Collaborative Agile Learning17 May 2016
Collaborative learning can be understood as using teamwork and its results to develop new skills and adopt ideas and behaviour that's new to all or parts of the team. In many ways, this is the quickest way to spread knowledge, as various team members can be taught at the same time.
Bouncing questions and follow-up ideas is also easier when an entire group of people learns together.
Collaborative and Agile learning is much more than just learning together - it is discovering knowledge and patterns by going through iterations of joined problem solving, analysis, perfecting visualisation methods and through repeated processing of joined efforts.
Here are some ingredients of realizing this approach:
Inspire with transparency
The transparency of a process, characteristic of an Agile approach, results in a whole team being able to follow the entire process and by that, getting closer to other branches of the work.
Swap the roles
With any Agile workflow there will be different in-process roles to be taken care of.
It's great to rotate these group roles to facilitate people's preparation in managing all aspects of the work and to help them to learn by doing.
This will also visualize the way roles within an organizations shift, but it's good to keep the responsibility common - thereby showing the importance of knowing all steps of the process and being able to realize them.
Motivate by giving time, space and incentive to learn
Space & time: Make visual aids and interactive learning courses informing specific teams of the specific concepts, details, procedure approaches this group is encouraged to be learning. By making them available online or at the office in an individually managed way (online test or graphically enhanced study guide), teams will have the opportunity to pick them up and start learning in their own time, when it best suits them. This seems like a more inspiring way to evolve at the workplace than being sent to a corporate conference - learning event.
Incentive: Go one step further - it's even easier to get started on a course, when the newly acquired skill or knowledge can be applied to teams daily work right away. Agile all the way!
Time & Control: Allow for people to edit the schedule and have their say in the scheme of the process (common in Agile), by which the team will end up feeling empowered and in control of their learning path, not just of how the work schedule proceeds.
Apply personal touch
It's clear that not all of your team members want to learn the same skill or will have the same career path. Try tailoring their growth plan to specific needs and do gently monitor the progress.
It may be an interesting idea to begin assigning jobs that require certain amount of the new, desired skill to complete. You're not only familiarizing the person with the subject matter, they will also get new incentive along the way.
While assigning these suggestion jobs to the team, it's great to choose groups of people to assign to, not individuals. Teams learn more when they collaborate and exchange ideas - ever though why pair programming is so successful?
Prepare for unsuccessful experiments
It's commonly known, that one of the most effective ways to find a new solution or approach to a problem is - by far - finding them in action. So, letting the team try new things can lead to both their learning and development, as well as the product and company growth, but with the statistically obvious amount of failure. Some of this will directly influence the company. Treat these as cost of team development, not as lack of professionalism or dedication.
Try this approach to see if teams can learn or even get inspired to learn by collaborating.
An extreme version of collaborative Agile learning would entail getting started with Agile methods by ...cooperatively learning about them. There is more than enough good sources about the methodology, so an idea, as presented by Renee Troughton, is that each team member does a little reading about the Agile approach to managing projects, and later shares these with the team, so that they all learn together.
Sounds more than clever!