Training Top 125 Best Practice: Walmart’s Use of Agile in Training Content Development
Walmart’s Talent Development team adopted the Agile way of working in 2017. The previous structure lent itself to limited output because team members served as generalists creating diverse content, and quality was variable across different teams and projects. Shifting to Agile has allowed Walmart to expand output, maximize capacity, and drive ongoing efficiency improvements through the creation of one unified team with individual members specialized in different areas of development. This unified structure has allowed the organization to pinpoint and hire specialists in key areas where it sees a need for expanded capabilities.
In the new way of working, Walmart utilizes a digital project visualization board called LeanKit to provide team members with a quick representation of where projects are in the development cycle. Deliverables are represented by “cards” that move across the project board from left to right on their way to completion. These cards are “sized” based on how much effort the work is expected to take. Work is prioritized in the Talent Development Project Management Office( PMO) based on ROI. Then it is sequenced, and resources are allocated. Each morning, Talent Development has “stand-up” meetings in which associates answer three questions:
- What did I complete yesterday?
- What will I work on today?
- Do I have any blockers?
When associates complete individual “cards,” they pick up the next card in the queue without adhering to a traditional, rigid organizational structure. Within a given project, Relationship and Project Managers coordinate a variety of specialists:
- Learning Managers provide scoping and action mapping.
- Instructional Designers script targeted content.
- Production Developers capstone the process by completing on-time deliverables.
In just a few months using Agile, Walmart Talent Development has seen significant gains in speed, throughput, and general efficiency. It delivered 69 major content packages and 771 content updates. It went from 45 deliverables in February 2017 to 306 in April to 778 in August. Project throughput speed is a critical enabler. It now takes the organization an average of 14 days to complete a single deliverable. This, paired with skilled prioritization, allows Walmart Talent Development to complete the most valuable work for the organization.
The organization also realized a 30 percent reduction in vendor development cost. Additionally, the new way of working has had an immediate impact on selling, general, and administrative expenses (SG&A). Continuous analysis, feedback, and real-time adjustment within Agile will allow Walmart to further refine the process and drive even more pronounced results.