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What’s SCRUM and Agile Got to Do With Adult Learning and Leadership?


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How organizations can remain focused and effective in an ever-changing, complex environment

Recently I have had the honor and privilege to assume a coaching role with several leaders in STEM-based organizations. To prepare myself and to better understand their world, I took several crash courses in Lean Management, Scrum and Agile Methodology. I half-expected to have to force myself to make sense of highly technical terminology and dry program management theory only to be pleasantly surprised to find fascinating parallels to cutting-edge leadership development theory.

In simple terms, SCRUM is a methodology that breaks complex scenarios (epics) down into small deliverable increments (stories) that can be completed in a short, defined timeframe (sprint). Each delivery cycle opens with a planning session during which the entire team decides what increments they will be able to complete during the cycle. The cycle closes with a review that includes stakeholder feedback and a retrospective during which processes are refined and subsequent increment specifications may be revised.

Rapid development of deliverables and regular, short-order feedback loops ensure nimble adaptations to external and internal requirement changes and quick detection of misalignment or errors. Accountability and self-governance of the team is built into the framework and communication breakdowns quickly become apparent.

Daily stand-up meetings enforce focus and commitment and team members rely on mutual respect, transparency and openness to new ideas to be able to operate at their best. The team continues to learn from and with each other. Doesn’t that sound like project management Nirvana?

While SCRUM focuses on the work of the product owner (similar role to project manager), the team and the interaction with stakeholders, Agile addresses enterprise design and leadership. More on that in a future post.

Of course there is much more to SCRUM and Agile. SCRUM professionals will be quick to admit that it is not easy to transform traditional project management and top-down leadership calling for long-term goals and defined milestones into an Agile workplace, especially when factoring the human element of resisting major change.

Yet there is a lot to be gained from taking the leap of faith:

  1. Fostering of creative adaptability, which is crucial for success in rapidly changing environments
  2. Engagement of all team members in the design and execution process, which has been proven to be essential for talent retention
  3. Encouraging dynamic collaboration, which always outperforms siloed, static work processes
  4. Continued shared learning, which results in innovation and boosts competitiveness

What excites me most about SCRUM is the notion that this way of learning, working, and creating in a collaborative whole can be applied outside of software development projects. It is a flexible and adult-learning supporting methodology that can be used for dynamic leadership development needs at all levels in an organization through effective, micro-learning deliverables.

You can deconstruct complex leadership epics into skill development sprints that focus on learning, practicing and internalizing new communication and behavior patterns, which ultimately will result in organizational learning, resilience and adaptability at all levels.

SCRUM and Agile Leadership can be an antidote to disengaged staff, unrealized brilliant ideas in the ranks, sluggish procedures, ineffective communication.

Are you curious to hear more? Inquire about our new program offer:

Butler Communication’s SOAR Leadership Labs give you an opportunity to take a closer look at the current leadership capacity in your organization, to learn and practice new communication patterns, to experience and implement collaborative management styles and to strengthen your leadership teams at all levels in your organization.

Curious? Call us: 703-599-9079

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