Why I Believe My Advanced SM/Kanban On-the-job Online workshop is my biggest contribution to Agile

Given I’ve written 5 books, delivered 100s of courses/talks/ webinars, influenced Scrum, Kanban & SAFe, that’s a big statement. I think it’s true because I hope its introduction of proven methods of training/coaching developed at Harvard will prompt the Agile industry to improve current methods which I believe are outdated and one of the biggest impediments to the widespread adoption of effective Agile.

Consider:
• Common training formats are ineffective and expensive. Intensive 2-4 day workshops have been shown to be the least effective method of conveying skills. These also incur the cost of lost days and possibly travel to take. Flipped classroom methods are both more effective and much less costly to deliver and incorporate follow up coaching
• Content. Being effective requires both Scrum and Kanban. Each are selective views of Lean, which is now recognized as a critical component of Agile beyond a team.
• Lack of a support system. There are patterns of challenge and solution which should be provided to students so they get assistance in solving problems on their own

Bottom line – this method can increase the effectiveness and content of a course while dramatically reducing real cost

You can learn more about this course here.  Take the overview box (mostly black) for a 28 minute overview of the class that explains both content and format.

An Open Letter to Participants When We Go In To Train

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. Continue reading “An Open Letter to Participants When We Go In To Train”

What The Software Industry Needs the Most

What The Software Industry Needs the Most

For almost 50 years I’ve seen the software industry continuously expand. This has had the demand for qualified people outstrip the supply. It greatly expanded with the PC in the early 80s. 15 yrs ago it was regarding Agile & now it’s regarding Agile@scale. This will continue.

How can we bring this under control? Throughout this time there has been one constant–attempting to solve it with in classroom training and coaching. This has never been cost-effective, being both expensive and ineffective (little is retained from training that doesn’t have people actually do real work). More recently the industry has gotten so enamored w/frameworks that most training is in frameworks & not in what to actually do.

The solution? Actually simple.

Provide training via scaled learning methods on what people actually do and in an on-the-job manner. A self-directed support system with remote support should also be provided, greatly reducing the need for expensive onsite coaching. The improvement in cost per learning can be dramatic:

  • 2x  material delivered via better training methods
  • 40% lower delivery cost with better training methods
  • 10x better retention

This literally improves ROI by up to 50x. I know this sounds dramatic–it is. It’s also possible.

If You’re Looking to Improve Your Coaching Skills Our Advanced Scrum Master / Kanban Online Program Is Your Best Bet

Let’s face it. A 2 day class may be enough to get you understanding Scrum & another one might get you to understand it a bit better, but the only way you learn how to be a good Scrum Master / Kanban Team coach is by doing. This program, led by me, is designed to do just that.

In it, you’ll work through the issues that you are having with your own teams. Each week you will learn something and then apply that to your teams. Weekly Q&A sessions assist you with any challenges you have in doing this. While there is a designed curriculum, our integrated support system enables you to pick up topics in different orders while still get assistance from me as needed.

Based on Lean principles, this program will enable you to integrate the best of Scrum & Kanban. Learning takes time.

Ask yourself why take a 2-day class that covers half the material and costs twice as much and then leaves you on your own when you could be in a 3 month program working with your team and having a Scrum/Kanban thought leader helping you?

The class starts 1/18 and is only $595. Please message me for more information. See comments for more info.

Why Agile Coaches Need to Know Both Scrum and Kanban



Scrum and Kanban are the two most popular Agile team-level methods available. While the difference between them is mostly thought to be sprint-based or flow-based, that is just one way in which they differ. Other significant differences include how to start, how to improve, and how people should be organized. They are based on different theories of how to manage software development work and whether you need to change your roles. And this creates other differences such include the amount of discipline to use them and the cultures in which they fit. Continue reading “Why Agile Coaches Need to Know Both Scrum and Kanban”

The Dark Cycle of Scrum and How To Avoid It

1) management tells teams to do Scrum

2) they try but can’t. A common challenge is they don’t know how to break down big epics into small stories (which is often not taught in initial scrum training)

3) at some point they give up and do ScrumBut by not following sprints. They justify not doing Scrum by claiming that they are now doing Kanban (because they don’t have sprints). But they don’t do any of the things Kanban says to do. This is like saying “we do Agile because we don’t do documentation.”

