Friday, 10 February 2017

Agile Principles 101

So I spent the first few times teaching the Agile Principles in the way that I was ?taught? on a very expensive public certification* and it was the way I saw all the other agile coaches and trainers doing it. Peer pressure - even for an agile coach or agile teacher - is a tough thing to deal with! 

So too is that excruciating inner desire of wanting to teach all of the things (especially the things that took me a long time, and I learned the hard way)! But you only get a few minutes, hours or days in the lives of those whom you wish to help and there is a limit to how much of an impact you can make in those few short moments of time!

So 1 MS PowerPoint slide would go up, and the class would read the slide and the words silently. (How did I even know they were reading? Or were they just pretending to read so they could go home earlier?)

I would timebox this reading exercise to 6 minutes, as there are 12 of them. And everyone can read and understand complex phrases within 30 seconds, right?!!? 

And of course then another timebox for 4 minutes for Questions - "Are there any questions about this?" - kind of "emperor has no clothes" style - 99% of the time no one would ask anything. Probably because the principles are so simple to understand - people looking around would see their colleagues, managers, unknown strangers nodding knowingly! Perhaps even smirking with that secret deep understanding!

And, no one ever wants to feel uncomfortable - especially not by asking an obvious (to everyone else) question to clarify their own understanding, their own perception, their own experience!
Here's what that slide typically looked like (it hurts me just to revisit the old old decks!)



Notice how neatly all 12, and the title, fit really neatly onto 1 slide! Win! ;-)

I particularly like the tiny font size, and the bullets! Wow! Those bullets - they really draw attention to what's so very important to make sure the 12 principles of agile successfully transfer off the presentation and into people's consciousness, and cause the learners (?) to change their way of thinking, of being, their behaviours and thus the real target - their way of working to being more productive with the limited resources and time they have available!

Now for some truth of this widely used, common, dare I say - standard or best practice - approach...

In a nutshell, the pro's of this approach are:


  1. The trainer gets at least a 6 minute break
  2. The trainer can "tick the box" on the "we covered the basics" section / poorly defined learning outcomes
  3. Only 1 slide!
  4. Only 1 page to print for the pack for the attendees
  5. Lots of nods from the trainees - the words do seem sensible - which makes all trainers feel good inside!
  6. Very few questions (in 4 minutes) if any, and, no time to get into any real detail of either the trainer's experience(s) or learners' experience(s) - so only quick superficial answers or "park that one" statements to move along!

The con's of this approach are:


  1. Zero positive effect on the learners
  2. Sometimes negative impact on the learners as they begin to logically unpack and envision applying in their own organisation and discover stumbling blocks with all or nearly all of the principles!
  3. Learners feel rushed
  4. Learners realise the trainer might not be a good one or that the training content might not be good

Post mortem: 

Did you notice who gets more benefit from teaching the agile principles like this? Who's paying the money? Who's earning the money? Is it a fair exchange?

No one can apply anything that is read from a densely packed and boring slide like this! The agile principles are too concise and need expansion/discussion to help people interpret them correctly singly and collectively, and within the context of the learners which is unique from group to group, team to team and individual to individual. It's a subjective perspective thing!

I suggest don't teach or try to learn the agile principles this way, please. It's simply a waste of time and energy. I have many more experiences and ideas which I am sharing on What Is Agile For You What Is Agile For

* Seriously!!? Who can learn something as simple (NOT!) as ballet or agile (or anything else of real substance that is life changing) after only 1 or 2 days on an expensive course for which you get a certificate/certification/membership!!? Certifiable/certified maybe. :)

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