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LAS is an award-winning provider of elearning consultancy, design, development and training services in the UK and internationally. 

Established in 2005 as LearningAge Solutions, we work with some of the best known organisations in the world to boost their performance through the innovative use of learning technologies. Working in partnership with our customers, we draw on proven principles from human behaviour, how people learn and how the brain works to create impactful digital learning solutions with real return on investment.

About Tess Robinson

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Tess is a director of LAS. She has worked in a learning environment for over fifteen years. First, as a senior manager in universities, moving into digital learning seven years ago.

Agile L&D – A new model? 5 questions to ask

By Tess Robinson
Posted 26 October 2018

We hear a lot about how volatile the world is these days. Technology, politics, climate change are all disrupting the way that we live and do business. This challenging environment means that organisations have to be able to adapt and change quickly, to innovate and iterate, to learn new skills at pace – if they don’t, they will struggle to stay afloat in these turbulent times. So why is this need for agility so often not reflected in the way organisations deliver learning?  

L&D works so hard to develop the individual, to improve their skills and quality of their working life and yes, this is important for an engaged and happy workforce, but it can’t be all we do. It’s easy to become reactive instead of proactive, losing sight of the bigger picture and forgetting that L&D has a vital role to play in helping the organisation to achieve its strategic objectives.  

Even big supertankers of organisations can become more nimble by upskilling and reskilling people, by designing, facilitating and curating learning that makes a difference. Agile principles can be adapted and applied to human-centredL&D to help us attend to what is important and make a real impact for our organisation. So, how do we do this? What are the important questions we must ask ourselves? 

1.     What does the organisation need from L&D?
We need to make sure that we know what the organisation’s strategic aims are. A seat on the board or senior management team is ideal, but if that’s not possible then we need to do all we can to find out what the organisation as a whole is looking to achieve. Talk to people. Who are the key stakeholders? Meet with them, ask them (lots) of questions so you can really get to the crux of your organisation’s opportunities or problems.  

Once you’ve got a really good sense of what is important to the organisation, you can prioritise the areas for development. Go back to the stakeholders and sense-check these with them. By developing these relationships and demonstrating that L&D is focussed on strategically adding value in the areas that matter to the organisation, you will find that how you are viewed will slowly change and that people will start to appreciate just how important a role L&D has. 

2.     Is our L&D team ready to become more agile?
Now look at the skills that your team already have. Are there any you’re not using? Are there any skills you’re missing? Do you need to retrain people or hire in new people? Do you need to seek out partner organisations who can supply the expertise you lack? Is your team fit-for-purpose to respond to this increasing changing environment? 

Do you know who your audience is? How well do you know them? A profiling exercise here can be very useful. Develop personas so you know who you are targeting with your learning offer. 

Consider adopting a learning experience design process. This will help you to think more broadly and more creatively about the solutions you design.If you’re stuck in a ‘course rut’, this approach is very useful for reimagining your learning. 

Digital learning is an important element in an agile offering. It enables you to scale, to adapt quickly and to be closer to the learner when they are on-the-job. Make sure you know, at least a bit, about all the forms of digital learning out there and when and how they should be used. If you are used to click-next-to-continue type elearning courses, you may be surprised at just how many ways technology can be used to support learning. We have a free Digital Learning Diagnostic tool to get you started. 

3.     Can we develop an L&D brand?
You will already have started your ‘communications campaign’ with senior stakeholders by asking about the bigger picture and what L&D can do to support that. At the same time, you can quietly rebrand your team. Get yourselves a logo. Refresh your collateral. Talk to your internal comms team about doing case studies or campaigns around successful projects or initiatives and highlight how these have contributed to the organisation’s goals. Look outwards for best practice - attend conferences and events and talk to your peers. Inspire your team through workshops and changing your ways of working. You are important and you can do this! 

4.     How do we deliver the right projects in the right way?Ideally, start with a project that you are at least 90% confident that you can do a good job on, that you can clearly link to the organisation’s goals and that you can easily measure to demonstrate impact. Use a learning experience design process to work with users from the start to design the solution. This learning is for them and their involvement is critical. Don’t make assumptions about what is right for them without asking them.  

Run design sessions. Involve the whole team. We often find that fantastic, creative ideas often come from people who are not necessarily learning designers, maybe because they are less constrained by their prior knowledge. 

Prototype, test and iterate. Let goof the idea that it has to be perfect first time. It’s OK to fail, if you fail fast and learn. If anyone questions this approach, just tell them that it is the hallmark of an innovative, agile organisation, which is what all organisations need to strive to be today. 

5.    How do we get buy-in for this new way of working?
Focus your efforts on the areas where you can achieve most impact for the organisation and evaluate, evaluate, evaluate. Use your data to iterate and improve or to feed into future projects and importantly, to provide evidence to support the direction you are taking.This will help you to secure funding for things like upskilling your team, purchasing new technology, experimenting with news ways of learning and using partners.  

By adopting a more agile approach to L&D, we will have a clearer view of our direction, of what our customers value, we will be able to be proactive rather than reactive. We will be the solution-finders, the capability builders, the strategic partner to the business. We will be instrumental in making our organisation more successful and this will be recognised. Maybe it’s time to embrace agile and see where we can go…. 


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