How Do You Know Agile is Right for Your Learning Organization?

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You’ve read the blog posts, downloaded the eBooks, watched the videos, heard the testimonials, and you’ve finally decided to adopt Agile Learning into your organization.

However, before you completely dive in, how do you know if it’s right for your team or even organization?

Well, Agile Learning is right for your organization—but it may not be right for every learning project. It simply may need to be bolstered or customized depending on certain situations.

While we’ve previously provided tips on embracing a culture of Agile, Agile can be adapted when certain projects or circumstances make it more difficult to implement. For example, more traditional waterfall approaches like ADDIE may be necessary for more complex projects. However, elements of Agile, like Kanban boards and Daily Stand-Ups, may actually help to keep up a project’s momentum. Agile may also energize team members and keep them on track.

Let’s have a look at some questions you can ask yourself and your team to determine how you can incorporate Agile into your organization.

training intake processes

1. What type of learning does the company expect the L&D team to produce?

If your team is tasked with producing complicated compliance training that requires sign-off from several stakeholders from both inside and outside the company, a 100% Agile Learning solution may present a challenge.

Such training is most likely mandated at the industry level, and your company needs it to be as comprehensive as possible or else there may be customer or regulatory consequences.

In such instances, it’s better to use ADDIE at the onset, focusing resources on the Analysis phase to make sure that the training covers all bases.

Then, during the Development and Implementation phases, you can inject elements of Agile. For example, your team can build and roll out several different prototypes at once, and see which one resonates the best.

2. How many courses does the L&D team produce?

For L&D teams responsible for a large volume of courses, Agile Learning methodologies offer the best solution. Agile offers rapid prototyping, with minimal focus on procedures.

The rapid feedback and response components of Agile work well for courses that need to be developed and pushed out the door quickly. Daily Stand-Ups ensure that everyone is motivated, and managers are made aware of what everyone is working on.

Agile Learning methodologies are also perfect for repurposing or converting existing content. An example might be turning a PowerPoint presentation into a course or supplemental material.

Further, Agile works extremely well for updating or refreshing existing courses, as these generally do not need to rely on strict guidelines or waterfall methodologies. Subject matter experts (SMEs) and designers do not need to be engaged as deeply as they would for courses built from scratch.

3. Is my team flexible and OK with quick turnarounds?

Agile Learning focuses on speed, flexibility, and collaboration. These are important so corporate training teams can move quickly through Sprints and achieve their targets and goals. (Sprints, again, are the “doing” phase of Agile.)

Some of the key concepts that influence the philosophy of Agile Learning include:

  • Minimal focus on procedures or rules 
  • Reactive to market feedback
  • Flat team structures and continuous collaboration
  • Iterative “fail fast” approach to development
  • Highly adaptable and responsive

As such, certain personality and work-style traits are necessary for Agile to work well. If you do not feel that your L&D team and SMEs on whom you rely to build courses possess these traits, then some additional training might be in order before Agile gets implemented.

For example, you might present to SMEs and other resistant team members examples of how Agile was successfully implemented. These could be internal (see #4 below) or external. Resistance to a new methodology or way of doing something may simply be from lack of information. When they see examples of Agile in action, they will realize that it is not some brazen pursuit but rather a process that is grounded in strategy and focused on outcomes.

4. What have other teams experienced?

Agile is most likely well underway right inside your organization. Your IT or engineering teams have probably already adopted Agile methodologies in their development project. (Yes, that new customer feature was probably built with Agile.) Such employees would be great to speak with to see if Agile might be something that would work well for your L&D initiatives.

While engineering may not be your strong suit, you might do well by simply looking at their documentation. For example, ask developers about how they use a project management tool like Asana and how they do their Daily Standups.

If Agile has already been adopted successfully, those employees and managers will be able to provide tips or suggestions that can be used for the purposes of building courses and learning experiences.  

If you are still on the fence, consider going outside of your organization to seek feedback about the merits of adopting Agile methodologies. Go to a local Meetup group for web developers or software engineers and ask members whether Agile has worked well for them in their organization. Because you are an outsider and are simply seeking feedback, they may very well be more candid with you.

driving employee engagement

4. What do poor-performing courses have in common?

This may seem a bit of an unusual question, but take a good look at the courses your team has built or modified that have actually failed to deliver tangible results or ROI.

The failure of courses to perform could be due to various reasons. Perhaps the needs of the learners changed from the early stages when you were performing your analysis. Perhaps there has been a high failure rate for the assessments portion because of weak design principles.

Think about how these courses could have changed if, along the way, more flexibility could have been injected into the course building process.

An example could be training that was developed for a rapidly-changing software package or analytics tool. If at the onset, the learning team knew that by the time the course would be delivered to learners, several changes would take place, then Agile methodologies would have made more sense in building such learning experiences.

Agile methodologies require adaptability and responsiveness for success. When deciding to implement Agile into your course-building process, you and your team should be willing to accept change.

The good news is that there is no single right way to build courses. Each team is different; every organization is different. Having a flexible mindset is important when deciding which approach you should take. So, Agile Learning methodologies should definitely find their way into your course development and management.

Want to learn more about how to manage change when shifting towards an Agile Learning culture? Download our free ebook,
It’s Time to Change How You Design Training“!

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