Rapid Learning Cycles Certified® Solutions are tool templates and configurations that have been proven to help teams manage the flow of Key Decisions, Knowledge Gaps and other types of information and activities in a Rapid Learning Cycles program.
They are built on industry-leading commercial platforms that provide remote access, security and access control.
The criteria to become a Rapid Learning Cycles Certified® Solution are:
To assess the solutions against the criteria, we require the solutions developer to have implemented the solution for at least one — and ideally several — clients who are willing to grant us access to the system and get their feedback on how effective the tool supported the team.
There are many other tools in use to support Rapid Learning Cycles. We are exploring some of them. Not all of them have demonstrated the level of performance required to become a Certified Solution that we recommend to our community — sometimes because further development is needed and sometimes because the tool itself is fundamentally incompatible.
Cardsmith is our recommended solution for running Virtual Kickoff Events. We chose this cloud-based tool after an in-depth investigation because it was built from the ground up to replicate sticky note brainstorming in a virtual environment. It's fast, easy to use and easy to learn.
Because it's simple, it fades into the background so that your event participants can focus on the content of their work instead of the process or the tool. Because it doesn't contain anything extra, participants don't have to struggle with a cluttered interface. Yet it allows teams to do everything they need to do in a smooth flow from one view to another.
Unlike whiteboard tools which have a steep learning curve to use well, I can show someone how to do everything they need to do in Cardsmith in under five minutes, even if it's the first time they've used it.
As the Rapid Learning Cycles Certified® Solution for Virtual Kickoff Events, Cardsmith has generously agreed to offer our community an extended 90 day trial of the system. Just set up your trial, then reach out to them and mention you found them here.
These tools support virtual Learning Cycles Plans, Key Decision Flows, Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps:
David Stokes of Technology Systems has developed a comprehensive configuration to meet the requirements of Rapid Learning Cycles in the Atlassian platform (Confluence® and Jira®). In addition to the features above, his solution includes:
David says, "The Atlassian toolset is tricky because there are several different ways to set up the elements of Rapid Learning Cycles. But in our experience only one of those is a choice you'll be happy with after the team has been running for several Learning Cycles."
You could try to configure Jira and Confluence yourself, get your busy IT staff to do it, or you can leverage David's pre-configured solution, training and support to get up to speed quickly.
This is another solution from David Stokes. When your Project Knowledge LIbrary is correctly configured, it is much easier to layer in the Organization Knowledge LIbrary when your team is ready.
We have groups actively investigating solutions for these platforms:
In general, tools that are built to support Agile Software Development may be able to fit a Rapid Learning Cycles program — if they are flexible enough to support both Key Decisions / Integration Events and Learning Cycles / Knowledge Gaps without requiring teams to use Agile language where Rapid Learning Cycles language is important.
If you are investigating a tool not on this list, please contact us to let us know and we will add it here.
in all cases, we do not recommend setting up Key Decisions as "Epics" and Knowledge Gaps as "User Stories" - this language does not accurately reflect the fact that one Knowledge Gap can support more than one Key Decision, sometimes for more than one team!
If you are the first team using Rapid Learning Cycles and you don't already have SmartSheets or Jira, you don't have to start there.
You can use some simple tools to run a single program for a moderately-sized team:
David Stokes has been kind enough to put together a guide for configuring Planner and Trello, with a template for running a program with Excel.
These tools begin to break down as your company moves towards full adoption of Rapid Learning Cycles, and needs to think about how to manage resources and track metrics across programs. Once you're convinced that Rapid Learning Cycles will be used on multiple teams, it's time to start thinking bigger.
These platforms lead teams down paths that may seem intuitive but actually lead them in the wrong direction.
These tools enforce a Work Breakdown Structure and Gantt Chart mindset that is fine for programs with High Cost of Change — and Low Uncertainty. If your program is like that, you don't need Rapid Learning Cycles.
These traditional tools break down in environments of High Uncertainty because they assume that the plan is much more stable than a Rapid Learning Cycles plan will be.
If you must integrate with an Enterprise Project Planning tool for resource management, consider putting the Key Decision Flow into this tool, but leaving the Learning Cycles Plan and Activity Plans out of it. If you need help with this, please contact me - a 15 minute phone call can save you hours of pain! I never charge for something like this.
Some tools developed to support Agile Software Development are simply not capable of being adapted for Rapid Learning Cycles. You'll know you've encountered one of these if:
These tools have a steep learning curve and a cluttered interface. While their layouts may look more attractive and their boards may have more layout options, these features are not necessary for running a successful Virtual Kickoff Event.
They remind me of the many Smart Whiteboards I saw in conference rooms that are unused -- often unplugged -- because no one knows how to use them, and no one has time to learn.
So unless your team is already comfortable with these tools because they use them frequently, you're better off with Cardsmith. Teams don't have the mental bandwidth to master a new tool while they also grapple with Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps.