Working behind an Agile software project?

Tips for L&D

L&D is rarely in the driver seat during a software development project, so it must find ways to work with Agile routines, processes, and documentation to achieve its goal of preparing the end users to be successful. Here are a few tips that can help L&D successfully support an Agile project: 

Engage a SME:

Agile projects often have SMEs and top performers orbiting the project (they’re often allocated to the project for a defined amount of time). This is an opportunity for L&D. Top performers and SMEs will be in and around the Agile standing team providing regular input to software engineers and developers. Set aside time with them to determine the extent of the changes to performance, knowledge, and skill requirements brought about by each sprint or card in the backlog. Use their input to quickly ascertain whether a new feature has a training implication and use them as a sounding board for design options.

Attend the ceremonies:

Agile teams use ceremonies to make decisions, size / scope work, complete tasks, mark progress during each sprint, and showcase completed work. These are great opportunities for L&D to learn about a feature, a group of features, or an upcoming release. We’ve found these to be useful ceremonies:

  • At the beginning of a sprint or when the team is refining the backlog of future sprints.

  • When user stories are defined (stories can be used to predict how the work, knowledge, and skill requirements might change).

  • When features are demonstrated for the stakeholders (which may be too late if the release plan is sprint based).

Join the team:

When only one standing team is in place, joining the team may not be a viable option. There is likely to be a lot of downtime for the instructional designer. When there are multiple standing teams operating in parallel, imbedding an instructional designer in the Agile team may be worthwhile. While it is likely the instructional designer would be a non-voting member of the team, the designer would be able to continuously monitor and capture training requirements and make preliminary design recommendations.

Leverage the team’s tools and documentation:

Agile teams create documentation along the way. Personas, user stories, sizing decisions, feature descriptions, notes and comments are typically documented and tracked. Another option is to stay out of the team’s way, and ask for access to their Agile tracking platform (like a platform called JIRA). Once inside the platform, the instructional designer can use the documentation to form initial impressions regarding gaps and training design options.