How early can we start developing an Agile mindset?
The Montessori education developed by Italian physician and educator Maria Montessori. It is a child-centered educational approach based on scientific observations of children.
The Montessori method views the child as one who is naturally eager for knowledge and capable of initiating learning in a supportive, thoughtfully prepared learning environment. It suggests that children should be provided with an environment which would help them develop naturally, by all means: physically, socially, emotionally and cognitively.
In 7 Tech Innovators Who Became Wildly Successful After Going To Montessori School article by business insider, it implies that there might be a correlation between Montessori education and innovation.
Agile mindset, among other things, focuses on motivated individuals, the right environment and self-managed teams to get the job done.
Being an agile coach and having my son study in a Montessori school, I am fascinated daily by the resemblance between these wonderful approaches.
In agile, leaders provide environments where team members have the freedom (as well as the responsibility) and the tools to pursue answers to their own questions.
The environment is built to support the needs of the team and not vice versa. “When a flower doesn’t bloom, you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower”, said Alexander Den Heijer
Mostly the Montessori education start at kindergarten at age of three. Some institutes offer Montessori for ages zero to three as well. The classrooms are prepared in advance based on observations of the students’ individual needs. They include student-centered lessons and activities.
In agile leaders trust the R&D team to take as much time as needed to get the job done.
In the Montessori classroom, from the age of three children work on lessons as needed. In both cultures interruptions are avoided whenever possible.
The Scrum Master guides and coaches R&D team, PO and others to succeed in Scrum. Mid-level and upper management mentor individuals and teams and provide them with the environment they need to get the job done.
The Montessori teacher role is to create the right environment for the children to learn. Montessori education starts at the age of three. From the 1st day on, The teacher helps the children acquire new skills and layout the boundaries for learning. Every child in one’s own pace, acquire different skill up to a point when there one can manage own schedule and time by oneself. Most children reach that stage between age ten and eleven. In any subject a child reaches that level, the teacher is there to observe and tune and adjust where needed.
Every R&D team has its own velocity. The team’s velocity and development forecast are honored.
From day one, the individual child’s work pace is honored and encouraged in the Montessori classroom.
Self-esteem and Pride
One of the agile principles is to “build projects around motivated individuals. When “trusting them to get the job done”, Individuals take pride in their work and products become work of art.
Montessorians understand that the child’s self-esteem comes from an internal sense of pride in his or her own accomplishments. One of the main focuses of Montessori education is child's’ self esteem and confidence. Therefore, Montessori education encourages childs to value their own doing and work.
Collaboration and Teamwork
Agile encourages breaking down product backlog items and having multiple team members working on one backlog item at a time.
Montessori not only encourages collaboration, furthermore it is known to defuse negative competitiveness. Starting as early as the age of three, children are encouraged to work together and provide feedback to one another. At the age of six, the children's social horizons start opening up and keep expanding until the age of 12. Then teamwork is elementary.
Learning & Curiosity
When individuals own their work, they develop deeper knowledge and higher order thinking.
Montessori lessons are hands-on and active. Students discover information for themselves. Furthermore, to drive children to conduct their own research, teachers may pretend not to have all the answers.
Montessorians understand that internal satisfaction drives the child’s curiosity and interest and results in joyous learning that is sustainable over a lifetime. Therefore, children have the freedom to advance in the subject of their interest from early age and on. Furthermore, they are encouraged to explore subjects beyond the class curriculum.
Self-Management / Freedom within limits
Working within limits set by management, the team is independent to decide upon tools, architecture, implementation etc. The leaders are there to guide and nurture.
Working within parameters set by their teachers, at the age of three students are active participants in deciding what their focus of learning will be. “[Personal] development is a process of change, a process of becoming, from a new born baby up to becoming an adult in the full sense.” - Mario Montessori
Agile development focuses of continuous feedback. Software is released in small increments while each individual increment is tested throughout the development and before it is complete.
Montessori Education regularly checks students progress. Work is being done throughout the day, while students get feedback from teachers. Between ages six and twelve, children are in a process of being aware of their fellow students and their feelings. Then, between ages nine and twelve, they are encouraged to give feedback to their fellow students.
Tune and Adjust
Agile is a learning framework. The retrospective is embedded within the Scrum framework. The team asks themselves what they can do better.
Maria Montessori based her work on her observations of children and experimentation with the environment, materials, and lessons available to them. Although might not specifically stated in the Montessori education, observing the processes in my son’s school, I can point out that the staff experiments new ways and the school keeps improving as days go by.
There are quite a few similarities between Montessori Education and being agile. Probably, looking deeper into both, we would be able to identify some more. Given those similarities, Montessori might be just the right education to grow Agile leaders starting as early as possible. As Dr. Maria Montessori describes children absorbs and learns the most in their first 3 years : ”I bow to the child of three that has already learned more than he will learn his all life because in the age of three he is already an old man."
As children grow up, the Montessori education guides the to acquire new skills and build up their own confidence. When reaching junior high, children already master the skills they acquired. They are guided by leaders.