Agile HR: Fables and Fairy Tales

scrum-pigs-chickensWho doesn’t love a good fairy tale or fable?

As a child I had an affinity for Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Princess and the Pea” and Aesop’s “The Ant and the Grasshopper” and “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” Well maybe not that last one. My mother, on the other hand, liked to quote it a lot.

Then when I grew up and started to hang out with other HR ladies everyone seemed to love business fables like “Who Moved My Cheese” and “FISH! Philosophy.” I remember going to a conference/seminar where we tossed stuffed fish around the room. Yeah. Really.

But there’s another business fable – a cliché by now – that I’ve always enjoyed:

The Pig and the Chicken

A Pig and a Chicken are walking down the road.

The Chicken says: “Hey Pig, I was thinking we should open a restaurant!”

The Pig replies: “Hmm, maybe, what would we call it?”

The Chicken responds: “How about ‘ham-n-eggs’?”

The Pig thinks for a moment and says: “No thanks. I’d be committed, but you’d only be involved.”

It’s a fable often trotted out in the world of software development when teams implement the agile software development methodology. (note: the Scrum Guide officially discontinued the use of this analogy in 2011. I don’t care…I still like it).

Even if you don’t work in the IT world you may have heard of scrum; a framework that helps people and teams work through a complex project. Or, perhaps, you’re a rugby fan who likes the correlation between a scrum half (#9) who directs traffic and links the forwards to the backs, and the scrum master (development world) who coaches and coordinates and connects team members to ensure collaboration.

For me it’s always begged the question…can HR professionals play rugby? OK…I jest. But can HR pros be agile, fast and flexible? Can they “think” this way?

  • Roll out a product (an HR initiative) in incremental stages
  • Test it
  • Improve it
  • Repeat the process for continuous improvement

Are HR professionals willing to be the pig and sacrifice in their entirety? Seek improvement in order to work themselves out of their jobs? Do HR so well that the need for redundancy and layer-upon-layer of HR positions are eliminated? Outsource when it makes sense? Pass responsibilities on and empower both managers AND employees? Sacrifice unnecessary HR bureaucrats in order to allow the business to operate more effectively?

Or is that, perhaps, a fairy tale?


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