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Topics: Agile, Scrum, Stakeholder Management
Can Agile work in the education sector?
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I have been wondering lately if educational institutions can benefit from an agile structure. They basically work in teams and deal with an ever changing environment, so would agile be the best way to go?
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An Agile approach sounds ideal for a constantly-changing environment like the one you described. I don't know the types of projects you're executing, but I imagine Agile's Scrum methodology should work for all of them.
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Jul 31, 2018 5:44 AM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Hi Eric,

Thank you for weighing in! Indeed, it does sound ideal. But the challenges are immense. I have written some in my reply to Rami. Please have a look, I would love to hear what you think.
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Yes, of course because actually agile best suits knowledge based projects and education is basically knowledge based.
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1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Jul 31, 2018 5:38 AM
Farouq Zaabab
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Thank you Rami for engaging with the question.

Indeed, yours is the idea that first came to mind when I considered the question myself, but a few concerns had me in doubt.

1- Agile values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

While this in principle should apply to this sector, it is not the case and the main hindrance is hierarchy. Forming a team can be difficult since instead of having generative specialists (as is the case with software development), we have specialized specialists ( think of university professors and other staff).

2- Agile values Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Arguing by analogy here, in education the outcome is engaging and inspiring content and experience rather than working software. This should precede comprehensive documentation, but here is the bottleneck: decisions are centralized and teams even if present and trained have less autonomy, and to go back to the previous point the present hierarchies can negatively affect team velocity and eventually the members engagement.

Now my view is that although Agile can be adopted, it certainly needs to be adapted to fit the current needs and practices of the educational sector. I am also more skeptical now, my opinion is "agile can certainly be tried, but would it work? and if yes how much better would it be than a traditional waterfall approach?"

Rami, thanks again for weighing in with your opinion, and I hope this wasn't too much "anti-agile attitude" for you.
Network:1611



I am part of he group that work creating programs for masters, postgraduate and doctorate education. We do all that applying Agile practices including the use of Agile based method.You can apply Agile with any type of enteprise architecture. In fact, is what I am doing from 1995 up to date, just in case that is your question.
...
1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Jul 31, 2018 5:49 AM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Hi Sergio,

You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly my question, and I am glad to hear that agile works in this context. What are the challenges that face you while implementing agile? Could you please list a few. I have had at least two myself:

1- Agile values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

While this in principle should apply to this sector, it is not the case and the main hindrance is hierarchy. Forming a team can be difficult since instead of having generative specialists (as is the case with software development), we have specialized specialists ( think of university professors and other staff).

2- Agile values Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Arguing by analogy here, in education the outcome is engaging and inspiring content and experience rather than working software. This should precede comprehensive documentation, but here is the bottleneck: decisions are centralized and teams even if present and trained have less autonomy, and to go back to the previous point the present hierarchies can negatively affect team velocity and eventually the members engagement.

Now my view is that although Agile can be adopted, it certainly needs to be adapted to fit the current needs and practices of the educational sector. I am also more skeptical now, my point is "agile can certainly be tried, but would it work? and if yes how much better would it be than a traditional waterfall approach?"
Network:12702



Educational (tertiary) institutions exhibit notoriously anti-Agile behavior. They hoard/control knowledge dissemination, reward individuals performance not team performance, promote competition not collaboration, have a culture of fear and the threat of disaster upon failure, and the list goes on. Yes there are student projects that can be Agile, and a lot of the institutions' systems and processes could be also, but when teaching and at examination time in tertiary institutions, Agile will rarely see the light of day. I'm not knocking an educational system based on merit. What I'm saying is as soon as students leave university, they then need to abandon those behaviors that would never be tolerated in an Agile environment, and join organizations that expect them to be transparent, collaborative, non-egotistical, autonomous, emotionally intelligent, etc.
...
1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Jul 31, 2018 5:57 AM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Hi Sante,

Your observations/concerns are spot on and are the ones that spurred this question. Do you think this anti-agile behavior would change if agile gets properly introduced to the stakeholders? or is this attitude pretty much baked into the system?
Network:155



Jul 30, 2018 11:33 PM
Replying to Rami Kaibni
...
Yes, of course because actually agile best suits knowledge based projects and education is basically knowledge based.
Thank you Rami for engaging with the question.

