Agile as Amplification: A Process for Campus-Wide Collaboration and Transparency

Concurrent Session 5

Brief Abstract

Our team at MSU has created an agile-centric process for the purpose of facilitating academic projects in more inclusive and visible ways to campus stakeholders, and collaborators. The purpose of this conversation is to share what we’ve done, hear about how you work, and discuss ideas for iteration and dissemination.


Dr. Jessica Knott is Assistant Vice President of Community Strategy, Experience, and Management. In this role, Jessica manages outreach activities and strategies, including environmental scanning, experience design, communications and planning, based on a deep understanding of our community and member interests. Prior to the OLC, Jessica led a team that supported faculty and academic staff in creating quality, caring and exemplary digital experiences at Michigan State University.

Extended Abstract

The advent of the Michigan State University Hub for Innovation in Learning and Technology generated some interesting challenges to our campus infrastructure, and very quickly “broke” some long standing workflows and processes. For the past year, the teams at the MSU Hub and MSU Information Technology worked to generate a process (with tools that we will share with anyone who is interested) that is more inclusive, transparent, and agile. From more purposely including students in projects and leadership, to developing a weekly rhythm for our workflow that allows time for creativity and public intellectual pursuits, to creating transparent, visible task boards and project intake and feedback processes.

In the past year, we realized that:

  1. We needed to work together more effectively and efficiently, as well as build a shared culture of transparency within the team

  2. We had to mobilize (and be mobilized by) campus stakeholders more effectively, building a culture of efficiency, transparency, shared ownership, shared vision

  3. We needed a culture that embraced failure and facilitated conversation

  4. Existing campus processes needed to be re-thought and re-configured, which required building new culture and process that worked with different goals and focus, but worked with existing reporting requirements and channels.

The foundations of the process we developed are:

Weekly rhythms are defined by the following block of times: scrum, standing meeting, project time, admin time, be available time and creative and public intellectual time.  This defined rhythm allows for flexibility, as well as purposeful and intentional team collaboration, interaction, and voice.

The many piees of the process are divided into four concrete steps: Think, Propose, Plan, Do and Reflect

Here, the team and individuals generate ideas via conversations with campus partners, facilitate brainstorming sessions, participate in co-working sessions and utilize the design thinking process to help departments, students, and faculty communicate what their needs are, while quickly designing solutions and iteration plans.  In this step, we work with our partners and each other to prepare draft charters pitch ideas to the team.  Tools included in this step are: a charter template, focus document, and evaluation template.

Pitch meetings are scheduled once a month.  For proposals that have time sensitivity, Admin time or the Be Available time are being used.  Each proposals have five min to present the idea, and 10 min for the hub team to ask questions.  Feedbacks are due within 24 hours.  The leadership use the feedback data to come to a decision for the next step of the proposal (accept, refine or redirect/reject).  This emphasize the pitch meeting as a part of an iterative process to focus, align and strengthen the ideas and innovation as a strategic project for the university. Tools included here are: the charter template, a pitch template, and a pitch feedback form.

Project charter defines project objectives, deliverables, milestones and require resources.  Sprint planning template help breaking down the tasks.  Physical project board help coordinate and inform the progress of the projects, it also allow team members and guest to contribute ideas or help solve big challenges.  Tools included here are: the charter template, the sprint planning document, and a project board template.

Work sprints are defined by each project team in order to break the project into manageable segments and deliverables.  Each sprint also helps further iterate, focus and inform the direction and objectives of the project.  Weekly scrum meetings help provide further planning, updates and needs.  During the weekly standing meeting, each project team has two meetings to update the status of the project: a weekly planning  meeting and the weekly standup sharing meeting.  The tools included here are: the project board template, the sprint planning template, the task card template.

The reflection step occurs at both individual and team levels. Retrospective meetings are held with stakeholders and team members, the evaluation template is revisited and the data gathered is discussed (and data reviewed if already gathered), and future iterations are discussed on an as-needed basis.  The team and the individuals that comprise it prepare the project closeout report and any outward, campus and field-facing storytelling or information sharing.  Tools included here are: a retrospective meeting facilitation template, an evaluation template, a project closeout report template.


As a part of this presentation, we will also make our tools available to anyone who would like to have them, as well as ask seek feedback and sharing in regard to future process iterations and research and measurement opportunities. We've shared the very basics of our process, and would like to involve you in the conversation:

  1. How does your institution engage campus stakeholders on innovative and strategic academic projects?

  2. What values contribute to your team culture? How do you make those values visible to your team and others?

  3. How does your team work together with others to ensure transparency throughout the organization? What processes are in place that facilitate that transparency?

  4. What are some of the challenges you are facing in collaboration with project partners?