"The Agile mindset is what we're born with and then we learn to shut it off," says Ed Wehner, Senior Manager at Daugherty Learning Solutions — the company that partners with EMU PPAT to teach Agile Training.
"One of the big things in Agile is asking why. If you've ever been around kids, there seems to be this question that's always on their lips: why? What Agile and continuous learning fosters is, let's keep asking why. By doing that, we can learn and continuously learn more. And today learning is critical to everyone's success. Next year there will be a whole new set of tools and techniques."
What is Agile?
Agile is a methodology that began in software development but has since grown and been utilized in a variety of industries, from marketing to finance.
Before Agile, the traditional way for software development teams to work was called waterfall. Waterfall required comprehensive upfront documentation before development could begin. As the internet increased in popularity, it became clear that software development needed to move faster and be more adaptable, thus a group of software developers created the Agile Manifesto in 2001. The Agile Manifesto would serve as the framework and philosophy behind how software teams should approach project management.
Since its inception, Agile has spread like wildfire. It even helped to write this article. According to Zippia, a job search website, at least 71% of U.S. companies are using Agile and after adopting Agile, companies have experienced an average of 60% growth in revenue and profit.
Daugherty Learning Solutions and EMU Partner to Make Agile Education Accessible
EMU PPAT offers practical, relevant, and timely professional development courses to help working adults gain the skills, knowledge, and credentials they need to excel and advance in their workplaces and careers. As Agile becomes a more popular and efficient way for organizations to work, EMU has partnered with Daugherty Business Solutions to provide a wide range of Agile courses.
Daugherty, based in St. Louis, MO, has been an education partner for universities for several years. We spoke with Mr. Wehner and Tina Wetterau, Senior Instructional Designer, to get an overview of the Agile courses offered at EMU PPAT, as well as the benefits Agile brings to organizations and employees.
"If you bought a car recently, it's more self-aware of its environment than I am," laughs Wehner. "But that's all software. So EMU was putting together a program that would service not only the automotive industry but all of the industries within the Michigan area they primarily serve."
"We actually had a consultant who was one of EMU's instructors and he had a relationship with their leadership," Wetterau adds. "So, it was a natural synergy, and we were able to show that partnering with us and being a part of EMU would benefit both the University and the students."
The EMU-Daugherty Partnership allows EMU to offer extensive Agile education, with a wide range of dates, times, and concentrations to suit the wide variety of student needs and types of Agile training available.
The Agile courses taught by Daugherty and available at EMU PPAT are administered and accredited by two Agile organizations, the International Consortium for Agile (ICAgile) and Scaled Agile Framework® (SAFe®).
In short, the ICAgile courses focus on a wide variety of subjects from Agile Coaching to Agile Fundamentals, while the SAFe courses are primarily concerned with Agile on an organizational and managerial level.
"ICAgile is an educational institution. The ICAgile curriculum is intended to be a fairly complete education experience for all aspects of the business and personal," says Wehner. "SAFe is a framework, a process that lays out recommendations for how a company should be organized, how they should handle their software development, budgeting, portfolios, development."
"Practice What We Preach"
While the SAFe courses follow a fairly strict curriculum, the ICAgile courses allow Wehner and Wetterau's team to put their education experience and knowledge to work and create a learning environment that is as responsive and interactive as Agile itself.
"All of our instructors and instructional designers have diverse experiences," explains Wetterau. "And they all bring that with them when we're building the content, as well as delivering the content. And it's that ability to story tell, to make what they are teaching relatable. We really lean on them being able to tell stories, because if you can't make it relatable to the students, they're going to stop listening to you."
In addition, the Daugherty team uses a leveling system, that leverages internal coaching and even A.I. feedback to prepare instructors before they begin teaching courses for Daugherty or EMU.
"But beyond that," Wehner adds. "When it comes time for the instructors to start teaching, they have to be authorized by ICAgile or SAFe."
