Smart Swarming

At the time of festive celebrations, we remind ourselves of the importance of the people around us who matter. It’s something to do with the downtime, the celebrations, the gifts, the indulgence and remembering those who aren’t as fortunate or no longer with us.

In essence we swarm around love, kindness and appreciation. In work we don’t swarm anywhere near enough. And partly that’s because we’ve (HR largely) designed an almost solo existence in work. We’re part of a big machine of labour and of tasks, deadlines, deliverables and efficiency. Yet in nature, it’s like the festive swarm everyday. Termites maintaining their mound, Starlings protecting their fragility in murmurations, and Tuna schools avoiding predation by swimming randomly but in harmony.

Peter Miller wrote a great book called Smart Swarm where he researched those natural phenomena. And equated it back to work. I won’t spoil the book but let’s say he’s onto something. And lately, my work is helping HR professionals unlearn this solo pursuits and be more like a symphonic swarm of loosely

orchestrated jazz-like improvisation. I call it Squad working after the method deployed by Spotify in their engineering and design ranks. Something there’s a lot of writing and video footage of.


  • We have a problem to solve. We, someone, takes the responsibility for being the “owner” of the solution and like the Queen Bee
  • We create a small swarm around us of capable, energised and adaptable people to produce the solution.
  • We then work together in a different way. Not all disperse into our inboxes and Google searches but together, we allocate tasks –
  • one at a time – to work on in harmony and unison. We have a coordinating, galvanising force – a Scrum Master, Agile or Squad
  • A Coach – who helps us stay on track, get resources we need, help each other, test our hypothesis and produce a solution which the owner then adjusts and signs off as ready for deployment. We swarm around testing each others work. We swarm around short
  • quick bursts of meetings to check in and stay focused. We swarm around creative ideas and help shape and iterate them. And

most importantly, we swarm around the retrospective review – how did we do? What can we do better next time? What did we learn?

And it’s that I’ll leave you with. Smart Swarming as we go into festive Heart Warming.

Article by Perry Tims, Founder and Chief Energy Officer, PTHR at People and Transformational HR Ltd

(Find our more about Perry here)

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