As a technology company, we’re passionate about using the agile development framework of Scrums to quickly deliver value and innovate ahead of the competition, writes Mpumi Nhlapo, head of marketing and portfolio sales at T-Systems South Africa.
We’re living in an era where powerful Cloud technology is available at the click of a button, where financial resources flow freely through venture capital networks, and where one can instantly reach millions of customers via digital channels.
With such democratisation of resources, the last great area of competitive advantage lies in an organisation’s people. Those with the brightest talent, the most productive cultures, and the strongest sense of team-work will emerge as the winning companies. With all other areas of capital under pressure, the realm of human capital becomes a manager’s only source of unlimited potential.
Because of this, the need to create a culture of continuous learning is emerging as one of the highest priorities on the boardroom agenda. Consider a recent research paper from Deloitte, for instance, which reveals that ‘high-impact learning organisations’ enjoy three times the profit growth of their peers*.
These days, it’s naive to think that a standard 4-year degree will sustain one throughout their career. While the discipline and rigour of traditional learning approaches (research, challenging, debating, problem-solving etc) is still required to create a solid foundation, this must be augmented with something more.
In today’s so-called ‘VUCA world’ — referring to heightened levels of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity — the notion of continuous learning becomes essential.
The solution could lie within the format of a scrum. By taking a Scrum-like approach to human capital development, we can create development paths that meet the VUCA challenges, helping us to quickly unlearn any outdated learning methods, and learn new approaches for a fast-paced digital world.
In the technology realm, these dynamics are perhaps magnified. Think about the rapid pace of change in areas like cyber-security and artificial intelligence, for example. Success-oriented IT professionals cannot rely on an academic background from years ago; they can’t wait for someone to come up with a new course on machine learning.
Today, it’s all about speed-to-value. At an individual level, we’re defined not by the credentials listed on our CVs, but by our ability to deliver value to our employers or our clients — and to deliver that value quickly.
Connecting learning to organisational strategy
The answers to modern business challenges simply don’t exist in pre-written scriptures.
It’s time for the Learning and Development department to embrace more fluid models, and to leverage the latest in learning tools: the likes of Massive Open Online Courses, and open innovation and collaboration ecosystems.
Using a Scrum approach, learning becomes incremental and ever-changing. Diverse insights from newfound knowledge domains are easily incorporated into one’s learning path. And staffs are empowered to apply what they learn in the real world — they’re encouraged to solve problems through experimentation and innovation.
By implementing flexible, continuous learning programmes, management can send a powerful message to the team: that the organisation cares about their future and sees them as a strategic asset, that creativity and free thinking is encouraged, and that staff have a great degree of control over their careers.
Of course, this cannot happen in a completely chaotic manner, devoid of any structure. The most successful continuous learning organisation is able to tightly connect their teams’ learning programmes, with the organisation’s broader goals and strategies.
Scrums are a philosophy, a way of thinking. They don’t necessarily need to apply only to the narrow definition of software development. In fact, by taking a Scrum approach to learning, organisations can attract, retain and get the most of the very best industry talent that’s out there.