If Agility is an Organizational Priority, Training Must Be Likewise

Agile has been shown to improve significantly by optimizing workflow for all types of project and product initiatives.

A key component of your job as a leader and training development professional is to help your staff get better at organizational management.

One of the best ways to “get better at getting better” is by advocating for and offering employees training to learn one of the most effective approaches to managing projects: Agile Project Management.

Agile has been practiced as a project management approach for over 20 years, moving from its origins in software development to other industries, including first responders, manufacturing, and many more. More importantly, agile focuses on a mindset of values and principles, prioritizing work that adds the most value. This agile mindset has gained even more prominence in the digital age as organizations must adapt more quickly than ever to operational environment changes, rapidly evolving demands, and different expectations.

Appropriately done, agile has proven to provide significant improvement by optimizing workflow for all product and service initiatives. By instilling an agile mindset and incorporating skills from various methods into an organization’s culture, the work required to evolve and grow is done faster and more cost-efficiently. Additional benefits include the quality of work, improved morale of your employees, and higher employee retention rates.

Undoubtedly, agile works for organizations. According to results from PMI’s 2021 Pulse of the Profession®survey, organizations that apply agile approaches to their projects and services achieve higher productivity levels (71%) than those that take a more linear and traditional approach to project management (53%).

Nevertheless, agile isn’t a one-size-fits-all methodology. Agile – as the word itself means having the flexibility to approach a project in a manner that best suits the situation.

The question is: How do organizations or work groups decide how to approach implementing agile methodologies?

Agile Training Tips

While agile is a compelling and flexible approach to project management, it is most effective when contextually relevant. Different endeavors require different practices appropriate for the task, the team’s makeup, the project’s length or timeliness, and other factors.

Additionally, leaders and training development professionals must determine what agile practices are most important for their teams or organizations to learn and which best complement their workforce’s existing technical skills. The answer may differ between departments, teams, and even individuals.

Thus, organizations that develop a holistic view of agile are better equipped to know when to use which agile approach, traditional framework, or hybrid rather than settling for one particular method. While a system or framework may have worked previously for other teams, it may only work for some teams across an organization.

Professionals can choose from more than 1,500 agile, lean, hybrid, and traditional practices to optimize the best working method based on their situation. But it can get complicated. A flexible, pragmatic, and context-based approach to applying agile is critical.

That’s where training can come to the rescue. Agile is an approach that has many tenants and components, and mastering its nuances is a skill — a skill that employees can learn.

Here are some factors to consider in developing an agile training curriculum for your organization, which can be conducted in-house or with a vendor, depending on your budget and resource realities.

  1. Basics first. Over the years, many different agile approaches have emerged. Before diving into a particular method, your leaders and team members must understand enterprise agility. Once all relevant staffers have a common knowledge of core agile practices and frameworks, they will be more likely to choose the project’s appropriate agile methodologies for that particular project. This plan of attack enables them to embark while reading from the same page; then, they can pivot to a more specific approach as needed. Thus, an agile overview training class or series is the best place to start.
  2. Be agnostic. The types of agile approaches to implement depend on the organization or workgroups.Therefore, it is helpful to offer agile training resources that empower employees to learn how and when to use multiple agile methods because situations change, and they may need to respond by pivoting their approach. Fortunately, several vendors offer wide-ranging enterprise agility training courses with instructor-led and online curricula enabling your workforce to develop a robust, agile playbook.
  3. Consider certification. If your organization fully invests in achieving enterprise agility, you must nurture employees to master agile. Many advanced agile courses conclude with exams that, if passed, certify the participant as an agile Having third-party certified employees on board gives leadership a collection of worthy candidates to consider when staffing new projects.

Also, here is a post-training consideration for organizations new to agile: Before your organization tries to implement agile enterprise-wide, suggest they start with some minor or low-risk pilot projects. These can be testing cases, allowing leadership to evaluate the benefits and drawbacks of the framework or practices. Leaders will gain vital feedback from reflection opportunities during these pilot projects to be implemented in subsequent training courses. Hence, future agile leaders are better prepared to embark on an agile project.

With well-chosen agile coursework that takes both a macro and micro view of the approaches and varying practices, your teams will better embrace – and, ultimately, master – the skills needed to implement these time-tested techniques successfully.

When your teams “get better at getting better” with agile, the organization is more likely to take advantage of the dynamic market challenges and opportunities that will define your success in the future.

Eric Risner
Eric Risner is the Founder of Rise Up Leadership LLC, focusing on bringing leadership to First Responders, including Agile Project Management. Rise Up Leadership LLC offers coaching following their core values of RISE – Radiate, Innovate, Serve, and Endure.