I’ve spent the past five months training to become a certified leadership coach. On the second day of classes, we discussed the importance of “Experiential Learning,” a theory by David A. Kolb, sometimes called “learning by doing.” With this approach, learners go through a “learning loop” where they:
- Conceptualize an experience or something that they want improve upon
- Experiment with trying that thing
- Reflect on how that thing went, and why it went well or why it failed
- Integrate their learnings as they…
- …Conceptualize the experience and enter the learning loop again
These learning loops weren’t just important for us as learners to understand as we set off on the journey to become coaches. This is also the loop that we will need to help our coachees with – prompting them to set goals for professional development, explore what makes that goal or situation challenging, commit to taking action on their goals, reflecting on what they learned, experienced, and failed at, and then try again.
With this theory top of mind for me, and as more of our Gartner Communications clients are inquiring about implementing Agile, I noticed the similarities. As discussed in Gartner’s Principles and Practices of Agile Communications (Gartner subscription required) two of the six core principles of Agile are iteration and continuous improvement:
Iteration: Rather than waiting to deliver value until the project is completed, value is delivered in increments. Teams capture feedback on each delivery and use the feedback as they create the next increment of value they deliver.
Continuous Improvement: Rather than teams accepting the status quo or relying on previously accepted ways of working, everyone is always looking for opportunities to improve their skills and processes for the benefit of the team.
By golly, that’s a learning loop!
And you can see how the learning loop occurs with Agile workflows in the below figure.
Not only do Agile practices occur in a loop-like process for creating content, but teams can also apply the loop to themselves as they are learning to work in a new way. When I think about my Communications clients that want to try implementing Agile processes, they are typically looking for the RIGHT answer.
“Which Agile tactics should we be using? Which projects work best with Agile? How long should it take to implement Agile?”
But this misses the point, and truly the spirit, of going Agile. There is no one-size-fits all approach for Agile in Communications. Agile practices are individual tactics that can be used in almost unlimited combinations to meet the needs and preferences of the team. Because of that, teams must experiment and learn from those experiments to determine what works best for them.
A lot of organizations, teams, and frankly humans are afraid of failure. In coaching, we welcome it. How can you learn and improve if you’ve never fallen on your face to think, “well goodness, I never want THAT to happen again!” Agile communications is the same way. It’s okay if you don’t have the right answers or if things don’t go perfectly the first time. A common Agile practice is the retrospective meeting, which is an opportunity for teams to assess their progress and make process changes. Teams and leaders should also use this type of reflection when thinking about the progress of implementing Agile in the first place.
As we learned when we were children, if at first you don’t succeed, try, try again… but now we know we should also take some time to reflect and learn as you try again.