Thinking About Going Agile? Consider Mass Training to Facilitate the Change

How organizational instruction can help transform the processes and culture of your office.

Many leaders are interested in their organization “going Agile,” but they wonder where to start. A great place to start is with a mass training event. That is, in-house instruction that allows the majority of the organization that develops software, as well as those that have or manage requirements for software, to all get in the same room at the same time and learn the concepts.

Unlike online training, instruction provided to all the employees in one room at the same time can allow for discussion between each other and the Agile instructor. Details associated with the office’s idiosyncrasies related to their existing processes, users, and current products can be discussed, and the process of change can begin with those that will be using the processes on a daily basis—all while learning the concepts.

Photo of Federal employees participating in an on-site User Experience training class.

Federal employees participate in an on-site User Experience training class.

A mass training event allows for a few things to happen:

1. Greater Understanding

Some offices will send a few key leaders or perhaps a couple software developers off to Agile training. This is very ineffective, as those few individuals come back with radically different ideas that no one else in the office is going to understand.

The adoption of a different method of work like Agile requires a broad sense of understanding from multiple points of view throughout the organization. This understanding is impossible to reach without a large segment of the organization going through instruction together—in particular those that will be using the Agile method in their daily work.

2. Facilitation of Change

In cases where a limited number of staff were trained, the organization has a difficult time adopting the new methods, and the response to this failure to change is typically aimed at either the Agile method or the few folks that attended the training. A mass training event can ensure success, and help ensure that the push for change gains energy with the workforce.

While comments like, “We tried Agile, but it never took off,” or “Bob, Suzy, and Jane went off for Scrum training, but nothing became of it; I guess it wasn’t important.” are pointed at Agile or the perceived capabilities of individual employees in an office, the reality is that the method never had a chance of being adopted because those looking to transform their office didn’t consider the wide-reaching cultural, organizational, and process changes that would take place. A mass training event allows leadership the opportunity to build understanding within their workforce, and allow them the opportunity to consider how the method will change how they work, and discuss these details with their coworkers during and after receiving the instruction.

3. Better Collaboration

Mass training events allow for everyone involved in software development to start a conversation on how they might want to change how they work; from overall workflow to the small details that are critical to a successful implementation. While leaders pushing for change may see hope in the method, there are many small decisions that must be made, and it’s typically best for these decisions to made at the lowest working level as possible.

For instance, “What software should be used to manage and prioritize your office’s backlog?” is one particular question that should be discussed among those that will be leading the development teams, the developers, and the stakeholders that will become Product Owners to development. Management may have an opinion, but there should be some testing of the various systems that are available, and those that are using them should be involved. This creates buy in for the change to take place. They’ll adopt that particular system (or other detail), because they decided on it.

In Summary

So, in-house mass training events create an opportunity for everyone involved in development to gain a more complete understanding of what the Agile method means for the organization. It allows the discussion to start regarding work roles, changes to existing processes, and how the office may need to reorganize to facilitate teaming and effective feedback. Perhaps most importantly, a mass training event can allow leaders to spread the opportunity to lead change throughout the organization—enlisting many to help shape and drive the method to improve their software, reduce their costs, and improve their overall service to their users.

Check out some of DigitalGov’s recent articles on the agile methodology. Have a .gov or .mil email address? Join the Agile/Lean Community of Practice to connect with others at federal agencies working to increase team efficiency and customer satisfaction, while reducing project risk and cost.