Agile Training, Revisited

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”
– attributed to Heraclitus

What happens when we come back to Agile training?

As part of our commitment to being an Agile organization and supporting the growth of our people, in 2016 we held 2-day training events for our team members. The training was CSM (Certified ScrumMaster) specific – but we felt it would be valuable for everyone, not just those people whose role included Scrum Master. We achieved almost 100% – as in, almost everyone in the company attended, and almost all of those took and passed the CSM. More importantly, with senior management and business leaders attending alongside engineers, the training created conversations and shared understanding that helped us make significant strides in our ability to succeed and deliver value using agile mindset and principles.

Two years later, a lot has changed. Our business has shifted. One of our product lines has enough teams on it that we have crossed the scaling threshold, where cross-team coordination becomes more and more important. We’ve become a small part of a much larger company, but still have our own business, culture, and identity. A few people have moved on. We’ve grown and hired many more people… only a few of which have had prior agile experience.

In that context we set up a new round of agile training: a 2-day workshop for engineers who either missed the last training or have joined the company since that time. We worked with an experienced Agilist and trainer (Barry Schwartze) from one of our sister companies to design the training, and I attended as co-facilitator and link to our company’s context. We were not specifically going for CSM this time, but for learning that would help baseline team members with shared context and knowledge.

So, what happened…?

Experience, Conversation, and Energy

Our workshop attendees in this round had been with the company – and already working on our agile teams – for periods spanning one week up to two years (not counting the one senior team member who missed the prior trainings.) The experiential exercises coupled with underlying motivations (the “why” of Agile) created new understanding and enabled team members to link “what” is happening on their teams with the underlying purposes. Much questioning and conversation occurred as participants connected the training material (and Barry’s experience across multiple companies) with what was happening on their teams. With a clearer vision of what “better” could look like, many participants left with both ideas for improvement on their teams as well as the energy to pursue that improvement with their teams. Seeing the energy coming out of the workshop, I let our Product Owners and Scrum Masters know to expect and welcome this potential for new improvements.

For my own part, I’m eager and excited to see how this will play out across the teams. So far I am seeing team members lobby for improvements, and several team members have stepped forward with an interest in serving as Scrum Masters. In the future, I expect to look back at this round of training as a catalyst that pushed us further in our ability to succeed and deliver value.

Originally published July 12th, 2018 on the Innovative Software Engineering blog. Republished with permission.