Agile Training is a framework for accelerating skills-based learning. It came out of a failed classroom experiment.
Here was the experiment: could we take the principles of proficiency-based grading and combine them with Agile methods to create a framework to support Agile Learning in a classroom? We did this initial experiment in a 3-week sprint in a math class at Dayton High School.
The premise of proficiency grading is that grades are not based on test scores but by the degree of achievement of specific learning targets. These targets are typically developed by individual teachers based on standards (such as Common Core or NGSS) and students are assessed using specific "success criterion" for each learning target.
The idea was to put the primary responsibility of learning directly into the hands of students. They would have their own Kanban-based "learning boards" that contained what they needed to learn and how they were to be assessed. It would then be their responsibility to learn, given the resources that would be provided, for each learning target.
Great idea, but in order to work, the teacher had to first build these "learning boards", and that turned out to be too big of a hurdle and the experiment pretty much flamed out.
But there was something in this idea of "learning boards" that I realized might help my company train new hires and cross-train existing staff. So another experiment was quickly spun up.
This next sprint was defined by an ambitious challenge. Using a similar learning model and toolset, but calling the boards "training boards", could we reduce a 12-week training period for our field techs to 6-weeks, while, at the same time, significantly improving the quality and confidence of these new hires.
These field tech positions require a significant amount of technical expertise. Rarely, can we find someone with experience. And we have to ramp people up fast. These field techs who install our wireless and fiber internet services are mission critical for our company.
This 6 weeks learning sprint had to achieve a baseline of skills - what we call "journeyman skills" to be proficient at the job. It also clearly placed the responsibility on them as *learners* rather than us, as *trainers* . We developed our 80/20 rule for training: 80% of the responsibility for acquiring these skills was theirs, 20% was ours.
Building the first training board was a huge lift. It was the first time the company was challenged to define the knowledge, skills and processes that were required to successfully fulfill a job. And also we had to define how each of these areas could be learned on their own.
But we did it and it proved to be incredibly empowering for the employees. This process also helped us identify gaps in the skills of existing employees that we could quickly address. As a result, not only were our techs going out in the field faster, but they were heading out the door better prepared and more confident.
Now, on their first day on the job, new hires are given their own Training Board and assigned a mentor. This mentor meets with them weekly to guide their learning process, ensuring that each week the learning goals are defined and that the trainee is held accountable for doing the work that had been agreed upon.
Training Board - example
In this training process there is only one rule: no more than three cards can be in each of the "Doing" and "To Do" lists.
The expectation is that those learning areas in the "Doing" list are to be accomplished in their current week and the "To Do" list has those areas identified for the next week.
ACs - example
Additionally, each week the skills that have been learned are assessed by the mentor using the "Acceptance Criterion" (ACs) that are defined on each card. To learn these skills, cach card has links to resources on our wiki, training videos, or external sites that the employee can use to learn each area.
_As a result of this training we have halved the number of service calls coming in each month - largely because jobs a being done right the first time. Learn more at _ Problems Never End
So we began to create training boards for almost every area of our company. By doing so, we have been able to cross-train our employees, an investment essential to build high performance Agile teams.
It has also transformed How We Hire.
Someday, we will take this idea back to the classroom where it all began...
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