Learn into It! – A Key Aspect of the Agile Mindset

For the past year and half, I have been coaching a very large company through its agile transformation. When I first started, I noticed that a particular expression was frequently used by several different people. The expression is “learn into it.”

I like this expression so much that I have adopted it as part of my core vocabulary. I think this phrase succinctly and naturally captures a key aspect of the core agile mindset (i.e., Inspection and Adaptation). We try something, we inspect the results, and then we adapt based on what we learn. In effect, when presented with an uncertain situation, we learn into it.

Here are some examples of where I have heard this phase being used.

We just created a new model for how we will engage with the Controls group. We think it's a good starting place, and we will learn into it.

Am I sure this is the best way for us to include UAT? No, but we can start here and learn into it.

We want to replace a 5-year NPV with a different approach to valuing work items. Our plan is to try a proposed replacement model and learn into it quickly.

And, recently, I have been delivering a presentation at User Group Meetups around the world entitled “Agile Transition Lessons that Address Practical Questions.” One of the first slides in that presentation contrasts the traditional approach to transition management to an agile approach. (To be clear, the agile approach means using “an agile mindset” to transition to agile.) I described this concept in Chapter 23 of Essential Scrum.

In the traditional approach (much like classic waterfall) companies try to determine exactly where they want to end up at the completion of their agile transition and then attempt to put into place a plan for how to get there. Using the agile approach to guide a company’s journey to agile, we don’t believe we can pre-determine the end state of the agile journey or how best to execute the journey. Instead we determine a good direction to head and we learn into it.

In other words, we start down a path, get fast feedback (we learn), and based on that feedback we can either change the path that we are on or how we are progressing down that path. So, I would suggest that if you are currently involved or are planning to be involved in a large-scale agile transformation, you should consider “learn into it” as the foundation for how to approach things.

I have made “learn into it,” a key part of my agile vocabulary. I suggest you give it a try. Let me know if you find it useful!