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The Case for Personal Agility

At the 87th SPIN meeting, Maritza van den Heuvel (@maritzavdh) talked about "The Case for Personal Agility (or Why I left software development)." Her slides on Slidershare. She talked about embracing continuous improvement in everyday life and the importance of workplace learning. Below are my notes.

Introducing big changes, like moving from Waterfall to Scrum, can lead to resistance when applied to big, scary, projects. Management may want to ditch the processes when being pressed against a deadline. It's better to start on a smaller scale and be sure that people take ownership of the process.

For better software, work needs to be a happier place. Culture is everything. If it doesn't fit or change, the new processes will stagnate again. This is difficult in the Western world with our traditional top down organisational structure. Frequently, you'll see big improvements while change is being actively driven, but things slipping back into static ways soon after.

In the late 90s the focus was on Training (push, training as an event, an intervention), but we're moving to Learning (pull, just in time, bite-sized chunks. Continuous learning is being sought as a valuable skill, and we're looking at learning in peer, social, and community contexts.). Workplace learning and educational systems reform is needed to affect lasting change.

Current challenges include graduates and matrics approach to study (focusing on passing the test rather than learning) and organisation and management views of training and learning. Our education system is our base, but it's not changing enough. Education feeds people to society, which feeds people to organisations. We need to implement Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) for individuals.

To put these ideas into action, we need something practical and immediate. Start where people have control: themselves. It's a personal, local, safe environment for them to experiment in, and it lets others learn from their example. Personal Kanban can really help your focus when you're under a heavy workload. It can be used as a tool for teaching continuous improvement, and has been effective with senior management. Check out for resources.

The long game is to disrupt and reinvent education to build continuous improvement into society. Personal learning paths and spaces are one of most exciting areas to work in because they echo the modern workplace.