Once the ICAgile instructors are teaching, Daugherty immediately begins taking student feedback to find ways to improve the course.
"We have a retrospective chart, where we ask students to tell us what went well, what dragged, what would you like to have seen covered that we didn't cover. And we ask that after every segment of the course, not just the whole course," Wehner details.
Two of the philosophies described in the original Agile Manifesto are "Customer collaboration over contract negotiation" and "Responding to change over following a plan". By updating the course in real-time and collaborating with students, they are following the core principles of Agile.
"Do we need to change anything for the next session based on where the student's interest is or where the students felt they didn't understand something? And so then we can be Agile during the actual course," Wehner explains.
"We practice what we preach," says Wetterau.
Teaching Agile with an Agile approach hasn't just made Daugherty Learning Solutions education more effective, it has gained the attention of ICAgile.
"To brag about us a little bit — on the ICAgile side, ICAgile actually uses us as their gold standard for other companies that want accreditation," Wetterau notes.
Part of Daugherty's success is from their combination of in-field experience applied to in-the-classroom education.
"A lot of times you hear the phrase those that can't do, teach. Well, that's not the case for us," Wetterau explains. "We do, therefore we teach and it helps us teach better."
"We are a consulting company first and teaching is an offshoot of that," adds Wehner. "But what that means is we're in the trenches every day seeing how new technology works and actually doing the new things with the new technology. Most of our instructors are working with clients every day and they come in the evenings to teach."
Training From the Back of the Room
Another way that Wehner and Wetterau's team has gained recognition for their Agile education is from the application of an education methodology called Training From the Back of the Room (TBR). Created by educator and author, Sharon Bowman, TBR emphasizes interaction and engagement, rather than lectures.
"It's based on brain science and how the brain works," says Wehner. "We use several different techniques that involve making a connection to what people already know, providing additional information to what they already know, and then following that with some form of a concrete practice that basically lets them demonstrate that they understand what we just gave them. And then there's a conclusion that's really about, okay, how are you going to use this going forward?"
Who hasn't mentally checked out of a lecture that dragged on for too long? TBR aims to eliminate those moments by incorporating interactive work such as case studies to analyze, more images than wordy PowerPoints, and games to play as a group.
"There are games like a myth or fact game, for example, where we'll give you a set of cards," Wehner describes. "And we'll have you sort them out and say, is that statement on the card a fact or a myth? And they do this as groups. The point of that is that people will learn from each other in addition to what we provide."
"When class is over," Wehner says. "They've created a network of other professionals in these classes that they can contact later about other problems that may come in."
"Because we make it more interactive and more collaborative, the students do a lot of, I like to call it, hands-on or tactile learning because we're engaging all of the senses as opposed to just them listening to us talk," Wetterau adds.
The Agile Benefits Outside the Classroom
Learning Agile through courses provided by Daugherty and EMU PPAT provides opportunities for new careers and career advancements, but it also gives entire organizations a fresh way to approach any type of work.
"New ways of thinking, new approaches, and then how to bring that Agile mindset to the whole organization," Wehner lists when describing the organizational benefits of Agile. "Continuous learning, being adaptable, being open to making mistakes, and learning from your mistakes. A whole different mindset from our traditional top-down organizations and being more collaborative too."
For Wehner and Wetterau, their passion for education and Agile translates into finding ways to continuously improve their teaching methods and finding rewarding moments every day of class.
"I love to teach. It's always been a passion of mine," Wetterau says. "I've been doing it for a very long time. I love it when we're in class and you can see that proverbial light bulb go off and their eyes get bigger and they kind of lean in and they want to really hear, and then they get very excited. To me, that's what I love."
"It's just the idea that I can take the experience that I have and share that with others and hope they can take it and go further than I did," says Wehner. "I see that as my mark in the world, if you will, helping other people be successful."
To learn more about how Agile courses through EMU PPAT can help you become more successful in your role, organization, or daily life view our full list of ICAgile and SAFe classes.