What’s the best training experience you’ve been in? Take a moment to put yourself through the retrospectoscope and consider what made it memorable for you.
Maybe it was a Scrum training. Or a ski lesson. Or perhaps a first aid class. I’m willing to bet that whatever type of training it was, you’re not fondly recalling sitting in a beige room being talked at or PowerPointed to death. What I remember vividly from a long-ago Scrum training is not the words of wisdom falling from the instructor’s lips, but rather the games, exercises, and conversations with other participants that illustrated and reinforced the ideas being presented.
In Training from the Back of the Room, Sharon Bowman has distilled and shared a powerful framework for designing and delivering training experiences to adults that will help make learning stick. The Training from the Back of the Room approach is grounded in 6 simple principles (Sharon calls them the Six Trumps) derived from what we know about how the brain actually works to receive and retain information:
- Writing trumps reading
- Talking trumps listening
- Different trumps same
- Moving trumps sitting
- Images trump words
- Shorter trumps longer
None of these principles are revolutionary – yet we often fail to apply them when designing training experiences because they don’t align to what we’ve experienced in the past as a model of “how adult learning is done”.
I’d read Training from the Back of the Room a while back and had attempted to apply the principles in the workshops that I deliver to my clients, but it didn’t really all come together for me until I took Sharon’s class last December. For me, the workshop was a transformative experience: while I didn’t burn all my slide decks after taking the course (because there’s useful content in there that I can repurpose to be presented in different ways) I will never again deliver training the way I used to. A couple of weeks ago, I delivered a 3 day Agile team workshop making heavy use of TBR principles and I received excellent feedback from the participants about the interactive nature of the class and the very limited use of slides. Afterwards, a couple of people in the class told me how apprehensive they’d been about having to sit through a 3day training session, and how delighted they were by how little sitting they actually did and how much fun they had while doing some serious learning and planning.
If you’re interested in learning how to make Training from the Back of the Room work for you, I’ll be offering a 2 day Training from the Back of the Room workshop with Glenn Waters in Guelph ON on June 5-6 just before Agile Coach Camp Canada 2014. It’ll be a ton of fun, and you’ll walk away from the experience knowing how to apply the Six Trumps and 4Cs (next post!) to delivering your training content, two of Sharon’s excellent books, and a toolkit of activities and ideas that you can use right away to revitalize the training you deliver whatever the subject matter.
I had a great time presenting a User Requirements with LEGO Serious Play workshop at Agile India 2014. Sharing LSP with a new crowd is always fun, and the 100+ people who participated were enthusiastic and ready to play!
One lovely surprise from my session was the amazing graphic summary Lynne Cazaly created:
I think Lynne’s graphic is a better summary than my slides, but here they are anyhow:
If you’re curious to learn more about how LEGO Serious Play can help your team get work done or move forward in resolving a serious issue, check out my previous post on Why Serious Play Works or leave me a note in the comments so that we can chat.
I love games for learning – playing about serious matters allows people to drop some of the filters and barriers that may unconsciously affect how group discussions unfold and really explore ideas. And the laughter and drama of playing a game that involves body, mind and emotions in order to learn about something helps ensure that the learnings stick.
At Play4Agile 2013, Markus Wittwer led an amazing and very popular game about team responsibility that explores the importance of shared intentions and playfully illustrates some of the effects of dysfunctional team behaviour. I ran the same game during the Friday night playdate at Agile Coach Camp Canada 2013, where the participants had a lot of fun and made several excellent suggestions for how to extend and improve it. Since then, I’ve been asked to share the exercise so that others can run it with their teams – here you go:
Time required: 15-20 min
Number of players: teams of 7, the more teams the better
- big loops of rope – I bought 20M hanks of lightweight cord at a dollar store and cut it into ~6.5M long pieces. For bigger groups, you may want longer loops.
- beach balls – or other light balls (balloons, playground balls) roughly the size of a soccer ball.
- Participants arrange themselves into teams of 7 and each person grabs onto the loop with two hands. The team members should count off so that they know who is team member #1, team member #2,…through to team member #7
- Each team make a net with the loop by passing the rope to each other until a net is formed.
- Place a ball in the middle of each team’s net. The team’s work is to keep the ball in play on the net – don’t let it fall!
- The facilitator then guides the team through a number of actions/scenarios. In each scenario, the team follows the instruction and attempts to move gently around the room while keeping the ball in play. The facilitator may ask the team to return to a neutral state between scenarios (or not!):
- the team moves around, learning to keep the ball in play
- team member 1 takes 130% of the responsibility by pulling harder on the cord.
- team member 2 gives up some responsibility by loosening their grip on the cord.
- team members 3 & 6 have a conflict and try to pull apart while maintaining their grip on the net.
