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ATD Blog

Getting Started With Agile

Wednesday, January 12, 2022
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When I was invited to speak at ATD TechKnowledge 2022 about Agile Content Creation, I was ecstatic.
Content creation and Agile are two topics near and dear to my heart. As a marketer by trade, I have a lot of experience (and a vested interest) in making content development as value-driven, adaptive, and efficient as possible. And, as a longtime “Agilist,” I’m always eager to help others see how principles of Agile software development can transform any kind of work.

When I was talking to a friend about the opportunity, though, I got the following response: “Agile, huh? That’s a tricky one. I mean, Agile isn’t really something that’s super actionable, so I bet it’s hard to turn into a conference talk.”

Despite being totally incorrect, my friend’s response didn’t surprise me. For a lot of folks outside of software development, Agile is nothing more than a vague idea, a buzzword. Even folks who work in Agile software development can sometimes mistake Agile for being a framework, but that’s a whole other topic for a whole other blog post.

In reality, Agile is a mindset. And while adopting that mindset is a continuous, lifelong effort, it is indeed an effort.

Despite my friend’s response, becoming more Agile is something we can all start doing today. Ahead of my session on February 8th, here are three tips for learning and development professionals looking to add agility to their toolkit.

1. Clear your WIP

The Manifesto for Agile Software Development describes twelve principles. My favorite principle is simplicity. As the manifesto’s authors put it, “The art of maximizing the amount of work not done is essential.”

Once you’re ready to commit to an Agile mindset, you’ll need to continuously tend to your work in progress—like pruning a hedge—to make sure that too many concurrent projects don’t inhibit your focus and throughput. After all, humans are proven to be incapable of multitasking.

That idea is all well and good, but the reality is that most of us do have quite a lot of work in progress at any given moment—and, unfortunately, deciding to “go Agile” isn’t commonly accepted as a way to get out of prior work commitments.


So, where do you start? By putting down the pruning shears and picking up a hedge trimmer.

Today (right now, even!), you can take stock of all the work you currently have in progress. Look for projects other people have blocked progress on, whether they are waiting on approval or pending input from subject matter experts, and put that work to the side.

Take a look at all the remaining projects and pick out one—just one—that is most important. Think of “important” as whatever will be most valuable to your organization and, more importantly, your learners. That’s your work in progress. That’s all you need to be working on right now.

Everything else? Move it to the side, and don’t touch it until you finish your work in progress.

2. Try Something New

You’ve decided which project is the most important for the day. Now, identify how you can experiment within that project.


Developing new training? Try building it as small chunks of microlearning. Preparing a report? Create it as a dynamic video instead.

The idea here is not to try something new just for novelty’s sake, nor is it to complicate a clear-cut task with extra effort. Instead, we’re looking for a way you can get new information out of the project you’re working on today.

Continuous learning is a central tenet of the Agile mindset, and the best way to learn continuously is to experiment continuously. The sooner you can get something new in front of your learners or audience, the sooner you can learn from them about what works.

3. Keep Learning

If the Agile mindset is all about continuous learning, then the best thing you can do today is commit to learning about business agility.

Want to learn more? Sign up for accredited Agile training via ICAgile. Grab a book from the Agile Alliance book shop. And, of course, register for my session at ATD TechKnowledge 2022!

About the Author

Kevin Doherty is a marketer and storyteller for Vyond, a cloud-based animation studio that allows anybody to make media that moves. An alumnus of UCLA’s School of Theater, Film, and Television, Kevin specializes in bringing powerful entertainment principles into everyday, real-life communication. In addition to marketing, Kevin specializes in learning, customer experience, and agile ways of working.

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Great presentation at ATD Tech Conference, enlightening and very informative.
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Hey Kevin,
Loved the article. I started left ISD and started using Agile almost 10 years ago. I'd love to have a conversation with you about Agile L+D.
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