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A “Manifesto” for HR Agility

The Agile Manifesto was created in 2001 to delineate lightweight methods (soon to be called “agile”) from the dominant phase-gated waterfall approach of the day.  It attempted to provide guidance on where and how to adjust one’s mindset and approach from the old ways to the new with the following now-classic tenets:

  • Individual and Interactions  over  Processes and Tools
  • Working software  over  Comprehensive documentation
  • Customer collaboration  over  Contract negotiation
  • Responding to change  over  Following a plan

Many software delivery teams have found this advice to be useful as they attempt to adopt more agile ways of operation. One can easily find numerous examples of effective agile teams in nearly every industry.  But how adaptive and efficient are those companies as a whole?

Business agility.”  “End-to-end agility.”  What does it all mean?  Put simply, it means that every activity between receiving a demand and fulfilling it needs to flow, not just the software delivery part.  This covers most business functions, from funding to allocation, sales to marketing, development to operations and beyond.  It also means that we want everyone in this value stream to act with agility, working together in a smooth and coordinated manner rather than batched up in silos.

Who better to support finding and nurturing such capability than human resources?  The names of this function have been evolving as well: “talent management,” “experience management” and “people operations” are just a few terms entering vogue.  But what’s really different from the way that we used to think about hiring, performance management, learning and development and the other functions that HR performs?

Below is my take on a tentative “manifesto” for HR agility.  I put it in quotes because I’m not the first to have this idea, and I don’t have a squadron of thought leaders that have worked through it with me as the signatories of the Agile Manifesto enjoyed.  What I do have is over a decade of experience leading my own company and applying many of these ideas to my own employees, nearly two decades observing and assisting companies that are trying to adopt agile and about a year spent writing a book on the subject (HR and the Agile Organization).  With that disclaimer, here are some ideas about the shift that’s beginning to happen in progressive HR departments.

A Manifesto for HR Agility

To   From         
Growing the organization over Enforcing its boundaries
Unique people over Generic functions & silos
Proactive feedback over Counteractive assessment
Raising the best over Controlling the worst
Defaulting to openness over Hewing to confidentiality
Work flexibility over Rigidity
Stable crossfunctional teams over Heroes & interchangeable resources


What do you think?  Is your organization starting to explore shifts such as this to respond to our ever more unpredictable and rapid-moving business environments?  I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions.  I’ll be speaking on this general subject at both the upcoming Agile DC (Oct. 15) and Government Agility (Nov. 13-14) conferences.  Perhaps I’ll see you there!