July 24, 2014

All Posts Tagged With: Agile Training

Agile Coaching Blog

An Investment in Innovation – An Agile Case Study

Not every organization that “does” agile does it well. Sometimes the principles work well for awhile, but the teams aren’t able to innovate or make the successful results sustainable. Here’s an agile case study that addresses an organization that values agile principles and practices, but needed a little help to sustain their success and innovate.

Just the Facts:
The Challenge: Help existing agile teams manage rising levels of burnout and technical debt.

The Client’s Goals: Establish a sustainable pace, faster speed to market, higher quality.

The BigVisible Approach: Assess the current state of agile in the organization. Design a path forward and start implementing that plan. Learn, adjust, and scale accordingly. Give the client tools to sustain success.

What We Delivered: Adding technical practices & increasing the understanding of agile principles led to dedicated time for innovation, which in turn created a culture of quality, ingenuity, and faster, more reliable, deliveries that better addressed customer needs.

Summary
A financial services company was bogged down by the relentless pressure to deliver and asked us to help their teams manage rising levels of burnout and technical debt, with the ultimate goal of establishing a sustainable pace, faster speed to market, and higher quality. Our agile coaches helped the teams break away from destructive patterns and find new ways of working. Through training and coaching, BigVisible coaches helped to reset the agile effort and create a renewed focus on small, cross-functional teams, a steady iteration cadence, and the importance of building quality into delivery. The result was a fast-moving program whose teams can deliver consistently, at a healthy and sustainable pace, while carving out time for innovation and improvement.

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Agile Changed Their Lives…From The Trenches of a CSM Training Class

As a long-time agile coach and trainer, I have had the privilege of teaching many types of agile courses, but more recently, I’ve been focusing on Scrum certification training for BigVisible. I teach certification classes available to the public, as well as private engagements with our customer organizations. Not too long ago, a request came in from a PMI Chapter, looking for a three-day class that teaches the fundamentals of Scrum to become a Certified ScrumMaster and prepares project leaders for the PMI-ACP exam.

Along with the usual challenges of a three-day class (longer days, more materials, additional preparation) another potential challenge began to reveal itself. This class was on the larger side (30 attendees) and made up of an audience of seasoned project management professionals well-versed in traditional/waterfall project management and not very familiar with agile methodologies. What I did know was that there was a thirst for more Scrum knowledge in general, not just preparing for the PMI-ACP exam. But that still didn’t calm my apprehension. Past experience had shown me that project managers tended to be a tough crowd. I mean, after all, these folks were seasoned PMs who have been doing their job for many years and doing it successfully. Now, they’re being asked to take a different approach and manage projects in a new manner.

One of the many things we do well at BigVisible as part of our class experience is not to sell people on agile, but to get participants to learn from one another, share their experiences and have valuable discussions with one another. We use hands-on exercises and interactive simulations throughout class to teach agile principles. This helps people feel more at ease with the concepts and feel confident in a safe environment that they can apply their knowledge and feel prepared to take on a Scrum project. That’s not to say they’ve becomes experts, but they’re more prepared with the tools and knowledge to take on projects in an agile fashion.

As our class kicked off and we moved through the exercises, there was an arsenal of questions, including “how does this work in the real world?” or “how is this different from what I’ve done the last 15 years?” Even with all the materials I had and the planned simulations, I still needed to make it real for them. I shared my past work experiences at previous organizations. I was able to articulate the benefits of agility, such as: reducing risk, quicker delivery of product, higher quality and more satisfied customers. Collectively, the group shared lots of their own stories, tapping into their own experiences of success and failures of past projects. The dialogue was rolling.

As this sharing continued over the three-day period, you could clearly see this group morph from being skeptics to advocates. They began to shift their thinking from “this will never work” to “how do we make this work in our own environments”. They were truly interested and engaged and the deep discussions continued. Then another wonderful thing happened. This group was so intent on learning, applying techniques to exercises and figuring out how to make agile work for their organizations – they really began to bond. It was such a strong bond for such a large group – but they became a community, a support system.

They wanted to have access to this support system and continue their discussions outside of the class. A good handful of people from the class approached me about creating an online community for them. I told them about our Training Alumni LinkedIn group – but they wanted one specifically for them. One of the participants created a LinkedIn group just for them and EVERYONE opted in to participate. Surprisingly, it’s been a long-lasting, active and collaborative community. They still share successes, praise each other when someone gets certified, share experiences, and initiate discussions.

As we wrapped up the class, what happened next will be something I’ll never forget. In addition to providing complimentary feedback about the course through our feedback forms, a several people individually took time to approach me. For each of them, this class became a game-changer for them; that it actually changed their lives.

Taken aback, I asked them what prompted their comments. As experienced PMs, they were starting to feel that their skills and approach were not as valid or valued as much anymore. To them, their new knowledge would open doors to new opportunities or new ways of succeeding in the current roles. The class put them in a mindset that felt like a new beginning for them, a breath of fresh air. The world was changing around them and they now felt like they could adapt and change with it.

