Posted by Cathy Reilly on Oct 10, 2016 9:00:00 AM


Contrary to the popular concept that “big” is better, modern opinion is starting to think “small” is better. Big meant economies of scale. Before the microchip transformed small into powerful, it took a lot of people to scale a business. Big organizations added value with efficient manufacturing, market expansion, and geographic distribution. A big sales force or a large R&D team were valuable assets.  But going big also meant a loss of speed and agility.

This is the first of a three-part series on Agile HR, a current hot concept and one I'd like to see stick around. Agile HR consists of various principles to help HR drive companies further than the conventional model of HR as guardians of guidelines and protocols. The agile model stretches HR to help a company become more quickly responsive and innovative through simplifying processes that get right to the heart of a matter.

 I’ll be looking at a sampling (three) of the concepts in Agile HR, which are centered around the core idea of shrinking things in order to react faster and more powerfully.

PART 1: Why You Need to Think Small
and One the Spot

PART 2: What you Need to Know to Hold Smaller Meetings
and Get More Done

PART 3: Five Reasons Smaller HR Teams Are Better

Think about it, it’s currently very possible for small companies to make more money than bigger ones. In a USA Today article by Matt Krantz, These Tiny Companies are Making Big Money (Sept. 4,  2016)  Gains in shares of small companies are blowing away large-company indexes by a nearly 2-to-1 margin over the past three months."  Big companies are starting to go smaller to compete and become more responsive to culture, technology, and consumer demand.

Let's look at the humble LEGO. It’s small, versatile, and endlessly innovative. Its basic building block is a single plastic brick from which a child can build a boundless array of cool stuff. “It’s a very simple idea,” says LEGO CEO Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, “All bricks are complementary. They all fit together. Which creates a system you can be endlessly creative in” And the LEGO game is great for another reason. It’s conducive to community. It excels at providing opportunities for shared play. Kids will readily exchange their building with others, and often work in tandem to produce a LEGO creation that reflects a shared vision.

LEGO employs the basic principles of effective building and sharing; a great model for Agile HR. If we learn to break things down to a basic level, think smaller and simpler, we get to a solution faster and eliminate the unnecessary steps that slow us down. It also makes for a far more responsive system that enhances creativity and encourages collaboration. This sets up a dynamic that shortens the distance between challenge and solution. Likewise, most big results come from successfully making a series of small decisions along the way that were built upon.

HR can apply thinking smaller to expedite their practices, leading companies away from environments filled with red tape, separation, closed doors, silos, and guarded innovation processes. The downside of BIG is isolation and bureaucratic paralysis. The upside of SMALL is agility and speed to get things done, which helps to make BIG things happen.

What agile principles and processes have you adopted in HR?

Topics: Human Resources