Agile Education

Is your school agile?  Education administrators may not have a comfortable answer.  Let’s think about their process.  Up to 16 or more years after development starts, educators turn out a product that is supposed to be functional.  Throughout that development period, the needs and demands for full functionality are changing — but education processes are oblivious. Its time that education became more agile.  If students are going to function at their best upon graduation, education should take some lessons from software development and move away from the archaic development processes of the past.

The Agile Manifesto Principles are:

  1. Customer satisfaction by early and continuous delivery of valuable software
  2. Welcome changing requirements, even in late development
  3. Working software is delivered frequently (weeks rather than months)
  4. Close, daily cooperation between business people and developers
  5. Projects are built around motivated individuals, who should be trusted
  6. Face-to-face conversation is the best form of communication (co-location)
  7. Working software is the principal measure of progress
  8. Sustainable development, able to maintain a constant pace
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design
  10. Simplicity—the art of maximizing the amount of work done—is essential
  11. Best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams
  12. Regularly, the team reflects on how to become more effective, and adjusts accordingly

Perkins Career and Technical Education Program

The Perkins Career and Technical Education Program is a $1.3 billion dollar federal program that funds secondary and postsecondary career and technical education in the United States.  Funded activities provide individuals with the academic and technical knowledge and skills the individuals need to prepare for careers in current or emerging employment sectors.  The Perkins program was last reauthorized in 2006 and statutory language can be found here.

Since 2006, the gap between the skills needed for employment and those taught in most schools has grown.  As a result, graduates find that they are missing skills required for many jobs.

Due to the need to improve career and college readiness, reforms to the Perkins CTE program are under consideration that will:

  • align curriculum with the skills needed by employers
  • improve integration of the secondary and postsecondary education
  • incent innovative teaching approaches such as experiential learning.

Click here for a blog entry that goes a bit deeper on the current statute and amendment language that would better align the program with existing jobs.

Knowledge based competition rising due to innovative HR practices

A recent workshop at the National Academies of Science showcased a series of interesting charts on global advance of HR innovations and the consequences for knowledge based competition. Titled “Policy Framework for Knowledge-Based Capital”, the workshop assembled academics and policymakers in Washington DC to examine knowledge based competion.

The charts by Kathryn L. Shaw from the Stanford Graduate School of Business School caught my attention.

Professor Shaw discussed “HR shocks” such as incentive pay, training, and teamwork, and the advance in adoption across the globe. The innovative practices critical to a knowledge based economy were “hr shocks” similar, and sometimes closely linked to “technology shocks”.

HR shocks

Other research has found that adoption of the innovative HR practices is advancing at different rates across the globe. The countries that are in the forefront, for example in incumbent workforce training, will build up a significant advantage.  Thomas Bauer compared the major European economies adoption of team-oriented decision making, increased availability of employee training, and incentive pay and found dramatic variation.

From Thomas Bauer, High Performance Workplace Practices

From Thomas Bauer, High Performance Workplace Practices

With each innovative HR practice adopted, additional incentives for knowlege based capital are put in place from the obvious (training) to the more subtle (careful hiring).  Employers that have adopted the practices have created strong incentives for workers that are educated, maintain their skills through training and information sharing, and develop sophisticated soft skills (such as teamwork) to use their knowledge in complex engagements.  Workers in slow-adopting economies have fewer incentives to maintain or improve their skills and will fall behind in global competition.