Capture Blog

The Birth of Agile Enrollment, Part 2: Not Everything Can Be Known From the Start

(Be sure to read The Birth of Agile Enrollment, Part 1, which outlined the traditional summer waterfall strategy for enrollment management. The following discusses a new, more agile approach.)

In 2001, seventeen software developers met at the Snowbird Resort in Utah and went Jerry Maguire on their own industry. Their collection of 12 principles became known as the Agile Manifesto. Central to these tenets was a rejection of the chasm between plan and feedback. Get to the learning already. The group emphasized cross-functional and nimble teams, working in rapid cycles of assessment, planning, implementation and evaluation of work.

Instead of a process that sought to minimize changes in project requirements through exhaustive, front-loaded research, agile development embraced, no, required shifting requirements as learning unfolded. In short, agile methods seek to bend the learning curve, and shorten the feedback loop to feed adaptation, and ultimately, get teams moving.

A key tool in the agile tool belt is the daily scrum. To maintain flexibility and facilitate teamwork, a scrum (think rugby scrum here) is a brief (which is key) daily gathering of team members to reset priorities, focus team members on what is to be worked on that day, and clarify roles for everyone.

Typically there is a scrum master (I know right?) who is responsible for removing obstacles that might get in the way of delivering on the team’s priorities. These daily reaffirmations of the work are a part of short sprints (e.g., 30 days at a time) that focus on starting and finishing an iteration toward a certain goal. From there, the process starts again: assess, plan, implement and evaluate. Repeat.

This agile approach to work and innovation is a staple of work at Capture Higher Ed and after 14 years of campus-based work, it has been a revelation to me.

Try Something — Then Iterate

I am ever awestruck by the pace of change on a college campus and I know I am not alone. You know, “If Armageddon ever befalls our world, just visit your local college campus because everything happens there 10 years after everywhere else.” That whole thing.

But of course, that’s only partially true. The laggard nature of higher ed is selectively applied. Many parts of campus live on the edge of impossibility, pushing outward the boundaries of what is real and known — in research, advocacy and human learning. The innovative dawdle is reserved for those organizational elements of the academy responsible for the management and survival of the whole outfit. That’s all.

Many of the challenges faced by higher education are external and their menace is well publicized. However, many challenges faced by our field are visited upon us in a Trojan horse of “best practices” we readily welcome through our gates.

Universalism in enrollment management strategy has not moved us any closer to a healthy higher education system.

In a recent interview on The WeightList Podcast Eric Maguire at Franklin & Marshall College noted, “There is so much diversity of institutional mission and type across higher education, that to suggest that one best practice exists for all institutions, I can’t believe that’s true.”

Maguire is among a growing cadre of EM practitioners seeking a new path forward for our profession.

Our team at Capture will try and do our part. Everyday we’re working on an enrollment management approach that utilizes rapid iteration and innovation cycles to prototype and test strategies that best achieve clearly defined institutional goals. We don’t have it all figured out, of course not, and that’s the point. We define the vision, we prototype, we try new things, we measure, we succeed and fail, we learn, we improve.

So must we all.

By Thom Golden, Ph.D., Vice President of Data Science, Capture Higher Ed

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