Articulating the Message

A challenge to every speaking experience is to reach your audience. We create buzz words and phrases, images, and other artifacts to ensure that the message is clear, but cross-industry communication is challenging. As an educator, I am in a unique position of applying agile methodology to formal academia both as an administrator and in the curriculum design process. This unique position is that the Agile community knows little to nothing of my efforts in formal education while formal education knows little to nothing of my efforts with Agile. Thus, my goal was to present my experiences in both the Agile and formal education conference venues.

Agile was first because I already felt like I had familiarity with the annual Agile conference in the United States since my husband, Eric Willeke, always attends and is usually involved at some level. Being accepted to Agile 2011 in Salt Lake City had me extremely motivated and excited for my first real venture outside of my own world. My doctoral studies have provided me with a stronger and stronger sense of need for interdisciplinary sharing, otherwise understood as cross-community or cross-industry sharing. I felt that this was a good step in making a community aware of the impact made in an industry not otherwise strongly linked with Agile for two reasons. Firstly, it provides a perspective from another industry on the methodology that may not have been realized within the Agile community. Secondly, it was a step, albeit ultra-baby step, to bridging communities.

The development of my talk was extremely enjoyable, but incredibly challenging as I had to address the fact that I don’t know Agile buzz words, and the Agile community certainly doesn’t know formal academia buzz words. Thus, I had to bridge this gap by keeping the message very simple in every day words. Frankly, this is probably a better idea for all talks, but the reason we have buzz words and phrases is for extremely fast visualization. Without them, it took a lot of effort and imagery to create that visualization. Also, I recognized that I would have to be heavy on the academic process introduction to provide context, while when presenting to the academic world, I will have to be heavy on the Agile methodology basics introduction before I can get down to brass tacks of successful integration of Agile and academics.

Putting it in a nutshell, I felt good about the talk before, during and after. I was in love with it, and I believe that’s required when sending any message to any audience. However, feedback is something that every formal academician probably goes a little extra berserk over. Feedback represents results, thus impacts jobs, processes, and demonstration of effectiveness. Putting personal feeling completely aside, the demonstration of effectiveness is absolutely crucial to me. I appreciate the Excellent’s and Good’s, and even the Satisfactory’s because that is actually the Likert Scale informing me that while I did not blow them away, I didn’t leave confusion. Comments are absolutely essential because it tells you whether there is something that needs specifically addressed, or if the listener was absolutely not listening. I especially loved the comment that the title should have been exactly what it was.

However, my absolute devastation was a well reported result according to the Likert Scale but with a comment that indicated that kanban and Scrum were referenced, but Scrum values were not being used, and it was closer to Kanban. I wanted to run my head against the wall because I had clearly not articulated my message, which was that every industry can provide a great deal of influence on each other if we remain pliable to how it fits in our worlds. I don’t use either Scrum or Kanban. If I applied Scrum exactly as it is used in software, I would crush my team. If I applied Kanban exactly as it is used in software, I would create more work. The thrill that I had in my presentation was that I had found a balance of using Agile methodologies and frameworks to blow away any effectiveness and productivity benchmark that I had previously experienced or aware. To have as small as a team as I do that is not overworked and to increase both effectiveness and productivity at such an exponential rate is something that I absolutely attribute to ideas we stole from Scrum and Kanban. But no, it’s absolutely not Scrum. And certainly not Kanban either….at least in the context of software development. What it is, is an absolutely Agile approach to curriculum design and administration efforts for online adult learning that has immeasurable potential if other universities discover even ideas of these kinds of approaches to Just-In-Time development in an effective manner.

So, in my mind, I failed. My message was not clear, but the good news is that this absolutely important piece of feedback gives me areas of improvement to articulate my message more clearly to other communities and Agile.

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About Marian

My passion is centered around ensuring effective learning experiences that improve people's lives. Developing a learning mindset is my ultimate goal whether working with academic programs or corporate training; formal or informal learning practices. It is my belief that our potential for agility is limited only by our capacity for learning.

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