As an Agile Coach helping software teams finding ways to improve their ways of working and deliver better solutions with higher quality, I have a responsibility to do exacly the same with my own services. This is a post on how I have worked with improving my training sessions.
I have conducted quite a number of training sessions in various settings. The more courses/classes I teach, the more I realise that I need to talk less. Not because I don’t have the knowledge, but because people don’t learn so well, just by hear me talking and seing a slide deck projected on the wall.
Therfore I have come to value a few principles when designing training sessions:
- People don’t learn from listening to me, so talk less and engage them physically and verbally in the learning process.
- I am not smarter than everybody in the room combined, so utilize the knowledge in the room.
- I don’t know the nuances of my participants context, so let them figure out how theory applies to their context.
I have come to realise that I use these principles in all training session I conduct, regardless if it’s a fixed scope course (eg. SAFe), a session about “Agile” I designed myself, or even in dance classes.
With the last full day agile training session I developed and conducted, my aim was to enable the participants to act differently to improve their working environment towards a more agile fashion, without telling them explicit the process they must follow. With the principles mentioned above I designed a full day workshop, where I only did 3 ten minutes presentation during the day. The rest of the day was about making sense of it, and share insight within the group. Liberating structures was the tool to facilitate sensemaking and sharing.
Here is how the session was organised:
The session was about “Flow in Product development” and It was based on the content of Donald Reinertsen. D. Reinertsen’s work serve as basis for many (if not all) of the SAFe principles, and since my organisation were already using SAFe, this session was also about connecting and understading the theory behind these principles.
- Presentation (10 minutes only): Showing to visualise basic concepts of flow and queues, to set the stage from an easy-to-understand and relateable context
- Impromptu Networking – Sharing initial insight about why this is relevant for particpants and their context.
- Presentation (10 minutes only): A brief walkthrough of the 12 problems of the current orthodoxy, which Donald Reinertsen describe in his book, “The principles of Product development flow – Second Generation Lean Product Development”
- Gallery Walk – To debrief the presentation. What confuses you the most? What do you feel strongest about?
- TRIZ – To identify the problems that participants could recognise in their own context, while having fun
- Presentation (10 minutes only): Introducing some principles from Reinersens book.
- “Make a Principle Poster”. Each group selected a SAFe principle to visualise. Poster definition of done:
- Principle name and number in a headline
- What problem(s), from the current orthodoxy is this principle trying to solve?
- A drawing
- A stement to explain how you in your role can work by this principle “As a [role/jobtitle] I will [do this action to live the principle]
- Shift and share – To share insights and give feedback to posters across the group
- 1-2-4-all – To discuss and connect principles to elements in the SAFe big picture, to build understanding of the purpose of the SAFe Process
- Eco-cycle planning (and 1-2-4-all), to assess how the organisation was currently living the SAFe principles, and to determine where improvements could be made.
- 9 why’s – To identify and articulate why it matters to the participant to work by the SAFe Principles.
- 15% Solutions – To help the participant identify, where and how they could act, to start improving, without getting lost in how difficult it might be.
Learning and findings
- It worked extremely well to have only 3×10 minutes presentations for the whole day
- People were engaged and energised during the whole session.
- Laying the eco-cycle on the floor, created an awesome group dynamic. Note: Make sure the items are color coded in a way that makes it easy to get an overview from the distance, without having to read.
- To save time during the workshop I experimented with people giving feedback on sticky-notes during the Shift&Share of posters. This didn’t work as intended, and felt akward and useless, since there was no time to follow up on that feedback. Instead the groups just presented a few posters in the large group, with feedback from the large crowd. This worked better, but didn’t engage everybody as intented.
- The Gallery Walk resulted in quite a lot of people being alone on one of the 12 stations, leaving them with no-one to talk to, about the pormpts. Instead groups of 3 were formed and the prompts discussed in those groups. That worked quite well, keeping everybody engaged.
- The 15% solution really made actions tangible. One participants expressed it this way: “I was about to leave the room with no hope, because the task to fix these challenges seems so overwhelming, and will involve the whole business. But the 15% solutions gave me insight, that I can start acting differently, to influence others. I leave now, full with energy, and determined to execute my self-defined action”