What I thought was going to be a challenging three days turned into a very rewarding and fulfilling experience. This was a group that clearly got out of what they put into the experience.

For this group it was about the people, the dialogue and interactions. What’s been the agile game changer for you?

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BigVisible Expands Agile Training Offering to Minnesota, California and Illinois

We’re excited to announce that BigVisible is now offering Certified ScrumMaster, Certified Scrum Product Owner, and PMI Agile Certified Practitioner courses in Minnesota, California, North Carolina, and Illinois! With sold out courses taking place every few weeks in New York City and Boston, we have decided to expand our Scrum and agile training offerings to Minneapolis, Irvine, San Francisco, Raleigh, and Chicago to respond to requests from the agile community for more courses available in their hometowns.

Angela Johnson (Agile Coach, Certified Scrum Trainer, and Managing Director of Public Training) identified these key areas for expansion because of the large demand for agile training and lack of local trainers in these regions.

The BigVisible coaches who live and work in those communities are Scrum Alliance Certified Scrum Trainers, experts who are part of the local community and are familiar with the companies in these regions, so offering courses in these areas allows us to form long-term, strategic partnerships.

Because our primary focus is on organizational agility, expanding our training offerings to new areas allows us to reach individuals within even more companies across the country, helping them to gain a deeper understanding of the fundamentals of Scrum and agile. Organizational agility is only possible when individuals are empowered to make the changes necessary to transform the organization, and it all begins with these training courses.

Check out some of our upcoming agile training courses right in your area!

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There is No One Definition of Agile

A few weeks ago, I asked my co-workers to distill the concept of Agile/Lean to its simplest essence and do it in no more than 10 words. The statements had to clearly convey what Agile was really about and why anyone should really care about it.

There were two reasons for the request:

  1. I recently critiqued a 2-day “Introduction to Agile” class by a coach-in-training. Everything that I expected was covered in the class but I felt the lack of an underlying theme; the content didn’t seem to fit well together.
  2. I wanted to understand whether Agile meant the same thing to different people and whether they emphasized the same points in their class/presentation.

Here is a sampling of the responses I received.

  • “Deliver value frequently at a sustainable pace while adapting to business needs.” — Brad Swanson
  • “Be one with the customer.” — Steve Johnson
  • “Sense & respond quickly to changes that have measurable value.” — Skip Angel
  • “Do the right things sooner.” — Jonathon Golden
  • “Agile is about knowing what NOT to do.” — Mike Dwyer
  • “Continuously adjust our actual process to reflect our improved understanding.” — John Ryan
  • “Utilizing continuous prioritization and feedback, collaboratively develop incremental business value.” — Jim Elvidge
  • “Continually improve value delivery via experimentation, feedback, and retrospection.” — Alex Singh
  • “Do Something, Self-Organize, Inspect & Adapt” — Scott Dunn (stolen from Aaron Sanders)

Not surprisingly, people emphasized different aspects in their distillation. I assume that these are the same things they emphasize when coaching teams and organizations as well. It is important to note that everyone is right and no one definition is better than another; people with different backgrounds emphasize different things and have a different worldview.

What do you think is the intrinsic nature or character of Agile that makes it what it is? How would you define the most important aspects of Agile in no more than 10 words?

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Registration Open for PMI ACP Prep + Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) Course

The first in a new series of intensive, three-day PMI-ACPSM + Certified ScrumMaster courses is now open for registration! This combination agile training CSM course offers you a strong foundation in the Scrum framework and agile principles plus an extensive overview of the knowledge areas, tools, and techniques required for the PMI Agile Certified PractitionerSM .

The real-world experience of BigVisible’s Certified Scrum Trainers allows us to incorporate practical advice and time-tested techniques into this hands-on workshop.

After completing the course:

Register today, early bird rates end December 26th!

Who is the course right for?

BigVisible’s CSM + PMI-ACPSM course offers a solid grounding in the Scrum framework and the ScrumMaster role. Although Project Management experience is helpful, this course will enable other professionals who are cultivating their Agile and Scrum skills on the road to becoming a certified Agile Practitioner.

Learning objectives for this course:

  • Discover the basics of Scrum and fundamental agile principles
  • Understand how Scrum helps organizations cope with change, budget constraints, quality issues, and other challenges
  • Know the ScrumMaster role and how it differs from a traditional project manager
  • Agile Planning & Estimating
  • Plus a whole lot more!

On the agenda:

  • Team-based “Scrum Game” as well as additional Agile games that introduces key values, principles, and concepts
  • Discussion of the Scrum framework plus other Agile frameworks such as eXtreme Programming and Kanban
  • In-depth look at the product backlog and agile planning
  • Illustration of Scrum product development
  • Side-by-Side comparison of Scrum and Waterfall
  • Closer look at agile documentation
  • Reflecting on the Project Management Body of Knowledge to understand how this remains the same and where it changes in adopting agile
  • Experiential setting for participants to put the values, principles, and concepts into action in a safe, learning environment

Even more PMI-ACPSM + Certified ScrumMaster courses are planned for multiple regions of the United States. Look for details to be posted soon.

