For the better part of my career, I have been both a trainer and a student, which has allowed me to gain interesting insights from both perspectives of a teacher and a learner. As technology continues to improve, the methods with which we learn and share knowledge also continues to evolve. With that said, in my experience, many organizations struggle to maximize the return on their large investments in training due to a lack of an Agile training strategy.
Without a clear Agile training strategy to bring in new knowledge and skill to your team, you increase risk of suboptimal performance which exacerbates the situation due to a variety of costs; not only will the direct cost of acquiring a training class or hiring a trainer not bring about positive change, the hidden opportunity cost in terms of lost time and lost productivity may also lead to additional setbacks for your team.
Many organizations that I have worked with fall into one of the following categories:
- Have established a higher level objective but no organized execution plan
- Unclear vision but has budget to spend
- Fragmented, ad hoc needs based on individual requests from employees
- A combination of the above
If your organization fall into one of these groups, you may be at risk of spending a lot of money without much to show for it. Let’s take a closer look at what you can do to ensure your training budget will be applied in a methodical and impactful manner.
What can we do to ensure the training we provide to our teams provide meaningful benefit? Here are a few key factors to consider.
Key Factor #1 – Be clear about your desired outcome
Sending your entire team to training does not guarantee the desired behavior or skills will be acquired. Setting the right expectations will be important as well. Think through what the team’s goals are; if the desire is to expedite product delivery through application of Agile practices, a 2-day training class alone will likely not be sufficient. Changing practices will likely require additional coaching and mentoring which is often forgotten; this means you may need to hire a coach or send someone on your team to additional training to serve as the team coach so that the newly-gained knowledge can be reinforced and translated into behavioral change.
Key Factor #2 – Determine ideal format for your team
With the rise of virtual training format, it is easier than ever to find online training courses that can fit into your work schedule. While online delivery offers significant benefits, it’s important to establish the proper environment to maximize the learning. In my own experience as a student, taking training online is often much more challenging in terms of maintaining focus; the temptation to multi-task or check your e-mail during the class can take away your attention just enough to erode the effectiveness of the training. In-person training is still an option that is worth considering; the cost and effort to coordinate may be higher, but the personal interactions is almost always superior to an online/virtual format. Think about which will work best for your team given their geographic location and interaction model. Co-located teams will most likely benefit from an in-person course whereas remote teams will likely find virtual training to be preferable. Self-paced option may also be a viable choice if you are looking for less complex content such as overviews; due to lack of interaction, self-paced training will likely provide the least amount of applicable information but can offer good introduction to various topics.
Key Factor #3 – Choose the vendor/provider carefully!
Let’s be honest…training is big business and there are a lot of players in the market trying very hard to grab a piece of the pie. This also means that there will be inexperienced training companies or individuals who are not necessarily qualified to deliver content to your organization. Be sure to go with a reputable vendor such as Cprime with a proven track record of providing high-quality training with experienced professionals who can offer not just textbook, theoretical knowledge, but also provide real-world examples of what works and what doesn’t.
Key Factor #4 – Schedule your training at the right time
Timing of the training is another factor that is often forgotten. If you expect to launch your new Agile team in 6 months, it probably would not be a great idea to send them to training now since the likelihood of the information being lost would be high. Train the team as close to the time of application where possible so that they can translate the new knowledge into hands-on practice, which will solidify their understanding of this new information.
Key Factor #5 – Consider hiring an Agile Coach to guide the team after the training
Agile may seem simple and common sense, but new Agile teams can struggle to learn how to manage and execute work without some guidance. This is where coaching will provide significant value. Since Agile Coaches/consultants can often be costly, I highly recommend that you talk to people in your network and ask for a referral to someone who have solid experience so that you maximize the return on your investment. Hiring an ineffective coach can lead to lost productivity as well as negative perception of the Agile approach in general, which would require additional effort to remedy.
To summarize, training is a critical component to the continuous improvement mindset, which is a vital part of organizations that desire to remain competitive in an every-changing world. If you consider these key factors when planning your Agile training strategy, you should be able to improve your chances of achieving your objectives in a timely manner.
For additional information regarding Cprime’s flexible training offerings, see link.