Agile Training Toronto – Drinking the Kool-Aid

By · June 20, 2013 · Filed in Agile Scrum Consulting, Agile Scrum Training

Often, part of our client’s objective when they come to us for services is to get their development team members believing in the Agile principles and support the use of Agile practices. They will say things like “part of what we need to do is sell the teams Agile.”

People are Naturally Resisters

In  previous posts I have described how learning anything involves change, and that people naturally resist change. Stephen Brookfield (1990) describes how “Since change is threatening, many people prefer to remain in situations that to outsiders seem wholly unsatisfactory, rather than to endure the psychological disruption represented by taking some kind of action.”

Part of “selling”  teams on Agile methodology, or what we often describe as “getting them drinking the Kool-Aid” is overcoming the resistance to learning and change. There are two things that participants in our Agile Training Toronto courses consistently tell us differentiates them from  others they have taken:

  1. The activities in the training are so pragmatic and practical and really demonstrate the agile methodology concepts and skills being learned and why they work
  2.  The ability of the instructors to answer participant questions and teach using their technical depth, knowledge and experience by providing specific examples of so many real life situations where these Agile methodology concepts and Agile practices have been successful

These two things are also the reason I think we are so successful at getting the teams “sold” on Agile methodology. I want to talk a little more about why this is so.

Let Them See It For Themselves

First, the activities in the training serve a couple of purposes; some allow the participants to see how various agile ways of thinking just work better than what we tend to believe or expect. Let me give you an example:
We have groups perform 2 different ways of doing work, Group 1 batches the work, and Group 2 completes the work end to end (flow through). For example, the process of stuffing and addressing envelopes. Group 1 has each person fold all the paper first, then stuff all the paper into the envelopes, then seal all the envelopes, then addresses all the envelopes (batching). Group 2 has each person fold, stuff and address the envelopes (flow).

What is the result? Connections can be made to agile concepts and ways of thinking and they are demonstrated to be more effective than traditional ways of thinking:

  • Group 2 could have stopped the work any time and still had some envelopes to mail which equals value delivered early and the ability to stop the project while still having gotten some value. Whereas Group 1 wouldn’t have any value delivered until the very end.
  • Group 1 wouldn’t be able to identify problems early because they wouldn’t be able to identify one  until much too late. For example, if the paper they folded wouldn’t fit in the envelopes they wouldn’t know until all the paper was folded. Then they must go back and fold all the paper again. Whereas Group 2 would figure this out while folding the very first piece of paper.
Let Them Try How Agile Methodologies Work For Themselves

Other activities are meant to get the participants implementing the actual technical skills needed to incorporate the practices into a project. For example, teams actually get to plan and execute a sprint, including creating the product backlog by eliciting user stories, estimating, prioritizing, planning a sprint, tracking progress, demonstration and retrospective and re-planning based on what was learned in the first sprint.

What is the result? We have eliminated some of the fear of the unknown and one of the biggest reasons people resistance change.

So, between the instructors technical depth and experience, which gives them the ability to provide specific examples of so many real life situations where these Agile methodology concepts and practices have been successful, and the many opportunities for the participants to truly experience for themselves how agile principles and practices work and are successful, we can overcome the resistance to change and learning and get the participants drinking the “Kool-Aid”.

Thanks for your interest,

Lynda Todd
Manager, Learning Services

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