Off the top of my head, I can name 5 values that make up the secret sauce for agility: innovationtransparencycreativitydiversity, and collaboration.

I’d love to hear where you begin a culture transformation in the comments! I start with transparency. I’ve found that transparency around my grading process can be very effective for driving out fear and kick-starting an Agile culture in my classroom.

Here’s a story about how W. Edwards Deming changed my grading policy as an educator.

Last summer, I was reading up on W. Edwards Deming. Several mentors had recommended I check him out. So, one morning I finally took the plunge and hit play on a random Youtube playlist explaining Deming’s 14 Key Principles for Management.

When the playlist hit #8, I remember my jaw dropping as I frantically searched for my Xbox remote. I definitely recall feeling paralyzed by multiple impulses.

💥Oh shoot, where’s my notebook? I need to write this down!

💥There’s no way I heard that right, I should pause and rewind for better context.

💥I need to text my mentor right now. Cause #8 has got to be impossible!

💥Maybe I should wait and finish the video, hold off on hitting pause.

W. Edwards Deming’s 8th Key Principal is… are you sitting down?

Drive Out Fear.

I remember thinking, what does he think we are, Shamans?


Since when does leading require a magic wand that heals and drives out fear?!

When I returned to school in the Fall, I brought up Deming with one of my colleagues who knew his work well. Dr. Gant told me that what Deming really meant was “Drive out fear of failure”.

Since this Fall, I’ve been working hard to drive out fear of failure in my classroom by cultivating a culture of safety and trust. And most revolutionary of all, eliminating the dreaded ZERO as a placeholder for missing work!

Instead of typical grades, my students track their own work. They work in teams to estimate the difficulty of learning tasks with the Fibonacci Sequence using a game we call Planning Poker. Then, students track their own progress as teams using a visual data tracking technique borrowed from Scrum called a Burn-Down Chart.

Check out my classes’ Burn-Down Charts in the photo below. Next time, I’ll tell you how I eliminate fear of failure with my assessment strategies!

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