About the instructor:

Angela Johnson is a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), Certified Scrum Developer (CSD), and Agile Coach who provides education consulting services to clients across the United States adopting Scrum and other agile processes. Angela has successfully implemented Scrum/Agile principles in a variety of projects from web-based applications to enterprise level retail and financial projects.

Learn more about this Certified ScrumMaster Certification + PMI ACP Prep Course

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Brian Bozzuto, Bob Fischer to Speak at PMI Mass Bay Chapter Meeting

Join BigVisible and our transformation coaches Brian Bozzuto and Bob Fischer at this agile-focused PMI Mass Bay Chapter meeting on January 19, 2012 from 5:00 – 8:30pm.

Brian Bozzuto of BigVisible

Brian Bozzuto, principal Agile Coach at BigVisible


In Brian’s session, Claiming Agile for Project Managers, attendees will learn and discuss the effects of increasing agile principles and practices within numerous organizations, on project managers who are finding themselves trying to align the realities of corporate budgets and schedules with the innovative and adaptive practices of agile projects. While some may argue that project managers are not necessary – or even counter productive – in agile projects, this session will explore the real value they can offer to these projects.

The session will cover:

  • The critical role project managers can play in helping agile projects succeed
  • Growing popularity of agile within the PMI including agile certifications such as the Agile Certified Practitioner (ACP) and the Agile Community of Practice
  • The impact of agility on organizations as they embrace agile practices across the enterprise

Bob Fischer of BigVisible

Bob Fischer, Agile trainer, coach, facilitator, and change agent at BigVisible


In the 2nd session, Bob Fischer will be covering the topic, How Can Managers Support a Move Towards Agility?. In this discussion, he’ll be discussing how companies often choose to adopt agile methods such as Scrum, XP, Lean, or Kanban because they want to respond more effectively to the rapidly changing circumstances in today’s turbulent marketplace. As teams self-organize, managers frequently find themselves in a position where they are no longer playing the same hands on role they did. In this session attendees will learn how managers can become an integral part of and agile transformation and how adequate support can make the transition more rapid and more effective.

This presentation will cover:

  • The role of a manager in an agile organization
  • The role of a transition team supporting the transition to agile
  • Bring your questions. This will be an interactive session where you’ll get the chance to address your specific concerns.

The PMI Mass Bay Chapter is one of the largest in the United States, and in the top 6% of all chapters worldwide by size with over 2,300 members, including over 1,500 certified Project Management Professionals (PMP®).

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Three Simple Tools for New Agile Teams

When I am delivering Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) classes or starting up new agile teams, I share three simple tools that really help collaboration: creating a working agreement (also called team agreement), the art of the possible, and the fist of five. Based on feedback, these three items are often some of the important tools that team members take back and use immediately. Below is a simple way to introduce these by facilitating creating working agreements with your agile team.

Photo by Greencolander via Flickr.

Before you kick off your new agile team, get the team together and let them know the goal is to come up with some team agreements so that we all agree on how we’re going to work together. You might have some ideas, but first go around and hear others first. If you’re in a large group, pair up, otherwise each person can individually write down one statement about how their time together should be – everything from working hours to working conditions. Now collect these and put them on the wall, under the title “Working Agreements.” For general work, I often hear: take personal calls out of the working area, headphones on for music, keep your chat program on, put a flag or sign up if you don’t want to be interrupted (for less than an hour), shower regularly (seriously), no eating fish at your desk (yep, that too). Some common ones for meetings that I’d recommend are: one conversation at a time, start and end on time, electronics by exception (that is, no cell phones or computers unless it’s an emergency and everyone understands that), and have an attitude of the art of the possible.

The art of the possible means keeping an open mind that something covered here could work or might be true, even if you disagree, instead of an attitude of “that could never work here” (even if that is your experience). There’s always a first time, and the difference of our attitude, effort and approach differ vastly when something “just might be” possible, rather than impossible. MacGyver believed in the art of the possible.

Now that we have everyone’s recommendations, decide on what the final working agreement list will be. My preferred way of collaborating on quick yes/no group decisions is with the technique called the “Fist of Five.” When you’re in a group deciding on something (such as where to go to lunch that day), you can simply say the recommendation and then have everyone hold up one to five fingers. The number of fingers represent where they stand: 5 means they love the idea, 4 means they like the idea, 3 means they’re not that happy but they won’t get in the way, 2 means they have some questions or concerns that if answered they’ll get on-board, and 1 means “No way, ever, never!” (and make sure the one finger is the index finger…) Fist of five is a great way to hear everyone’s voice and quickly see who’s not in agreement and why (and then work to get them in agreement).
I hope these tools help your team get off to a great start.
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