4) their performance goes down

5) Scrum consultants are brought in and management is told the problem is “well, they’re not doing Scrum, can’t blame Scrum”

6) management tells the teams to do Scrum, because Kanban doesn’t work.

The solution is to teach Scrum, when it’s used for software development, with what is necessary to do software development.

The fact that Scrum can work anywhere works against you if you get generic Scrum training instead of Scrum training designed for you.

The contradictions in many Scrum-based Framework Training (Scrum, SAFe, …)

Many proponents of Scrum based frameworks say:

  1. knowledge workers are people who know more than their managers
  2. we must trust & respect people
  3. people must self-organize

But then their courses go on to tell people what to do. They say – stick with these rules & then later you can modify them to fit you.

One then hears “shu ha ri” which is a martial arts term meaning to first obey, then modify & eventually transcend. But there are several things wrong with this metaphor.

We’re not in the martial arts where the idea is not to think but to act. Also, in the martial arts you train for a very long time before putting the learning into action & most ppl learn many different styles since different methods are needed for different situations. Also, people who break with what they’ve been taught are called are called ScrumButters or SAFeButters. Not surprising dogma results.

This contradictory logic is often ignored. We’re being told “we need to self-organize” but do “this” & later change, but if you change to something we don’t like “you’re doing it wrong.” And everyone ignores the self-serving nature of this.

What’s needed: training specific to the organization to get them started right.

Manifesto for Helping Others Learn Agile

Note: This is not intended to be an alternate version of the Agile Manifesto, but it was inspired by it. Values and principles are a powerful approach. The fact that this manifesto can parallel the Agile Manifesto is a testament to its endurance.

We are uncovering better ways of helping others learn how to create value for their business and customers. Through this work we have come to value:

Learning Agile over learning frameworks

People learning how to learn over learning a set body of knowledge

Focusing on how people can get their job done over giving them certification

Teaching different Agile approaches over going deeply in one method

That is, while there is value in the items on the right, we value the items on the left more.

Principles behind the Learning Agile Manifesto

We follow these principles:

Our highest priority is to help people learn how to learn. This requires achieving an understanding of any underlying principles of what we teach, while recognizing that best practices are only best in certain contexts.

Welcome the needs of the learners, especially the way they learn, even when we discover these after we’ve started our engagement.

Recognize that most trainings are best delivered in small chunks over time. When a multiple day workshop is advisable for focus,discussions should be interspersed with actual work being done under the guidance of the instructor.

All roles must learn together. We must provide them with agreements which focus them or providing true value

Create environments within which people can both work and learn so that they can continuously improve by taking advantage of what is already known to work while being able to invent new methods when needed.

The most effective way to learn is doing actual, meaningful work with one’s peers and having guidance provided as needed.

Demonstrated success in the learners’ own environment is the primary measure of progress.

Effective learning promotes sustainable learning. It must provide a support system after any workshops so that the learners can continue working on their own in an ongoing manner.

People learn best when taught in a way conducive to their method of learning. Instructors/coaches must pay attention to this.

Conveying just what is needed and when it is needed is the most effective way to help people learn.

People learn best when working with their peers.

At regular intervals, trainers and coaches must reflect on their methods to see how to improve them – never blaming poor results on their learners, but always taking responsibility for the results achieve.

Some Thoughts That Pertain To This

“We cannot solve our problems with the methods we used to create them.” – Albert Einstein

“Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result.” – Albert Einstein.

“For every complex human problem, there is a solution that is neat, simple and wrong.” – HL Mencken

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair

“Thus, the task is not so much to see what no one yet has seen, but to think what nobody yet has thought about that which everybody sees.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

“Truth Passes Through Three Stages: First, It Is Ridiculed. Second, It Is Violently Opposed. Third, It Is Accepted As Self-Evident.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

“We must set aside our egos and embrace what others have learned so that we may assist our charges by using what is needed instead of insisting we use our own methods. We must acknowledge much of what we know is not correct.” – Al Shalloway

Creating understanding is more essential than offering solutions. Many, but thanks to Michael Kuesters for the suggestion.

It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking, than think your way into a new way of acting. ― Jerry Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance: How Unlikely Innovators Solve the World’s Toughest Problems

When all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. – Maslow

Note from Al Shalloway

This is obviously a first cut. I believe I am speaking for a large number of people. I request feedback on how to improve this. I promise to listen and improve.

If you agree with the intent of this article please write a post about it and/or retweet it.