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You’re Going Agile. What Training Will Give You the Best Start?

Great training is a critical part of any successful transition to Agile frameworks. After more than a decade leading and coaching Agile adoption in organizations that ranged from single teams to several hundred thousand employees, here is some universal advice on training for organizations starting out on their own transformational journeys. Train leaders at the […]

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September 30, 2020

Great training is a critical part of any successful transition to Agile frameworks. After more than a decade leading and coaching Agile adoption in organizations that ranged from single teams to several hundred thousand employees, here is some universal advice on training for organizations starting out on their own transformational journeys.

Train leaders at the beginning

Whether they’re trained before teams or alongside them, give leaders across the organization a core understanding of Agile methods and mindset so they can see how their behavior will support – or limit – the success of any individual team’s transition. Executives don’t have to become experts in every mechanic of every framework, but they should understand what circumstances are best suited to a particular approach (say Scrum or Kanban), and appreciate that different teams may be best served by different Agile frameworks.

Assume variation of training needs across the enterprise

It’s rare that organizations do exclusively one type of work. Critical dynamics may vary team by team, which means different groups will need training in different methods, frameworks, and tools. Luckily, you don’t have to make the decision all at once or up front. As teams identify relevant techniques – such as Scrum, Kanban, or Automated Testing – you can send them in small, cohesive groups to public classes or bring in a trainer for a private group session.

Support key roles with targeted skill training

Some Agile methods assume that you will establish specialized, team-specific roles. Scrum, the most popular Agile teaming framework, has three separate roles in every team: Product Owner, ScrumMaster, and Development Team. Each of these roles has different responsibilities and functions that are best served by distinct classes. Sending an entire Scrum Team to a Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) class will give everyone a solid understanding of the Scrum framework but won’t give the team’s Product Owner much in the way of tools for establishing and managing product vision. Instead, the team would get far more benefit out sending the ScrumMaster to a CSM class, the Product Owner to a Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) class, and the Development Team to a Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) training.

Train teams cohesively

Sending a newly forming team together to a great training can be a wonderful team-building exercise. And because they’re attending the same class, they come away with a shared language and understanding of the skills they’ve acquired. That typically helps a new group speed through the initial steps of the ‘Forming-Storming-Norming-Performing’ pattern. And a really great training is also fun, so you get a built-in morale boost as well!

Quality training costs, but pays back quickly

There’s a wide universe of ‘Agile’ training out there, and a lot of it won’t help you much. Whether you’re sending your people to public classes or bringing in a trainer to lead a private session, it can be hard to know what you’re going to get. For the best Scrum training, look for classes led by a Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). For the best Kanban training, look for classes led by an Accredited Kanban Trainer (AKT) credentialed by Kanban University. And for Agile software development and testing practices, look for either Certified Scrum Developer (CSD) or Certified Agile Testing and Automation (CATA) classes. You may pay a little more upfront, but you will quickly recoup those costs as teams stabilize and begin returning value quicker.

Follow up with role-based advanced training

It can be hard to know what you don’t know when starting out, so as new teams find their way with a specific framework it’s natural for them discover they have gaps in skills or knowledge that foundational level courses don’t cover. Support them over the long term with advanced skill trainings that gives them the tools to continue their growth. A Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) course may give a new team member the grounding they need to begin to serve that role, but later as they find they need a bigger toolkit of coaching practices sending them to an Advanced Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) course may be the boost they need to increase their impact and their team’s effectiveness.

And perhaps the most important advice for organizations investing in Agile for the long term:

Build a Training Partnership

The best Agile trainers (CSTs and AKTs) have the experience and depth of knowledge to work with your organization to incorporate new Agile approaches within the other endeavors you may already have under way. Our institutional customers come back to us again and again, not just because we deliver training that is educational and entertaining, but because their people leave understand how these techniques fit within the big picture of their missions and enterprise strategies. For example, over the last two years, NextUp has been working with a Fortune100 company as their exclusive Agile training provider. Those trainings aren’t just off-the-shelf certifications; they’re also tailored experiences that show students how things like Scrum, Kanban, or SAFe fit within and complement the organization’s larger continuing transition that affects all aspects of their operations. Without that mutual understanding and partnership, it would be easy for students to accidentally leave with the impression that what their learning contradicts or replaces enterprise-wide Lean practices, but our long-running partnership allows our trainers to connect those dots in class for practitioners at all levels of the company.

 

NextUp Solutions is the leading provider of Agile training and coaching services for public, private, and non-profit industries. Whether you’re just beginning a transition to Agile practices or well along a journey to mature business Agility, NextUp is ready to support your people with experiential learning and hands-on practitioner support that will give your leaders and teams the tools they need to succeed.