Our aim with this book is to help you see that Lean-Agile principles can help buyers and producers in performing and tracking the development of learning experiences. This book also translates the software version of Lean-Agile into what is more appropriate for developing learning experiences. Lean-Agile becomes even more helpful as our learning experiences incorporate more and more complex technology components, our development teams expand beyond traditional roles to include more technology specialists, and our development team leads and buyer staff have to manage the development of these increasingly software-driven components. Even if your organization still mostly makes or buys instructor-led training materials, Lean-Agile can still help your staff significantly improve during times when organizations are asked to do more with less resources.

With all the Lean-Agile content that is already in the world about Agile for software development, you might wonder what value a book about Lean-Agile for training could have. From what we have seen of Lean-Agile adoption in the training industry and from our experiences applying Lean-Agile to training, we still think there is a need for a Lean-Agile book that is specific to training because of the following:

  • During training industry conferences in recent years, we have talked to other attendees, and we found that most training buyers and producers represented at these conferences do not yet use Lean-Agile. From these anecdotal discussions, we have determined that there seems to be a slow increase year-over-year in the training industry’s use of Lean-Agile.

  • Some companies had training teams that supported software products where the software development team used Agile, but the training development team did not. This surprised us. One group even said they used Agile for their JavaScript developers who were making training products, but not for the training content developers.

  • More people may benefit from a direct translation of Lean-Agile principles to the training domain with specific examples from significant experience applying it in the training domain.

  • Training has already been broken down into a scalar that includes curricula, courses, learning objectives, and activities—this scalar varies outside the United States. Software often begins with a more generalized product breakdown structure of systems, subsystems, capabilities and features, so the Agile idea of requirements as epics and user stories (see glossary) helps to provide usable structure for software developers. Adapting Lean-Agile to training terminology can help more buyers and producers discover the benefits for themselves.

  • Experience has taught us many lessons while applying Lean-Agile to learning experience development that other practitioners and buyers may find of value. This is partly why we attend the industry conferences, to learn the lessons others are willing to share about their experience so we can all gain those lessons without each experiencing the challenges firsthand.

Similar to how Mary and Tom Poppendieck noticed a trend in software development way back in the early 2000s, we have also observed in years of training product development that "some methods which are still considered standard practice"[1] for developing learning interventions and training products "have long since been abandoned by other disciplines".[1] Here, we emphasize project management approaches rather than instructional approaches, but we will explain more about that in a later section.

The value proposition for this book is similar to what Realtors tell you about selling your house, "Some buyers do not easily see past a color of paint they don’t like in a house you’re trying to sell, while a fewer number can envision it redone their way." This book translates Lean-Agile into training terms, so you, as the audience, do not have to work as hard to connect the dots. It helps you to envision the newly painted house, so to speak. It can help us all speak the lexicon of Lean-Agile with a more common understanding of its applicability in training development.

1. Quoted with permission from Mary Poppendieck from the introduction of Lean Software Development: An Agile Toolkit, by Mary Poppendieck and Tom Poppendieck, 2003

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