Indeed, yours is the idea that first came to mind when I considered the question myself, but a few concerns had me in doubt.

1- Agile values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

While this in principle should apply to this sector, it is not the case and the main hindrance is hierarchy. Forming a team can be difficult since instead of having generative specialists (as is the case with software development), we have specialized specialists ( think of university professors and other staff).

2- Agile values Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Arguing by analogy here, in education the outcome is engaging and inspiring content and experience rather than working software. This should precede comprehensive documentation, but here is the bottleneck: decisions are centralized and teams even if present and trained have less autonomy, and to go back to the previous point the present hierarchies can negatively affect team velocity and eventually the members engagement.

Now my view is that although Agile can be adopted, it certainly needs to be adapted to fit the current needs and practices of the educational sector. I am also more skeptical now, my opinion is "agile can certainly be tried, but would it work? and if yes how much better would it be than a traditional waterfall approach?"

Rami, thanks again for weighing in with your opinion, and I hope this wasn't too much "anti-agile attitude" for you.
...
1 reply by Rami Kaibni
Jul 31, 2018 12:23 PM
Rami Kaibni
...
You are welcome. I am not sure I fully agree with they way you are interpreting the agile mindset, values and principles.

1- No, that is not the case. In education, you focus on people and interactions more than tools and processes. You inspect and adapt your educational processes and tools to ensure there is proper understanding and interaction.

On another note, while agile says People & Interaction over Processes & Tools, that does not mean Processes and tools are not important.

2- Again, you are taking the meaning literally. Instead of working software, it can be working product or working method ... etc.

For example, instead of giving students bunch of text books and have them document everything you say, first make sure your method of delivery for the information is transparent and very well comprehended by the students (This is just a general example).

In summary, yes you can use agile and if not fully, you can use it as a Hybrid alogn with Traditional Approach. Example:

1- Inspect and Adapt your educational method.
2- Retrospectives.
3- Review Meetings.
4- Inspect and adapt the material and syllabus.

Those are a few of the agile practicies that can be used.
Network:155



Jul 30, 2018 9:30 PM
Replying to Eric Simms
...
An Agile approach sounds ideal for a constantly-changing environment like the one you described. I don't know the types of projects you're executing, but I imagine Agile's Scrum methodology should work for all of them.
Hi Eric,

Thank you for weighing in! Indeed, it does sound ideal. But the challenges are immense. I have written some in my reply to Rami. Please have a look, I would love to hear what you think.
Network:155



Jul 31, 2018 4:59 AM
Replying to Sergio Luis Conte
...
I am part of he group that work creating programs for masters, postgraduate and doctorate education. We do all that applying Agile practices including the use of Agile based method.You can apply Agile with any type of enteprise architecture. In fact, is what I am doing from 1995 up to date, just in case that is your question.
Hi Sergio,

You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly my question, and I am glad to hear that agile works in this context. What are the challenges that face you while implementing agile? Could you please list a few. I have had at least two myself:

1- Agile values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

While this in principle should apply to this sector, it is not the case and the main hindrance is hierarchy. Forming a team can be difficult since instead of having generative specialists (as is the case with software development), we have specialized specialists ( think of university professors and other staff).

2- Agile values Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Arguing by analogy here, in education the outcome is engaging and inspiring content and experience rather than working software. This should precede comprehensive documentation, but here is the bottleneck: decisions are centralized and teams even if present and trained have less autonomy, and to go back to the previous point the present hierarchies can negatively affect team velocity and eventually the members engagement.

