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 and security controls.
The criteria to become a Rapid Learning Cycles Certified® Solution are that they:
- Are built on a commercially-available platform that has demonstrated scalability and security.
- Have availability of support for the tool itself and the corresponding solutions built for Rapid Learning Cycles.
- Can fully support the major elements of the Rapid Learning Cycles framework.
- Enhance the experience and improve outcomes for teams that are using them.
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, some of which we are exploring. Not all of them have demonstrated the level of performance required to become a Rapid Learning Cycles Certified® Solution. Some tools would need further development before we would recommend them to our community, while others are fundamentally incompatible.
Virtual Planners for Rapid Learning Cycles
These tools support virtual Learning Cycles Plans, Key Decision Flows, Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps by providing:
- Support for critical metadata about each Key Decision and Knowledge Gap.
- Links to Key Decision and Knowledge Gap reports to support Learning Cycle and Integration Events.
- A visual view of the Learning Cycles Plan that clearly shows where Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps appear on the plans.
- The ability to create dependency relationships among Key Decisions, Knowledge Gaps, Major Deliverables and Milestones (such as gate reviews) — and the ability to show or hide those relationships as needed.
- Reporting to support metrics that help organizations assess the health of their Rapid Learning Cycles programs.
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:
- Team Boards for use inside the Learning Cycle to show progress towards closing Knowledge Gaps.
- Team Knowledge Libraries that can form the basis of an Organizational Knowledge Library, leveraging the ability to link Jira and Confluence together.
- The ability to add on functionality to manage resources across a portfolio of programs.
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 — get up to speed quickly — leveraging David’s pre-configured solution, training and support.
When your Project Knowledge Library is correctly configured, as provided by David’s solution, it is much easier to layer in the Organization Knowledge Library. Support for Rapid Learning Cycles best practices and extensible knowledge capture are built into this configuration.
Platforms Under Investigation
We have service providers 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 so we can 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!
Platforms for Pilot Teams Only
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.
There are some simple tools to run a single program for a moderately-sized team:
- Microsoft Planner
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.
Platforms That Are Not Recommended
These platforms lead teams down paths that may seem intuitive but actually lead them in the wrong direction:
- Microsoft Project
- Enterprise Project Planning tools
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 – I can save you hours of pain with a complimentary 15-minute phone consult!
Agile Tools that Enforce a Specific Agile Method
Some tools developed to support Agile Software Development are simply not capable of being adapted for Rapid Learning Cycles. You will know you’ve encountered one of these if:
- Key Decisions and Knowledge Gaps must be force-fit into Agile constructs, such as Epics and User Stories, and they cannot be renamed.
- You cannot change how the tool supports Daily Scrums to accommodate Status Events that occur less frequently.
- The tool enforces a format for User Stories or durations for estimating task length that are inappropriate for tangible product development.
- A format for “Sprint Planning” is enforced that does not allow for pre-planning of Knowledge Gaps and Key Decisions into Learning Cycles and Integration Events.
- The tool does not allow Integration Events to be represented properly in the Learning Cycles Plan, so Key Decisions end up mixed in with Knowledge Gaps.
- The tool enforces the use of a “Kanban” style Board for everything and does not allow the use of time-based visual planning.