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Upskilling: What Is A Learning Sprint?

Source | | Rafael Knuth

Why do we need Learning Sprints?
Virtually every company is under pressure to transform their business in order to sustain in the future. As part of these efforts, they are hiring data scientists and engineers, data analysts, and they are making huge investments into cloud, big data technologies and AI, amongst others. Virtually all employees need to unlearn what they have assumed to be true for decades, and they have to acquire new skills. Time and money are the big constraints for any upskilling initiative.

That’s where Learning Sprints come into play as an innovative way to upskill employees.

What is a Sprint? Agile? Learning?
Before we dive into the details, let’s deconstruct the term Learning Sprint into its basic components.

What is a sprint? It’s a short, fast run with a clearly defined start and an endpoint. We want to get as quickly as possible from A to B. For example, we sprint as pedestrians when crossing a heavily trafficked road or when competing for a medal as professional runners. We never sprint around aimlessly, that’s called jogging.

The term spirit is being used metaphorically in various ways. As an example, the agile community defines a sprint as follows: “Sprint is one timeboxed iteration of a continuous development cycle. Within a Sprint, a planned amount of work has to be completed by the team and made ready for review.”

“What is agile?” someone might ask. Here’s a definition by software company  Atlanssian: “Agile is an iterative approach to project management and software development that helps teams deliver value to their customers faster and with fewer headaches. Requirements, plans, and results are evaluated continuously so teams have a natural mechanism for responding to change quickly.”

Last but not least: “What is learning?”. Here’s what Wikipedia says: “Learning is the process of acquiring new, or modifying existing, knowledge, behaviors, skills, values, or preferences.”

Now that we have outlined a rudimentary definition of “sprint”, “agile” and “learning”, you might conclude: “Aren’t we stating the obvious here?” The answer is: “Yes, we are!” However, we cannot assume that everyone is on the exact same page. Corporate history is full of grandiose failures which all start with the lack of common understanding of the most basic terminology and its meaning.

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