An Open Letter to Participants When We Go In To Train

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Among the things needed in the Agile space are better training methods and a better way to use frameworks. This pertains to all organizations coming to Agile:  They are rightfully concerned about what the kind of Agile training they’ll get. They want improvements, not frameworks. At best, frameworks are a means to an end.

Recently, I wrote to such an organization with these concerns. It had a proposal for a small-scale adoption of Lean-Agile involving 3-10 teams with associated Product Owners.

Here is the letter I wrote.

First, those of you who are concerned about getting Agile training, I don’t blame you. Most “Agile” training isn’t about Agile really, but rather is about Scrum. These are two different things. I don’t believe in frameworks that force you to do things so that you’ll get better. I prefer providing insights to people that they can use to get better. You are already capable, knowledgeable people and you know your job much better than I. You probably already know a lot about Scrum and learning more about it may not have much value.

Here is a little bit about me. I have a background in development and architecture. I’ve written two technical books, Design Patterns Explained and Essential Skills for the Agile Developer. I believe you can only teach what you’ve done, and I’ve done a lot of development and product management. Although I have taught Scrum for 20 years and Kanban for over 10, it has always been in support of the real goal, improving the capabilities of the people being trained. I have no interest in teaching you frameworks or methods. My interest is to help you get your job done in a more effective and efficient manner. I also promise you won’t hear any dogma from me.

The training that I propose has four aspects.

  • How to identify the most important work to be done
  • How to provide that to the teams
  • How teams can break down targeted business increments into small stories in a way that clarifies the behavior that’s needed that is easier to implement
  • The light ceremonies needed to keep the teams coordinated

To be clear, the training I propose does not teach you “Agile” so you can figure out how to work better. It provides insights and patterns that you can use to do your work better. We won’t focus on stand-ups or retros. Instead, we focus on things such as how getting clarity on requirements helps inform design and why smaller is better.

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