Learning Agile? Well, that's easy — use Google!
Gone is the age of patient classroom training for professionals that features:
- Traditional teaching methods — for example, a blackboard or projector in front of a seated audience
- Prolonged sessions, running over several consecutive days, with multiple trips to the library
- A master-student ambience
- In-person interaction
Whether the context was orientation for a batch of new joinees or acquiring and enhancing technical and interpersonal skills of the current staff, my previous training exercises were intended to align the workforce with the business. The occasions were also cherished by some, as they were a chunk of time outside the office!
A closer look shows that an in-person exchange communicated more than the recorded material (e.g., books, videos, and presentations etc.), and did it more quickly as well. After all, the eyes capture in three dimensions, whereas recordings are two-dimensional; furthermore, the visual focus is modulated by the eyes within split seconds, aiding in capturing the portions emphasized through the instructor's subtle gestures. This exchange helps build better understanding.
However, getting the right trainer without a long wait and within budget is not always feasible. Also, such training delivers to a single, fixed-size audience, and the session cannot be replayed.
Is e-learning the answer?
Although the beginning of this piece was both an exaggeration and a simplification of today’s learning scenarios, there is no doubt that the coming of the digital age has radically disrupted the process of learning. The continual evolution of technology has acted as an enabler actualizing things that were once considered imaginary and impossible. Web search engines, wikis, and social networking with instant messaging are some of the tools used by nearly everyone, any time 24 hours a day.
Focused, multisource inputs in an engaging gamified format are now available as and when needed, immediately. One can search and obtain authentic materials published online, chat remotely with peers or experts, or even go through multiple simulations as many times as required to train individually, sometimes for free. YouTube and similar sites offer byte-sized, targeted videos, with a duration of as little as a few seconds, catering to those employee needs that arise spontaneously, such as knowing how to troubleshoot many kinds of problems.
It's on-demand MOOCs (massive online open courses) for a skills boost — anywhere, anytime.
Such availability of learning is one engine helping to drive organizations toward Agile. With regularly evolving requirements and related processes, and technological platform changes that need integrating with each other, businesses face the expectation of rapid learning — and of rapid and parallel deliveries with minimum delay. The concept of just-in-time
has its origins in the Japanese manufacturing giant Toyota from the early 1970s. Toyota had aimed to acquire raw materials only to the extent needed, and when needed, based on real-time sales data.
Given the fact that information is now consumed regularly, the level of awareness of staff rises earlier. Therefore, additional inputs are grasped more comfortably. But how many are retained long-term and applied effectively?
Pythagoras once said, "Ability and necessity dwell near each other." The manufacturing of the first working prototype of a Jeep in September, 1940 — then popularly called the go-anywhere, do-anything vehicle — within 49 days flat is a case in point. It was the last vehicle model produced by the bankrupt company Bantam, with the objective of keeping the company afloat. It deployed a skeleton crew that was paid only after the successful testing and acceptance of the prototype by the U.S. Army.
Today’s successful businesses are also those that learn quickly, taking advantage of all the rapid learning possibilities of this era.