Homegrown Agile: ‘E’-Learning Follow Up

Sometimes one just writes willy nilly and doesn’t think of how blogs are perceived or if they are more random writings or a part of a cohesive story. Most of my stuff ends up being more on the random writings side, but so many of you reached out to say, “well, how did ‘E’ do?” that I feel like I owe everyone a follow-up and some lessons learned; especially as move into another school year of uncertainty. First, he passed! Ha! Second, I think the following will be a sort of short less “personal” feel than the last blog. I don’t say that because I’m purposely trying to be less personal, but because of just the nature of a follow-up. So, with all that being said, here we go!

Consider variables

I would love to sit here and tell you that the week after we started this, everything just went peachy, but we are dealing with people here during an abnormal type of event and things are still in progress even months later. With E, we had to consider schooling from home, the issues with technology, the simple interpersonal and inter-relationship dynamics. The way he was perceived and the way he perceived others differed during schooling from home. Just as E was affected, your teams and organizations are still going through change. I hear many clients talk about how much more successful teams are “getting work done” at home, but what I don’t hear is the health of the company in a distributed environment fully. Technology still hasn’t fully been adopted in schooling from home that makes things better, just as in business. There is still miles to go to catch up.

Delivery of work

One definite challenge was the way that E was delivered his work. I think I called this out in the previous blog (maybe), but just for recap. Being a very regimented person, going from receiving work in “blocks or periods” every day he was thrust a week’s worth of work at the onset of the week and expected to “get it done.” This wasn’t anyone’s specific fault, but the paradigm shifted. He had not previously been expected to prioritize work, or to estimate appropriately, he was simply told what to do. Sound familiar? Yep. We can’t just expect our teams and organizations to go from being given tasks to self-organizing and self-managing overnight. That is where I stepped in and played a bit of product owner and a bit of coach. Asking questions like, “what do you think should go first?” and “are there things that you can do quickly that you understand so we can spend more time on the things that confuse you?” or “let’s talk to your teacher.” Unfortunately, many parents didn’t have the luxury of this and the education system failed to prepare teachers for this construct.

Teaching people to be remote, not just remotely teaching

This is one that I’ll preach from the hilltops – you can’t just teach remotely, you have to teach the students how to be remote. Tying in a bit with the above point – we went from in school to remote overnight. And the solution was archaic. There was no “teaching work from home habits” or “staying healthy in a schooling from home situation” or “this is how you manage your time” coursework. It was just here you go. The frustration was palpable. E was able to overcome but just barely. Honestly he hasn’t learned how to be self-sufficient in schooling, which is what was required. He hasn’t learned (yet) how to own his education. This is very similar to our co-workers and employees – they were told to be remote, but didn’t learn how to be remote. Many of us have had to make years of mistakes to become effective. This is why, when we put the finishing touches on our remote training, it was more than just taking our trainings virtual, but had to include elements of how to be remote throughout. This also meant not just bringing work-from-the-office concepts directly home, for example:

  1. Forget the 8-hour block work day. For students – use the day to your advantage. Go outside, have fun. Use the non-daylight to do your work. For professionals, I found that we started supporting internal and external clients across many time zones, meaning we could adjust our schedules to meet home needs and spread out the day or shift the day.
  2. You need to move. Take time throughout the day to move around. We garden and do outdoor projects on our land and taking an hour to do this during the day greatly helped us all focus during our “on our butt” times.
  3. Don’t schedule meetings back to back. For teachers and students, you can use your calendar to make sure you don’t go too much back to back. For professionals, put a 15 minute break in. This will let you get caught up or step away or give yourself an “eye break” from your screen.
  4. You don’t have to Zoom everything. While “face to face” communication is still best, sometimes you need a break. Don’t be afraid to set some boundaries and say, “I’m having a yucky t-shirt day” and just dial in.
  5. Change your constructs (location, clothing, etc.). While I know that some in urban settings will not have that much ability to move around, it doesn’t mean you can’t change your clothes. I always recommend that both students and professionals don’t work in pajamas. For E, we had to move him into the dining room and give him a laptop because he has a desktop PC in his bedroom. He needed to get out of there to be successful. You do too.

And now what?

Here we go again? While our school is opening for full in-person on September 8, there are concerns this might not last long. Other schools are virtual only just like many of our offices. Stay focused, but don’t be afraid to be human too. Be effective, which doesn’t always mean being the most efficient. And finally, let me know what you are doing to stay strong!

I hope this follow up was helpful! I’ll keep you all up to date on how things are going in fall of 2020!

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