprints will typically be between two weeks to a month. The idea of agile is that the squad rapidly deploys an outcome, so the roadmap is precise and regularly updated based on feedback and progress. This is different from traditional project management, in that everyone sees and hears about progress on a much more regular basis and can influence the next steps in real time. Goals can be achieved at a much faster rate due to the mix of skillsets, viewpoints, and feedback collaborating towards a common outcome. There are clear roles, responsibilities, and deadlines.  
  • Transparency – part of the process involves everyone being honest about what they have and can complete within the timeframe the squad is working within. This requires transparency, vulnerability, and trust. As a multi-disciplinary squad, it is therefore important that everyone knows exactly what they are responsible for and the deadline for delivery. Many people new to agile can find it difficult to be so transparent and fear they are letting the squad down if they don’t complete their tasks. However, what happens in a squad that has pushed through this obstacle is that everyone supports each other, as the common goal overrides everything else.

So, might Agile be what HR has been looking for to help deliver timely solutions that create value for their client groups?

Check back here tomorrow for Part 2 where I outline the potential limitations or obstacles you might face and how you can overcome these when using agile methodology.

In the meantime, 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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