Learning Agility in a DevOps World

Learning Agility in a DevOps World

What does agile learning actually mean how can it be assessed? This short post will try to provide some viewpoints.

~ Written by Gunnar Menzel, Vice President & Chief Architect @ Cloud Infra, Capgemini Global

To increase the ability of an individual to continually improve and shift their skills, to adapt to new business strategies, working across different cultures, dealing with temporary virtual teams and taking on new challenges is one key consideration for organisations that strive to accelerate their digital capability.

Agility is becoming more important and for many digital transformation journeys improving agile learning is one key focus area. To progress on that journey and organisation has to understand today’s level of “learning agility”. In particular when driving transformation programs that deploys a DevOps capability organisations have to ensure that its people have the “ability and willingness to learn from experience, and then apply that learning to perform successfully under new situations” [1].

As per [1,3] learning agility is especially crucial when an individual faces new and unfamiliar situations. Individuals who have a high degree of learning agility have better ability to find new ways to successfully navigate unknown and unplanned issues and challenges, and as noted before learning agility is important to all digital transformation programs. For organisations that are striving to improve speed, quality and value for money (DevOps), understanding its current learning agility and outlining the target is one critical success factor. [2]

In principle there are 4 key characteristics of a successful agile learner :

  1. Ability to innovate; displays self-awareness and reflection; seeks active feedback and applies new behaviours;
  2. Learner; actively seeks new knowledge; finds new ways of addressing today’s challenges
  3. Problem solver; displays curiosity and likes to experiment; open to change and challenge the status quo;
  4. Risk taker; can tolerate ambiguity and complexity; and remain resilient through adversity; positive thinker – their glass is half full

When applying all DevOps related criteria the following questions might be relevant to understand today’s learning agility (also see [4])

As noted in [3] DevOps maturity can be expressed in five maturity levels with each level outlining people related characteristics:

Level 1 Basic : separate strategy, design, development, testing and live operations teams. Complete lack of terms of references. No joint sessions, get-together’s. Teams focus on their own direct targets and objectives only. No joint or shared objectives and no overall reward system. People only feel accountable for their immediate area – no common or overarching ownership. No agile learning capability.

Level 2 Emerging : limited changes to basic – still very siloed and separate teams with no single team/person taking end-to-end responsibility. Developers mainly focus on functional requirements with very limited focus on non-functional requirements. However there is the emergence of some shared/joint touch points where some developers and some operational staff engage. Minor agile learning capability.

Level 3 Co-ordinated : mainly siloed organisation however lead architect/lead designer(s) increase their scope to also include operational aspects. Joint sessions are held to increase wider visibility – for instance key operational staffs are actively engaged in the design and build phase. Developers are also measured on operational characteristics. Some agile learning capability.

Level 4 Enhanced : joint teams that cover the entire solution lifecycle. Lead architect owns entire solution including functional and non-functional covering design, build, test and run. Good agile learning capability.

Level 5 Top Level : one team, co-located and extensive collaboration and knowledge sharing. Excellent agile learning capability.

Understanding someone’s learning agility as well as defining the target for the individual, the team, the department and the organisation is important to define the learning related transformation. Knowing that the journey to improve the learning agility will follow the 4 main areas outlined above and having a clear view what the target is (for instance having all scores at least on 4) will drive the changes needed in a more targeted and focused way.

Thanks for Reading. 
About the Author: Gunnar Menzel has been an IT professional for over 29 years and is VP and Chief Architect Officer for Capgemini’s Cloud Infrastructure Business. His main focus is business – enabling technology transformation & innovation

[1] Korn/Ferry International, 2010, De Meuse, Dai, Hallenbeck, The many faces of learning agility; [2] Gunnar Menzel, 2017, DevOps Maturity Model, [3] Korn/Ferry International, 2015, Korn Ferry Assessment of Leadership Potential Research guide and technical manual [4] The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL), Mitchinson, Morris, 2014, Learning About Learning Agility

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