12 Agile Principles And How To Apply Them To L&D Project Management
Sometimes your efforts to handle unpredictability and changing requirements in eLearning projects are no match for the variability of your work environment or your business partners. When that’s the case, how can you possibly manage your L&D project to a successful outcome? As a professional eLearning solutions firm, we’ve asked ourselves the same question. The answer was to give Agile methodology a try.
What Is Agile Methodology?
If you’re not super-familiar with Agile, it’s an approach that many software development teams take to help them respond to changing project requirements. It helps teams collaborate on how they will deliver a solution, as well as solve problems throughout a project. We asked ourselves, how could we leverage Agile as a mindset for eLearning Project Management? Because we don’t develop software, it doesn’t make sense to institute some of the Agile technical practices, like pair programming or continuous refactoring. Instead, we dug into the 12 Agile principles behind the methodology to see how they could help us manage unpredictability and changing requirements. By examining how software teams applied those principles to implement and execute with agility, we brainstormed how we could adapt them for eLearning Project Management. What we've learned can help you do the same.
1. Satisfy The Customer Through Early And Continuous Efforts To Build Valuable L&D Solutions
Review and validate your earliest iterations with your client or stakeholders. In the scoping or needs assessment stage of the project, clarify and expand on your project’s purpose and intended outcomes. Do the same thing with your learning objectives, and then your course flow or outline. Think of these phases as iterations on your learning solution, and then show them to and validate them with the client. Continue this process as you draft the storyboard or build the prototype, and then as you program the module in courseware. Seek client feedback with each iteration to confirm their satisfaction throughout development.
2. Welcome Changing Requirements Throughout The Project To Support The Client’s Competitive Advantage
Change is hard, especially when it involves a lot of waste and rework. However, change is easier to plan for and adapt to when you take small steps and check in for feedback. Every time you iterate on your solution, you can reconfirm requirements. Having this conversation helps you anticipate and plan for potential changes. And if requirements change from one iteration to the next, this iterative (small steps) approach helps you minimize the risk of rework.
3. Deliver Functional eLearning Modules on the Shortest Possible Timescale
Functional means no frills, no bells-and-whistles. If you were painting a portrait instead of building an eLearning module, you might define functional as a sketch of a stick person. With each iteration, you would add dimension and detail. You’d iterate by painting darks, and then mid-tones, and then lights. Your final iterations might include definition and background. Take a similar approach to building your eLearning module. Your sketch might include objectives and associated content. Add dimension and detail with your storyboard. Add color when you develop your alpha version in courseware. Create definition and background in beta development. Do a final QC to polish it up, and then deliver the final to your client.
4. Business Stakeholders And L&D Team Must Collaborate And Communicate Throughout The Project
When you connect with the client in every iteration, you stay on the same page and mitigate risks associated with misunderstandings or miscommunication. No time is more important to set the expectations than the project's kickoff. We’ve written an eBook, Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Most Important Tool For Project Success, detailing why and how a project needs to start, who needs to be present, what needs to be covered, and how it sets up the project for success.
5. Build Projects Around A Motivated Team That Wants To Be Agile. Support Them And Trust Them To Do A Great Job
Hire people who know what they’re doing and want to work on a team. Create opportunities for team members to collaborate and communicate. Give the team visibility into what everyone is doing. This creates accountability and strengthens the commitment to working together. Give constructive feedback and show that you are interested in both their work as a member of your team as well as their professional development.
6. Communicate As Frequently As Possible Through Face-To-Face Conversation
If you’re going to iterate quickly, your team needs immediate responses to their questions or requests. This means making two-way communication effortless, and the best way to accomplish that is with in-person conversations. Start by facilitating in-person team meetings at the start of each workday to share updates and challenges. Throughout the day, when instant messaging or email slows them down, encourage team members to get out of their chairs and interact with each other. If you work with a distributed team, go out of your way to touch base via voice or video.
7. A Working eLearning Module Is The Primary Measure Of Progress
It doesn’t matter how much time you spend managing tasks and tracking timelines if your client can’t successfully launch your eLearning module. Be willing to deprioritize the administrative work to keep your team focused on the goal, a working course.
8. Maintain A Steady Pace, Indefinitely
Repetitive work creates burnout. So does too much overtime. Both can negatively impact quality. Draw the line between working hard and overextending your team to prevent jeopardizing project quality.
9. Attention To Good Design Enhances Agility
Whether you’re designing the instruction or the interaction, you want to get it right in the beginning. Going back to fix it later means wasting time undoing and redoing the work. Get it right the first time, so you can focus on making it better. During daily check-ins with your team, talk about how you can improve the design, and then tweak it and test it to keep it evolving.
10. Simplicity Is Essential
You don’t have time for unnecessary complexity. Keep things simple and streamline your processes. Avoid busy work by limiting administrative tasks to those that serve your client and the eLearning module. Do this so you can iterate until you can achieve a working eLearning module, in the shortest time frame possible.
11. The Best eLearning Solution Emerges From Self-Organizing Teams
Enable your team to act independently so that they can quickly respond to change. Don’t waste time micromanaging them or second-guessing their decisions. When you check in every day, address issues and identify resolutions. This way, you prevent small things from becoming big problems.
12. Regularly Reflect On How To Be More Effective, And Then Adjust Accordingly
Plan time to pause, reflect, and tweak how your team operates throughout a project. Let go of processes that slow you down or don’t add value. Always be learning and willing to change so you can improve, not just for your clients or stakeholders, but for your team.
Adopting eLearning Project Management practices based on the 12 Agile Principles will improve how you handle unpredictability and changing requirements on L&D projects. Embrace Agile as a mindset today and begin taking small steps toward improving your approach. Download our eBook resource, Project Kickoff Meeting: Your Most Important Tool For Project Success and take advantage of some valuable information and instructions to start your projects successfully.