Monday, March 28, 2011

Teaching and agile management

Today a friend's son asked me to help him with his math. The magic of internet meant that could read up the topic on wikipedia while listening to the request and accept in confidence.

Here are a few hints on how to teach:
  • Allow learning from mistakes: the young man's first request was to erase what he had done, as it was wrong. I stopped him and led him through the understanding of what he had done, building a knowledge of what "not to try again". This happened a few more times where I let him make his mistakes so that he could understand better how not to make these mistakes.
  • Do not provide solutions but support the learning of decision making along the way: Learning is about associating together thoughts and methods and by doing so building a new way to do or understand something. In this case, I help him identify which of the mathematical tools he possessed already would help him for this type of problem.
  • Help maintain a notion of goal at all times: The problem he needed to solve involved a good amount of tedious algebraic work. It was easy to get lost a this level of the task so I helped him maintain a link with his goal during the whole process. In this way, even when he made a mistake and needed to backtrack, he still knew where he was going.
Now I ask you to go and read up on Scrum or other agile process. You will see that what I have said above is how you should lead your agile teams. It does not matter what type of leader you are, people, technical or business, the art of helping people to be productive with quality is to get them to learn how to always do better.

There is one caveat to this process. As the "student" needs to know enough and be skilled enough to be "a good student", the agile team member needs to be knowledgeable and skilled enough to be a "good employee". Special attention must be put into the hiring process and the simple rule that remains the best is to hire the bright ones fresh out of school and have them work with your senior experienced people.

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