The word agile became a business buzzword with the publication of The Agile Manifesto over ten years ago. The Manifesto pled for a flexible, iterative approach to software development as a faster, more efficient alternative to the classic waterfall method, with its rigid sequence of cascading phases.
The word has since been used to describe a variety of flexible and nimble management approaches. Thus, agile has come to mean the opposite of bureaucratic (it’s probably as good as any, as there is no other official antonym for bureaucratic).
A little bureaucracy can be both positive and necessary. Aside from the obvious benefit of helping to ensure legal compliance, a measure of bureaucratic structure is necessary for organizational life on a large or even medium scale. The greater the organization’s size and degree of centralized authority, the greater the level of bureaucracy necessary.
Even many proponents of agile software development confess that there are legitimate needs for the more bureaucratic waterfall method. For example, large enterprise ERP deployments would literally disintegrate into chaos using agile methods.
Yet, no one would deny that bureaucratic processes can waste time and slow things down. And, in most organizations (yours?), HR is a promulgator of bureaucratic inefficiency. Clearly, there is a balance to be struck. That’s what Agile HR is meant to accomplish.