Moving to Agile: Training

I haven’t really had the mental energy to write much about our transition to agile for the last month or two because I have been spending so much of that time period putting together and executing trainings. Even with as much enthusiasm as I have for this, it has been a draining several weeks.

The human urge to generate complexity when something seems too simple makes teaching simple things a weird chore. When I walk someone through the thought process behind answering a specific Scrum question, it’s often perceived as too simple—I get wary looks from the audience as if I’m trying to trick them. There is no trick, it’s really that simple.

I’ve been working on training folks to problem-solve in a very Scrum way rather than simply teaching a knowledge tree with steps to take—an effort that is dichotomous: when it’s working, it is as good a feeling as I’ve ever had; when it’s not, it is as much frustration as I can remember ever feeling. I think it’s mostly been the former, but I don’t know that right now, in the thick of it, is a good time for me to start trying to estimate how the percentage of ‘working’ versus ‘not working’ is stacking up.

The training sessions themselves went very well. Over the course of 3 weeks my co-trainer and I walked 300-400 people from three sites on two continents through a crash course on applying Scrum principles to our work flow. Travel, late nights, and tons of caffeine happened. We faced a unique challenge in addressing three discrete groups that brought with them three discrete points of view and several distinct challenges. Every time we felt that we had really dialed in the training, we were confronted with the next series of challenges and set to adapting our delivery to the new inputs.

Honestly, it was a great deal of fun.

At a high level, we sought to show the people we were training how to solve issues that come up by thinking critically about how different solutions enhance several criteria we deemed important to “Scrummyness.” By seeking to enhance communication amongst teammates about both the project and the delivery process, by improving the ability of teammates to collaborate on features and tasks, and by increasing transparency of knowledge and statuses, the right solution typically becomes clear. Whenever that doesn’t work, I just make something up.

So far, the training sessions have seemed successful. We recorded several of them, and I am hoping to chop up some of the best parts to make one “refresher” training that can be streamed. We are also putting together a managed FAQ, some helpful documents, and a team of coaches to whom project planners can reach out.

In a future post, I want to walk through an anonymized version of one of our projects to discuss some of the decisions that have been made along the way. I’m sure that’s where the Scrum purists will tell me we’re doing it wrong—maybe that’s the point?!