Agile @ Uni: patience young grasshopper
Over recent years, Deakin University has been tackling a problem that many organisations face - that is, how to effectively collaborate across a siloed organisation and with areas that may be traditionally at odds with one another e.g. academia and professional services. The key driver here is to provide a superior end-user experience for Deakin's "customers", their students, where Deakin strives to “delight” its students through the course of their learning.
Deakin has achieved this by bringing together Agile practitioners from one of their professional services groups (eSolutions, Deakin's internal ICT service provider) with academic colleagues that are teaching students on the front-lines. Together, this collaboration is providing students with a rich, industry-relevant, authentic learning experience that culminated in the 2016 Postgraduate Project Management units receiving the highest student satisfaction ratings across the board, as well as a Vice Chancellor's Award for Teaching Excellence.
One of the unexpected benefits of sharing your expertise with other disciplines is that it helps you learn yourself. You learn how to best communicate ideas and critically assess your own experiences and understandings. During the collaboration, professional services staff learnt from academics and students, while the students and academics learnt from Agile practitioners.
So where do you start and how do you also create an effective collaboration in this type of environment? In typical Agile fashion, the answer lies in an iterative process that combines continual learning and a commitment to trust, humility and collegiality. There were a few awkward moments in the early stages of conducting guest lectures holding student interest and engagement. However, feedback from the initial experience lead to significant improvements which resulted in the academics and students requesting and supporting the collaboration year after year.
Deakin's eSolutions group subsequently invested in and accelerated the collaboration and collectively started to innovate with gamification activities such as the Minecraft Agile assignment. This assignment replicated a scaled Agile environment where a team of teams were tasked with planning, coordinating and building a virtual holiday resort within a bespoke environment of Minecraft.Edu and supported by toolsets such as JIRA Agile. Unexpected and unplanned scope changes were thrust upon the students, along with environmental threats that forced students to use their Agile skills to negotiate, problem solve and iterate themselves. The energy and excitement that the student cohorts generated through working in this mode was palpable. This level of innovation would not have been possible if it wasn't for the collegiate approach between the two areas.
This talk will cover the Deakin case study and provide insights on how other organisations can create collaborations in unlikely situations.
Outline/Structure of the Talk
This is a 40 minute presentation about a collaboration case study that will be relevant to any industry. Below is the general outline for the session:
5 mins setting the organisational context and challenges we faced
10 mins on the early stages of the collaboration and what did not work the first time around
10 mins on how we nurtured the collaboration, including tips on how you can foster similar initiatives in your organisation
10 mins on how we took things to the next level with the Minecraft.Edu innovation, direct support of Capstone Units and the industry-relevant video series presented to students
5 mins concluding the main points and emphasising key take-aways to implement within your own organisation.
- Learn how when you teach, you learn yourself.
- Learn about the importance of iterating when nurturing a collaboration between areas.
- Learn about how trust, humility and collegiality play an important role in collaboration.
- Learn how Deakin is nurturing the next generation of ScrumMasters, Developers and Product Owners, incorporating direct feedback from industry.
Agile practice leads, intra-preneurs, Agile coaches, Agile practitioners