Improving Agile training at Cancer Research UK — part 2

Photo by Jo Szczepanska on Unsplash.

In my previous post, I talked about the first steps the Agile Team at Cancer Research UK took to improve its basic Agile training. The initial discovery involved context-setting, defining and fleshing out the problem, and exploring potential routes to test and validate the initial hypothesis. This post will explore the training module’s learning objectives and interviewing participants to deepen our knowledge on their needs and expectations.

Drafting the learning objectives

The overarching goal of this project is to identify why, if and how Agile training at Cancer Research UK can be improved. As an initial result, we wanted to develop a prototype for one training module that could be tested in the organisation to determine whether we can better meet participants’ expectations.

In the first stage of this lean research, we identified that people who participate in the basic Agile training sessions are not as confident as they could be in applying what they learn in the sessions to their role because they feel as if they leave without any tools or techniques to do so.

As an initial hypothesis, we believed that if we could better manage expectations through clear learning objectives (and refine the training content to better reflect them) and demonstrate how agile values, principles and practices can be applied to participants’ context of work, participants will feel more confident in applying their learnings to their role.

Previous learning objectives for Agile training at Cancer Research UK.

The initial training learning objectives were not really objectives but more of a list describing the content that would be covered during the session. Learning objectives describe what the participants should know or be able to do at the end of the training session; and that’s what we wanted to create and prototype based on the research we conducted.

With the overall aim of the training module being the ability to describe the distinction between “being” and “doing” Agile, we drafted a first iteration of the learning objectives:

Learning Objectives: Agile Fundamentals

You will come out of the session being able to:

  • Explain Agile values and principles and how it can relate to your work
  • Describe what Agile means for Cancer Research UK
  • Apply basic tools and techniques to encourage an Agile mindset
  • Identify where to find more information about Agile

One objective in particular still remained nebulous: “Apply basic tools and techniques to encourage an agile mindset”. In our previous post, we mentioned that we wanted to further explore this topic by trying to understand how many tools and techniques are enough to enable participants to work in a more Agile manner. This is motivated by the need to understand the level of specificity we need to provide, and determine what is realistic for the time and amount of training. However, after bouncing these ideas with some of our colleagues, we decided that this question needed to be turned around: what we need to understand is why participants say that they need to learn tools and techniques to use in their day-to-day role and what they are trying to achieve with these. With this knowledge, we are then able to find something practical (tool, technique, activity, etc.) that will help them solve their problem. To answer this, we decided to validate the learning objectives (with special focus on the question above) by conducting interviews.

Validating the learning objectives

Alongside my colleague Maria Bonorchis, we conducted interviews to look deeper into the motivations behind the training participants’ expectations and understand why they say that they need to learn tools and techniques to use in their day-to-day role and what they are trying to achieve with these. For this, we conducted interviews with different audiences: people who have undergone the training and people who have expressed interest in attending.

With the help of UX Designer Katie Foster, we created an interview script that was divided into different sections: context of use, motivation, expectations, prototype and improvements:

Interview script

In total, we interviewed ten people from different parts of the organisation. The highlights from the interview included:

  • 6/10 people heard about the training session through a colleague
  • 8/10 people weren’t aware of the Agile Coaches prior to the training
  • Participants identified that Agile was a priority for Cancer Research UK and teams are more frequently adopting Agile ways of working
  • People wanted to understand how Agile could improve their current projects on an individual and team level
  • Participants expect to leave the training being able to articulate what a Agile means and how it applies to their work
  • 7/7 people had a very positive reaction to the learning objectives: “it would be two hours very well spent!” (participant 4)

Practical feedback

Following the interviews, we decided to take one step further by testing the learning objectives in a training session. Alongside my colleague Taruna Robinson, we modified parts of the existing training content to include content that covered the new learning objectives. We delivered the session to 16 participants from different departments across the organisation.

After the session, we conducted a “What, So What, Now What” Retrospective. This format allowed us to understand what we had objectively done differently, what the changes meant and what recommendations we wanted to make for the rest of the team.

We also sent out the post-training questionnaire to the participants. With the collected data we were able to measure that particular session against the average of the other sessions delivered to date. Although we had only conducted one session using the new learning objectives, it gave us a good indication of better fulfilling the participants’ expectations. To get a better data set, we suggested to the team that we deliver the next training sessions with the newly modified content to get a better and more consistent picture of the feedback.

The new training session scored higher on all questions compared to the average of the previous training sessions.

Getting agreement from the team

Maria and I then ran a debrief workshop with the Agile team to relay our findings from the interviews. We conducted an activity to build consensus around each learning objective. At the end of the session, the team emerged with a set of learning objectives that we will now use for our Agile Fundamentals training:

Learning Objectives: Agile Fundamentals

You will come out of the session being able to:

  • Explain Agile values and principles and how it can relate to your work
  • Describe what Agile looks like for Cancer Research UK
  • Articulate how basic agile practices support an Agile mindset
  • Identify where to find more information about Agile

We also ran another activity to understand what the training facilitators need from the participants in order to make it the best session possible:

What we need from you:

  • Be fully present in the room! We encourage the use of devices for note-taking — please disable all notifications and close applications
  • Question and challenge us! We encourage healthy debate
  • Be mindful of the time, we want to make sure everyone has the opportunity to ask questions. If needed, we’ll park questions and answer them after
  • Read the learning objectives beforehand and think about what you would like to get out of the session

To close the session, we asked the team to brainstorm what content we would need in order to cover the learning objectives. We then mapped it out against the current training content and decided what we would keep, lose or improve.

Next steps

Next up, we will run through the new and improved training deck with the rest of the Agile team so that we are familiar with the content and can deliver the session consistently.

Maria and I are now planning to conduct follow up interviews to understand if and how people have applied what they’ve learnt from the session. This will allow to identify whether there are still areas that can be improved; so watch out for the final post in the series!

--

--

--

Product Manager based in London. ✨ Product thinking 🚀 Team building 🎯 Career development 💪 Women in tech

Love podcasts or audiobooks? Learn on the go with our new app.

Recommended from Medium

Entry Level Jobs Anyone Can Start

woman-working-or-studying-from-home-home-office-concept-with-sofa-bookcase-lamp-books-free-vector.jpg

Inside CGN: Our Winners — Biz Middleton

Social Impact Heroes: Why & How Richard Benbow of Western Governors University Is Helping To Change…

How You Can Learn to Have a Healthy Work Life Balance by Telecommuting

2018: The Year We Demand Reinvention in Sourcing & Recruitment

3 Ways to Combat Pandemic-Related Career Change

Want to do good work? Ignore everybody.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store
Julia M. Godinho

Julia M. Godinho

Product Manager based in London. ✨ Product thinking 🚀 Team building 🎯 Career development 💪 Women in tech

More from Medium

Fundamentals of User Stories

Time Estimation: Costing

Better outcomes from evolving Product, Agile & Culture practices in unison

Agile is more than Scrum