Opening this book means you have some curiosity about what Lean and Agile have to do with training. So whether you’re brand new to Agile or have years of experience, we have something for you. If brand new, you may want to review the glossary at the back of the book.


By convention in this book, we will use "Lean-Agile" as a term to describe our use of Agile and Lean. Some software practitioners, like the, also use the term Lean-Agile.

This book is aimed at learning & development practitioners. Neither Lean nor Agile originated within the learning discipline. We are borrowing successful principles from the domains of software and manufacturing and crossing them over into the learning discipline.

New software engineers take in their discipline’s body of knowledge which already includes Agile. Software practitioners know that Agile practices already include much Lean. New systems engineers take in their discipline’s body of knowledge which already includes Lean.[1] New learning and development practitioners take in their discipline’s body of knowledge, which until recently has not included much Lean or Agile. Also, learning and development practitioners may not have much experience in the software domain. So, although some software practitioners may disagree with our usage of the term Lean-Agile because Agile practices already include some Lean, we choose to use Lean-Agile to emphasize that both Lean and Agile are complementary approaches to our learning and development audience that is largely new to both.

This book takes the principles and ideas from Agile Scrum, Kanban and Lean and translates it to the knowledge work of learning experience development.

Our translation of the principles of Agile and Lean into the learning and development domain may not always match one-for-one with the application of these principles in software, manufacturing or systems engineering. Similar to effective communications between two human languages, there may not always be a literal, one-for-one translation.

We expect the learning and development discipline will continue to expand on, and improve methods that build from the principles of Lean and Agile that are tailored to the context of learning and development.

Buyers, stakeholders and producers of made-to-order training products and services often experience frustration with the length of time it takes to go from the training need or problem identification to an effectively implemented learning intervention.

We have seen Lean-Agile help with shortening that time enough to make your time reading this book worthwhile. Also as more stakeholders want more technology components integrated in learning experience packages, courseware, materials, and blended experiences, Lean-Agile also provides a way of more successfully managing these technology components during development.

Did you know that some organizations have gotten between 15% to 50% improvements in their product development cycle time and significant reductions in risk using Lean and Agile? Although these figures are from people applying Lean-Agile in a different domain than learning and development, we were impressed enough by their gains to see if we could get similar improvements for learning experience development. Do you want to hear more about how Lean-Agile can provide you with significantly faster cycle time when buying and making learning experiences as products? We wanted similar productivity improvements, and now you can have these gains too. Do you wonder what Lean-Agile has to do with traditional ADDIE, or analysis, design, development, implementation, and evaluation? We did too. We’ll share some of what we learned and how we use ADDIE with Lean-Agile.

We wrote this book because we think that the learning and development industry can benefit from an additional successful approach that has been used in other industries for 10–25 years. From monitoring the learning and development industry conferences, blogs, events, and happenings, we have noticed a small group of learning and development professionals that have started to apply these Lean-Agile approaches, and we thought we might get some lift from this, too. So, we experimented and we improved, and now we use Lean-Agile in current learning experience development projects/programs for our customers. We have learned a lot about what works and what does not work.

We hope that more people in the industry will (1) consider and explore the use of Lean-Agile in their buying and making of learning experiences as products, and (2) will share what they learn too, so we all gain as a result. We will continue to monitor learning and development conference presentations, articles and blogs to see what our discipline has learned together.

We see Lean-Agile as a collection of various principles and practices, which we later list, where the whole is more than the sum of its parts. We will share what we have found to be the key principles and some of the supporting methods, and techniques of Lean-Agile that you or anyone can apply to develop your successful step-by-step approaches for Lean-Agile learning experience development. We’ll point you towards the giants in the Lean and Agile communities on whose shoulder’s we’ve stood, so you may go directly to the sources for further information.

We share our experiences from our journey and many of our lessons learned that may benefit you as you try to apply Lean-Agile in your own work when buying learning experiences or making learning experience products for others.

Although we cannot share our specific, detailed, step-by-step, "reduction to practice" methods and recipes for Lean-Agile, because it is our intellectual property (IP), we still want to share as much as we can that we think may be of value to other people involved in the making and buying of training products and services. So we will have to be generalized with principles instead.

We think there is value in this book for many types of learning and development related organizations.

If you are a senior level buyer of training/learning experiences, you may not be as interested in all the details that we provide for producers, but hopefully when you delegate this book to your staff, one of them will recognize the value of learning from others. As you progress down a new path, there is an immediate benefit in learning from others when they share some of what they discovered in the process. Then, you don’t have to learn it all from first-hand experience.

We won’t try to make the substantial changes you’ll need to make sound trivially simple. Lean-Agile is not magic, nor does it solve all project/program problems. There is work involved. All good things seem to require effort. We say that the payoff is worthwhile. We will show you some of our efforts and share some of our journey, so you can learn from what others have done and perhaps use that to improve your own journey.

Fundamentally, we see this book as a sort of extended session in a learning and development industry conference like the Association of Talent Develpment (ATD) Techknowledge, the eLearning Guild’s DevLearn or FocusOn Learning Conference & Expo, for example. We gain much from other conference presenters sharing their experiences, and we hope that our book offers the same benefit for you.

Lastly, we hope to read your works or hear from you at conferences after you have made progress down this path. We are always improving, too, and working to apply any saved time towards better learning outcomes. When the entire community of practitioners shares with each other, we all gain. Sharing, when skillfully applied, can translate to better learning experiences and outcomes in workplace training.

Thank you for taking the time to engage with us in our book. We look forward to your book, article, blog or conference presentation next.

1. See the book Lean for Systems Engineering, by Bohdan W. Oppenheim, 2011 for more about how Lean has been adopted within the Systems Engineering discipline.

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