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Agile Unleashed: Crafting Dynamic Training With Excellence

Friday, March 15, 2024

This week, my company received better than expected feedback, and I’m filled with excitement over a business simulation we are developing for a new client. It’s a solution that never fails to provide business impact for the client’s organization. We focus on creating dynamic training that is serious fun. It contains critical business content, in this case financial acumen, and is delivered in such a way that people actually have fun learning what is traditionally a dry, boring subject.

The key to making certain your customer is thrilled with your custom training is to develop the solution using agile principles. These principles originated in the field of software development. It’s no coincidence that the financial markets are now dominated by tech companies!

Back in 2001, 17 software developers met in the Wasatch Mountains in Utah. (Which, by the way, are no joke for skiers. I nearly met my maker a year ago when a high-speed wind swept up while I was suspended at the top of a chairlift and I sat swinging in the gusts for more than 45 minutes.) But these software developers, the Agile Alliance, chose to meet in the mountains to avoid distractions and work in a place where others could not easily spy electronically. They were seeking a way to stay ahead of the competition by using a more flexible, customer-focused approach.

The result of the Agile Alliance’s meeting was the Agile Manifesto, a set of values and principles to guide product or solution development. These values and principles have now been shared publicly and adapted in various ways for use in business. My company is continuously researching and experimenting with ways that we and our customers can accomplish work with agility. That doesn’t mean just speed. It means a focus on customers, adaptiveness to changing markets and situations, and swiftness that creates value iteratively in real time.

Sound confusing? It can be. Years ago, when I began learning about the agile approach with our research and development colleagues, it seemed so esoteric. However, the more I read, applied, and reflected, the more it made sense. In many ways, Americans have it in our blood. In other ways, the mindset is opposite to how we are taught to act. For example, we are to embrace failure when using agile principles. That is certainly not something that feels good in most corporate environments. Using the agile mindset often requires educating those around you along with your own team. One way to make the good use of failure palatable is the iterative approach to development.

Using the language of sprints, we kick off the learning program development process with an alignment meeting that defines the overall goal of the learning program and of the first sprint. Goals of the learning program development kickoff are as follows:

1) Define clear objectives for the learning program. The end goal should serve as a true north, and it must be defined clearly and reviewed at every stage of the development process. Markets and conditions change in business. Developing with agility helps you adjust even if the core goal shifts. Sound familiar? You don’t want to be stuck on a goal that is no longer relevant!


2) Agree upon project scope. This must be briefly revisited at each stage, because if goals change based on new information, so must the scope.

3) Create an overall project plan with a timeline that includes an estimated number of sprints to complete the development project. We typically pad the timeline with an additional sprint to allow for the unexpected. This way, we are likely to finish the project on time, within scope, and provide business value.

4) Do a simple Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats (SWOT) analysis to gain a clear understanding of risks. Build in strategy that capitalizes on opportunities and mitigates risk. Briefly revisit this at each stage. Has anything changed?

5) Define a communication plan and assign core decision makers. People get busy with competing priorities, get distracted by unexpected shifts, and even leave organizations. Assign decision makers who have the authority and understanding of the overall project and changing conditions to keep you moving forward. Keep teams small and nimble to enable a smooth workflow. Ask if particularly busy decision makers or poor communicators can offer a proxy to make decisions when necessary.


6) Publish all of this key information in a shared area and make it easily accessible to all team members.

Once you have kicked off the project successfully, share something of value at each sprint. Mock up the concept for customer reflection at each iteration. Communicate at the beginning of each live sprint meeting that you are sharing partially developed concepts, materials, or digital assets to enable your customer to provide feedback to shape the learning program in real time.

Revisit the six points from the kickoff meeting before sharing mockups. Continuously reviewing each step allows for any necessary changes in goals, scope, or people involved to surface immediately. You can then adjust and move forward, knowing you have padded the timeline to account for volatility. You can also be assured that the learning program will be developed to meet the needs of the customers, because you have asked for their feedback frequently during the development process and have not moved on before receiving their green light.

Gamified training in particular requires creating complex algorithms to provide realistic outcomes for participant decisions made during the game. Because this is heady work, make certain no time is wasted on irrelevant development. Using the agile principles aids developers in creating meaningful work that pleases the sponsors as well as the audience.

About the Author

Libby Macomber is president of Celemi, Inc. She brings 20 years of experience in management, sales, training, and facilitating in the manufacturing, software, medical, and corporate arena.

Libby began her career in pharmaceutical sales for the DuPont-Merck Pharmaceutical Company. She was quickly promoted to district trainer after receiving the Rookie of the Year award. Libby went on to receive the Director’s Club award and was promoted to Regional Trainer. She then joined Daiichi Sankyo, Inc as a district manager over Chicago’s north side. Her team won numerous sales awards. Because of travel, Libby then stayed home a few years to raise her children.

Libby joined Advantage Performance Group as a consultant and facilitator. She also facilitated and managed accounts for Power-Presentations. Libby’s average score for facilitating is 9.8/10. She bases her success on the client’s ability to implement change through individuals and with organizational impact. She has been awarded honors from BTS and Power-Presentations for collaboration and facilitating in both her rookie years at these organizations. Libby strives for excellence in each client endeavor.

Currently at Celemi, Libby leads the Americas team in providing business acumen and agility solutions to corporations throughout the Americas continents. As part of the management team for Celemi’s global organization, she recently began leading the global marketing department. She is an integral part of setting strategy for Celemi.

Libby received her Bachelor of Science degree from Western Illinois University and mastered in business administration at Keller Graduate School of Management.

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