Now my view is that although Agile can be adopted, it certainly needs to be adapted to fit the current needs and practices of the educational sector. I am also more skeptical now, my point is "agile can certainly be tried, but would it work? and if yes how much better would it be than a traditional waterfall approach?"
...
1 reply by Sergio Luis Conte
Jul 31, 2018 7:16 AM
Sergio Luis Conte
...
Farouq, that is not Agile. That is Agile applied to software. In fact, as you know, the Manifesto has the word "software" for a reason. In fact, you can use Agile with any type of life cycle, for example waterfall. Agile was born before the Manifesto searching an alternative to Lean. That was in 1990 inside the Leihigh University when the USA DoD NSF/Agility Forum was created. Agile is a matter of enteprise architecute where one of the layers is the buisness layer (or architecture) where you can find the variables to take into account to use Agile for using into any type of business. For example, in our case, we use Tom Peter´s Seven S model to evaluate if Agile can be used into a business or a least the impacts and things to take into account to understand if it can be used.
Network:155



Jul 31, 2018 5:34 AM
Replying to Sante Vergini
...
Educational (tertiary) institutions exhibit notoriously anti-Agile behavior. They hoard/control knowledge dissemination, reward individuals performance not team performance, promote competition not collaboration, have a culture of fear and the threat of disaster upon failure, and the list goes on. Yes there are student projects that can be Agile, and a lot of the institutions' systems and processes could be also, but when teaching and at examination time in tertiary institutions, Agile will rarely see the light of day. I'm not knocking an educational system based on merit. What I'm saying is as soon as students leave university, they then need to abandon those behaviors that would never be tolerated in an Agile environment, and join organizations that expect them to be transparent, collaborative, non-egotistical, autonomous, emotionally intelligent, etc.
Hi Sante,

Your observations/concerns are spot on and are the ones that spurred this question. Do you think this anti-agile behavior would change if agile gets properly introduced to the stakeholders? or is this attitude pretty much baked into the system?
...
1 reply by Sante Vergini
Jul 31, 2018 6:16 AM
Sante Vergini
...
Yes Agile can be introduced into the way the institution operates, and with student projects, but I can't see how teachers would teach in an Agile way, or assess in an Agile way, not at university level anyway.
Network:12702



Jul 31, 2018 5:57 AM
Replying to Farouq Zaabab
...
Hi Sante,

Your observations/concerns are spot on and are the ones that spurred this question. Do you think this anti-agile behavior would change if agile gets properly introduced to the stakeholders? or is this attitude pretty much baked into the system?
Yes Agile can be introduced into the way the institution operates, and with student projects, but I can't see how teachers would teach in an Agile way, or assess in an Agile way, not at university level anyway.
Network:1611



Jul 31, 2018 5:49 AM
Replying to Farouq Zaabab
...
Hi Sergio,

You hit the nail on the head. That is exactly my question, and I am glad to hear that agile works in this context. What are the challenges that face you while implementing agile? Could you please list a few. I have had at least two myself:

1- Agile values Individuals and interactions over processes and tools

While this in principle should apply to this sector, it is not the case and the main hindrance is hierarchy. Forming a team can be difficult since instead of having generative specialists (as is the case with software development), we have specialized specialists ( think of university professors and other staff).

2- Agile values Working software over comprehensive documentation.
Arguing by analogy here, in education the outcome is engaging and inspiring content and experience rather than working software. This should precede comprehensive documentation, but here is the bottleneck: decisions are centralized and teams even if present and trained have less autonomy, and to go back to the previous point the present hierarchies can negatively affect team velocity and eventually the members engagement.

Now my view is that although Agile can be adopted, it certainly needs to be adapted to fit the current needs and practices of the educational sector. I am also more skeptical now, my point is "agile can certainly be tried, but would it work? and if yes how much better would it be than a traditional waterfall approach?"
Farouq, that is not Agile. That is Agile applied to software. In fact, as you know, the Manifesto has the word "software" for a reason. In fact, you can use Agile with any type of life cycle, for example waterfall. Agile was born before the Manifesto searching an alternative to Lean. That was in 1990 inside the Leihigh University when the USA DoD NSF/Agility Forum was created. Agile is a matter of enteprise architecute where one of the layers is the buisness layer (or architecture) where you can find the variables to take into account to use Agile for using into any type of business. For example, in our case, we use Tom Peter´s Seven S model to evaluate if Agile can be used into a business or a least the impacts and things to take into account to understand if it can be used.
...
1 reply by Farouq Zaabab
Jul 31, 2018 7:47 AM
Farouq Zaabab
...
Thank you Sergio for this great input. Much appreciated!
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