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In the 21-st century, when the business environment can only be described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA), company success has been largely attributed to becoming as nimble and agile as possible. This strategy is now spreading to every type of organization and every aspect of work, allowing companies to maneuver in the rapidly shifting and unpredictable context in which they find themselves.

An Agile management style is all about working smarter rather than harder. It’s not really about doing more in less time but about generating more value with less work.

When we hear the word “agile,” we don’t typically think of a large organization. The reason for this is that most aren’t. Nevertheless, agile organizations do exist. That said, embracing agility in the workplace means to embrace fundamentally different assumptions.

For many traditional managers, this isn’t always easy or comfortable. It’s not so much about implementing specialized tools and processes but about adopting a different mindset. It’s only through practice and experience that Agile becomes second nature. HR leaders would stand to gain a lot from learning to become more Agile themselves. The same thing can also be said about the teams they lead.

What Are Agile Teams?

Since the concept of “VUCA” was first introduced in the military back in the 1980s, it would only be fitting to have a similar analogy about agile teams. Think of military special forces in comparison to a large army. Such a small team can infiltrate behind enemy lines and accomplish an objective in ways thousands of soldiers never could. In a sense, we can look at special forces as the Agile teams of the military.

The impact of small teams in a business environment shouldn’t be underestimated. A team of five to nine people, sometimes of different backgrounds, can prove to be a force to be reckoned with in today’s fast-paced and highly competitive environment. So, what exactly makes these small, agile teams so impactful?

In short, these small teams can move faster, recover from a setback quicker, make decisions more easily, and, in large, be more agile and flexible than their larger counterparts. Many companies that have adopted an Agile mindset agree that dealing with difficult problems in a VUCA environment should, to the extent possible, be broken down into small batches.

As such, they can be handled by small, cross-functioning, and autonomous teams that work in short, repeated cycles, always getting and implementing customer and end-user feedback at every stage of the process.

While this is, in large, the main operating model of Agile teams, it’s important to realize that there is neither a one-size-fits-all approach nor a universal best practice. And, while this may pose a problem for those looking to utilize small teams for the first time, it also allows for more innovation of the process.

That said, most Agile teams, regardless of the project, company size, or industry, have several things in common. These include:

  • Small, cross-functional teams
  • Working in small batches
  • Tackling limited aspects in any given project
  • Being autonomous
  • Working without interruption
  • Getting to “done”
  • A high degree of transparency
  • Daily standups
  • Gathering and utilizing customer and/or end-user feedback with each cycle
  • Retrospective reviews

Is your organization operating on an Agile management style, and are you using small teams to get the job done? If so, I would like to know how you are doing it. Also, I would like to talk to you about how HR leaders can manage these teams. So, let’s book an appointment and discuss best practices at or +1 (604) 943-0800.

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Inscape Consulting Group
Greg Nichvalodoff, BSc. BM (Honors), MBA, PCC, CMC
Office: 604.943.0800
Mobile: 604.831.4734