An Agile Approach to Developing Training Courses
An overview: A training company is developing a series of courses covering from beginners to advanced levels and they are considering using an Agile approach for this initiative.
Benefits of an Agile approach
An Agile approach would allow the training company to reduce their financial risk and ensure the delivery of the best possible course/courses, in terms of content and meeting the customers’ needs.
Traditional approach vs. Agile
So, the traditional approach would be to deliver in sequence (1, 2, 3 or beginners, intermediate and advanced etc). Starting at 1, then progressing to 2 and finally to 3. Typically, a senior leader makes decisions and everything is planned around that without any questioning – the instructions are followed (often blindly).
An Agile way of approaching this would be by first testing the demand before incurring any cost and gathering feedback and insights. So, the first step would be to establish how to validate which course would be the most popular before starting any actual work, as it might turn out that the highest demand would be for the intermediate or advanced course and so then obviously the training organization would start with developing that particular course, as focusing on delivering value early to the customer is one of the core principles of agile (or simply put in this case prioritizing and not sequencing)
Demand testing can be done in multiple ways. For example, by creating a “fake feature”, meaning the organisation would advertise all those courses (all levels) and look for website traffic insights – that would be a pretty cheap way of validating this idea without spending much on it. Or maybe this organization could approach some of their existing or potential clients and advise them that they’re developing those courses and ask them ones which they would be the most interested in? or offer some of those customers to be their partner in the co-creation process and avail of the trainings at a discounted price or for free and in return to provide the much needed feedback. Another option could be by simply analysing similar trainings offered by this organization, for example, if an organization is developing training materials on Agile possibly, they already have some training’s delivered on Lean and can use that data for forecasting.
In Agile the concept of validating the idea before investing in it is crucial as it allows to reduce the financial risk.
The Waterfall Approach
Regarding the actual delivery process. Traditionally, the courses would be delivered in phases; analysis, design, development and evaluation and every contributor would pretty much work in a silo, with many hand-offs in-between.
So, this would much look like that – one person creates the content and validates with a SME (Subject Matter Expert) once ready and then makes corrections based on SME’s input and then the slides are generated by another person. By the time, the instructional designer sees the end result – the slides and has any feedback/changes to make, it will be much more expensive to make any corrections.
An Agile way of going about this creation process would be a very close collaboration
The Instructional Designer creates content for the first slide or two, SME provides the in-time feedback during that time and immediately after that, those slides are generated and shown back to them, the Trainers and real Customers (so called sprint/product/service review). Then the Instructional Designer, Trainers and Customers provide feedback and the corrections are applied immediately.
This process seems like its more expensive and more complicated, but actually its not. Because the Training Organization is significantly reducing the risk of delivering something that nobody wants and also reducing the financial risk. In summary the “The Agile Way” of the whole delivery is (collaborative, with in-time feedback from real time customers).
Please note that it’s nearly impossible to predict at the outset what the final product will look like as it’s customer driven. So, the course creators would prepare an initial draft with some early vision they would have for that course, but they would be very open to act on customer feedback and change the direction of the original vision (without making any changes to the original theories and concepts).
Also, worth noticing that an Agile approach increases the chances of a successful delivery by eliminating the risk early. By showing the slides very early into the process to real customers, the organization is getting hugely valuable feedback and in the case of negative comments, it is in a position to a) kill the initiative b) change direction early when relatively a small investment is made at that point.
However, if the organization is using a traditional, waterfall method of delivering a product, then by the time they have something to show the customers (after the analysis and design phases were completed and the development phase is either completed or in progress) the cost of the whole initiative is significant. Thus, frequently people who are involved into the creation process are very reluctant to raise any concerns and the decision makers are hugely uneasy of the idea of pivoting and starting all over. This leads to silent-compliance, where people are working on projects, which have very limited chances to succeed.
I hope I was able to successfully show the benefits this organization would get by considering an Agile approach.
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