Agility is the emerging trend for companies in thinking about how they structure teams to accomplish work. Agile learning teams amplify the journey of becoming an agile learning organization and lead to effective business outcomes.
In her session at People Matters L&D Conference 2020, Dr. Amelie Villeneuve, Global Head of Learning, Standard Chartered Bank shared her thoughts on building agile learning teams.
Amelie started off by stating that agile is very important when you are a leading multi-dimensional complex company. In order to grow, these companies have a mandate to grow and in order to grow, they have to be simpler, cheaper, and faster at the core of what they do. When you are managing these mandates as a leader, there are four types of problems that you tend to have to solve. On one side is the need to ensure that the company is an efficient execution machine, and agile principles allow you to streamline, get rid of processes that are not needed, and get rid of waste and focus on creating only those processes that the customer wants.
Putting the customer before the contract
One of the core principles of agile is putting your customer before your contract. So agile principles allow us to focus on the end customer and doing only what creates value for them.
The second kind of problem that leaders face is rather complicated rituals around running a business. There is a lot of complicated effort in building a new process. Agile is very useful here as it allows rapid iteration of the process till you get the right one-be it budgeting or performance management. If you do not use agile, companies tend to fall over in solving these complicated problems, by reinforcing rigidities around hierarchy, silos that make the ceremony of the process more important than the outcome.
The third problems that leaders face are the more complex decisions where there are a number of things available to make a decision but there are still data sets that are unknown. These unknown forces can come in and completely change how you view the world and how the company operates. This complex decision-making environment is suited for agile as only the sprints and rapid iteration approach of agile goes well with these situations. Also, the agile principles of people first and process later really come to play here.
Designing agile structures in learning
Finally, leaders face the challenge of being able to lead in this chaotic environment where there are multiple complex systems interacting with another all at the same time. And it is simply impossible to wait to make a decision before you have all the answers. Agile helps a lot here too as the first thing a leader can do to help in a chaotic situation is act and then make sense of the data you generate and act again. So this sprinting approach is really helpful.
Hence agile serves the growth mandate of the company, rather than just helping the tech function to develop software and is also a very important partner to inclusive behavior.
It is this very approach that Standard Chartered has used to design and deliver learning products and services through an agile structure. It is helpful especially in times like COVID to have access to very quickly deployable, easily changeable, and widely inclusive pieces of learning because again no one could actually plan what would happen this year. There are people who urgently need information, who urgently need to connect and learn, and rebuild their careers and they need aces to rapidly developed and rapidly deployed learning.
At Standard Chartered, the learning mandate is threefold- first that everyone has the quickest access to learning; the second focus is on reskilling people so that as their jobs change, they are able to take those roles up; and the final focus is on building global citizens-that the company is able to build the leaders who can build the best world. And in order to do that, agility is one of the 10 core skills that they need to have. Hence an agile building and learning approach is what is powering the bank’s reskilling agenda.