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Practice what you preach Agile Experiment

By 19/03/2018 No Comments

Experimenting isn’t knowing exactly where you’re heading, but rather collecting as much feedback as possible in order to define the next steps. Anything you map out in full detail in advance can be outdated by the time you actually get to it. But how do I personally handle that as an Agile coach? Do I also get stuck in with patterns and behaviours that don’t lead to the best results for my clients? To find out, I decided it was time for a ‘Practice what you preach’ experiment.

Experiment – with clients and trainers
At ABB, we always want to stay sharp and focused, so we decided to organize a two-day ‘Scrum Master Advanced’ pilot training with a group of enthusiastic clients and trainers. After all, when you spend all your time as an Agile coach, a little self-reflection can’t hurt and there’s nothing better than learning about your own approach from clients and other experience experts.

Sharing knowledge is to multiply it and discover new truths
Early in March the day had arrived to gather a great group of energetic people and get to work. The main goal was to learn from each other, which we did using the Japanese Shu-Ha-Ri model:

  • Shu – Follow the rule. That means you follow your coach’s or teacher’s technique to the letter.
  • Ha – Break the rule. In this phase you look for new angles to tackle an issue while learning from other “masters” within the group.
  • Ri – Become the rule. The student has become the master because they have used various principles and points of view to formulate a new truth in order to tackle the challenge from that new perspective.

Self-reflection to improve performance
For all the participants, myself included, it was extremely informative and meaningful to spar with like-minded people about the things we do every day. As an Agile coach, I sometimes end up in the trap of wanting to skip ahead to the coaching. At those times, I apply “Ha” and “Ri” too quickly or too heavily, while it might be better to go back to basics and make sure that the “Shu” phase is solid first. Extending the time that I focus on “Shu” was my personal lesson for the day.

Another example is from the first morning when we spent too much time on theoretical insights. Surely you’ve found yourself in a workshop or training session where the teacher was sharing loads of theory. That can give you something to hold onto, but since it’s an example of something that was completely preconceived, that approach can’t always be considered Agile.

Agile is finding the right mix of theory and practice
In any transfer of knowledge, people tend to hold on to fixed principles and theories simply because you need them to obtain a certificate or diploma, and to have something to grip to at the start of a new way of working. After the insights from the first morning, I decided to take an Agile approach to the training itself by altering the programme on the spot. It was high time for some energy from the group, so after lunch we split up into smaller groups to share some practical knowledge and experiences. We also applied the PDCA cycle (plan, do, check, act) throughout the experiment. Through participant feedback we learned that that was the right choice.

Teaching yourself to be conscious of each phase you find yourself in as a Scrum Master was a key takeaway for everyone. It lead to insights into the right time to take a coaching, advising, or facilitating role.

What did we take away?
Aside from spending two fun and informative days with a fantastic group of people, we also learned so much.

This Agile experiment helped us decide to move forward with two formats:
1) A Scrum Master Class for knowledge exchange between experienced Scrum Masters, where we share and discuss practical challenges. Both the group and the Agile coach will offer new handles to help tackle these challenges yourself.
2) A Scrum Master Advanced Training for participants who want to get a better grasp on the basic principles, in which the practice reflects the theory, and you will discover insights that will better help you prepare for an exam.

Join us?

Would you like to participate in one of our experiments at a future time? Let me know!
You can send me a message by using our contact form and I will keep you updated on my plans.


Karin Schijf