Monday, February 24, 2014

How a Self-organizing Education Vision can help your Agile Transformation

Does your company education begin and end with training? Will this suffice for a transformation to Agile? Agile requires alignment behind the Agile values and principles that signifies a change toward an Agile culture. It means an investment in educating your people who need to pick up the helm for success.  Because of this, you cannot think that taking a training class will suffice and provide enough knowledge to cause a shift in thinking to be Agile.  Instead education needs to be an intrinsic part of your Agile transformation.  One approach is to consider a team-oriented self-organized education vision aimed toward being Agile.

An Agile Education Vision is an education roadmap that a team iteratively plans and applies.   It is meant to be self-organized by the team focused on their education needs toward being Agile.  Since people are critical to the success of agility, it is only fair to allow the “power of the people” to self organize around their own educational needs.  As a team approaches Agile, they periodically consider various education elements that can be used to help them build their Agile knowledge, skills, and capabilities toward achieving a mindset.  As education gets applied, the team periodically visits the education vision and updates it based on their current level of Agile need. 

A good way to think of this is that the Agile Education Vision is a prioritized product backlog of education elements based on team needs.  Each sprint or timeframe, the team visits the vision, determines what education is needed, and then applies those educational elements throughout that period.  Another approach that engages the power of the people is an Education Led Transformation.  Established by Emergn, this is a work-based approach where learning occurs through action.  Experience is gained over time by the team and they become better equipped to gain the full benefits of agility.   

As an added tip, any time an education item is time consuming (1-day training, reading a book, etc.), consider including it as a story with a story point value.  As the owner works on this item, the story card can get moved across the board to indicate progress of the education. This highlights that education is considered valuable and illustrates the progress made in completing the education work item.

An important consideration is that when I say education, it is more than just training. It takes a repertoire of educational elements. These education elements can help a team develop skills, understand their roles, and navigate a process or practice, and most importantly achieve an Agile mindset.  Training is just one of those educational elements. What are some of the others?  Here is a sampling:

  • Simple brochure, flyer, or short presentations.
  • In-person training such as Instructor-led and seminars
  • Web-based training such as pre-recorded and webinars
  • Work-based learning with activities and on-the-job training
  • Reading in the form of books, articles, and more being done individually or in a book club 
  • Hosting such as agile practices website and wiki
  • Coaching providing in-session education to a team or an individual based on domain knowledge and experience.
  • Community contributing includes giving back via forums, blog articles, or seminars.
It takes a repertoire of educational elements to achieve an Agile culture. Training is just one educational element that is needed. 

How will your teams be educated? An accumulation of education elements at different points in time will provide the comprehensive focus to help you, your team, and your organization. Consider applying an self-organized education vision or an education-led approach that best serves your goal toward being Agile. Ultimately you want to create a self-organizing educational culture where employees are willing and eager to learn, act, and give back to their community.  How are your teams currently being educated in agility?

PS - to read more about establishing an Agile Education Vision and how education elements can help you be Agile, consider reading Chapter 16 of the new Agile book entitled Being Agile.  


  1. I agree organizing systematically (ie, creating a process in place) is the most essential step. However, its easier said than done. Thats one area where its wise for small business to invest money on professional project management certifications like agile scrum certification courses.

  2. Good post. I find that whenever we try to draw up an Education roadmap, and we look at the root causes of the problems trying to be solved, we end up almost always talking about things other than Education (setting expectations, establishing processes, mgmt effectivness, etc). That said, it's important to recognize that self-directing their learning is part of the DNA of a typical software engineer.