While Agility was originally based in software and application development, it is beginning to find its way out in many different directions including higher education. One of the primary examples has been SUNY Delhi who in applying agility to its IT practices can document $425,000 in cost savings to 30 projects that used an agile methodology--the CIO who designed the system is an ESC graduate student. (Educause 2010). In an Educause statement on agility, they note: “Universities need tools to be able to respond quickly to emerging needs and challenges. In this environment, agile may be precisely the kind of approach that is needed to unlock the solutions that will lead to progress—faster, with more flexibility, with improved collaboration, and at less cost. One can also argue that the agile ethos is well matched for a world in which change is a constant and the pace of change seems to be accelerating. Agile's principles and processes may well be suited for this era of higher education, in which institutions are being asked to do more, faster, with less.” (2010)
The agile ethos, as the name applies, also places a great value on speed—an ideal which higher education seems averse to. There is a belief that slow equals quality.
In a similar vein, Anderson, Augustine, Avery, Cockburn, Cohn, DeCarlo, Fitzgerald, Highsmith, Jepsen, Lindstrom, Little, McDonald, Pixton, Smith, and Wysocki (2005) published a text called “The Declaration of Independence” in which they as project leaders claim that agility provided many benefits which could also benefit higher education, and their applications reach to post-secondary as well. They claim that agility leads to a constant stream of value; when too much emphasis is placed on the planning stage, value is lost at that front end. Second, agility delivers reliable results because the customers, in higher education's case, students and other stake-holders, are engaged in frequent interactions. If a new degree program spends two years being planned and approved, delaying the offering, students have no opportunity to have feedback; nor do faculty have the opportunity to better their courses or continue in their own lifelong learning through interaction with their students. Third, those who subscribe to agility expect uncertainty and are prepared to make the necessary changes. As the half-life of knowledge continues to accelerate downward and the world in which our students live continues to change, all programs and courses of study need to be able to evolve. Likewise, we as an institution also exist in a budgetary, regulatory, and economic environment in constant flux. As a result, an institution must be agile not only for itself but to benefit its students. Fourth, Anderson, et al., note: “We unleash creativity and innovation by recognizing that individuals are the ultimate source of value, and creating an environment where they can make a difference.” An agile graduate school supports its faculty in their endeavors and allows them the flexibility to better meet the needs of their students and to develop their own academic careers. Fifth, performance is boosted through group accountability; an agile organization quickly establishes teams and think tanks to complete tasks and to conceive new ones. It shuns committees as committees are designed to maintain a status quo (Clougherty 2007); in a rapidly changing world, status quo and change are no longer binary antitheses; the reply to such a statement need be “which status quo?” Finally, they argue that agility improves effectiveness and reliability. because each action can be adapted to meet specific needs and requires specific strategies and practices; more effective work can be done than an environment that assumes all should be followed equally.
In an environment which is open and agile work environment, all individuals have not only the right it participate, but the responsibility to. Julie Greenwald, Chairwoman and Chief Operating Officer of the Atlantic Records Group noted in an interview with the New York Times: “ I constantly talk about how we have to be vulnerable, and that it's not fair for some people in meetings to just sit or stand along he wall and not participate. If you're not going to participate, then that means you're just sponging off the rest of us” (Bryant 2011).
As an open university is decentralized into what John Kao calls a “decentralized cyber-nervous system” (node theory?) it depends on each node being active and participatory. Like the synapses of the brain, the strength of the brain/network comes not from the connections, but from their use. Thus, active participation of all is required.
This activity, however, must also generate results. Dave Rodenbaugh (2010) summarizes Daniel Pink’s 2009 TED presentation when he notes that the “results-oriented work environment (ROWE)…focuses on three important ideas, which developers already love and embrace: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.” (apply Wergin) In defining mastery, Rodenbaugh defines it as where the individual “wants to get better at what they do.”