- team member 4 leaves their home team and joins another team
- team members 5 & 7 swap places
- multi-tasking!: have one team member join onto another team while remaining part of their home team
- remote team member: have one team member close their eyes
- have the team members move around silently
- have one team member remain immobile while the rest of the team moves around.
This is a really powerful game for dramatizing what happens when teams are not aligned in intent or are in a position where team members are distracted from the shared team goal by external factors. I think it works best if you debrief as you go: run one or two scenarios, then pause and encourage participants to reflect on how they are feeling right then, and how the current situation reflects circumstances that are present on their teams.
Well-formed user stories help Agile teams to make the right decisions about what to deliver next. Ellen Gottesdiener and Mary Gorman’s excellent new book, Discover to Deliver: Agile Product Planning and Analysis, gives Agile teams practical guidance on planning and analysis practices that will help practitioners explore all dimensions of their product so that they are focused on learning the things that will enable them to deliver great products.
There ‘s an opportunity to have the “Discover To Deliver” class offered in either Ottawa or Montreal in October. Visit this page to find out more about the course and indicate your interest in attending. The more interest we have, the more likely it is we can bring Ellen or Mary to Ottawa to offer a fantastic learning experience.
Agile Tour is a series of one-day non-profit Agile conferences held in 80+ cities around the world in October and November. Agile Tour conferences provide excellent learning value for not-very-much cost by bringing in top-quality keynote speakers and presenters, and are a great way to meet other Agile folks in your community. Agile Tour Montreal has been going strong for several years now (they’re planning for 600 attendees in 2013), and I’m really excited that the Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour 2013 is shaping up to be even bigger and better than last year’s successful inaugural event.
Did I mention the excellent presenters at Agile Tour? Do you have something to share that you’d be interested in getting out to an audience of energized and interested people? Both Agile Tour Montreal and Gatineau-Ottawa Agile Tour are soliciting proposals for presentations. The deadline for submission is Aug 16 2013 for the Montreal event and August 30 2013 for Ottawa. If you’ve got an Agile topic you’re passionate about, submit a proposal today!
On Tuesday, I had the pleasure of presenting “An Introduction to Lean and Agile Work” to one of the IEEE Ottawa SIGs
As a prelude to the conversation, we played a simple variant of the penny game in order to spark some lively discussion and great questions to frame the rest of the evening. We then talked about Agile values and principles, and how those ideas are manifested in Agile and Lean practices. As the group was quite small, it was less of a formal presentation and more of a conversation with a few pictures to help clarify key ideas about Scrum and Kanban:
The conversation was lively and long (as an Agile coach, I tell myself that one day I’ll get the hang of this time-boxing thing!), and from the comments afterwards it was clear that the talk had sparked a lot of curiosity about how these ideas could be applied in practice. My favourite comment was “You know, we’re supposedly doing Agile at work, but we’re missing a couple of really basic elements. I get it now!”.
Here are the slides from the presentation:
Management 3.0 is a class for people interested in bettering the practice of management in their organizations. It’s based on Jurgen Appelo’s very popular book, which examines the kind of management thinking and doing needed to support complex and nonlinear work, such as — but certainly not limited to — Agile software development practices. Supporting the evolution of self-organizing high-performance teams calls for a different approach to managing people than that which is typically encouraged through organizational culture, training, and change management practices. The Management 3.0 book and course provide a new basis for thinking about the goals and principles of management as well as many concrete practices that can be used to begin managing in a new way, even if your organization is just starting on a transformation to a more agile way of working.
Francois Beauregard of Pyxis Technologies brought an interesting perspective to facilitating the course material based on his experience as an Integral Development coach. In the course of exploring the Spiral Dynamics model in the first few hours of the class, we talked a lot about the importance of compassion (a word that oddly doesn’t appear in the text of Management 3.0) when assuming the responsibility for stewardship of the living in an organization. We also explored the possibilities created by differentiating between responsive and reactive behaviours.
The first morning of the class was very talk-heavy, but this was balanced by the very hands-on nature of the remainder of the material, which considered each of the aspects of Martie, the six-eyed Management 3.0 model. Martie’s eyestalks each focus on one of the six views of management (Appelo specifically calls these views to reinforce the idea that these are different perspectives intertwined within a complex system rather than independent principles/concepts). We talked briefly about each view and then tried a exercise that can be used to explore how this viewpoint is instantiated in an organization. The exercises are designed to be playful and immediately useful for taking back to the office and instigating discussion: games like Delegation Poker and Meddlars provide quick ways to delve into messy issues of individual motivation or organizational transformation and to visualize complex situations so that considered action can be taken.
I particularly liked the Moving Motivators exercise, which allows people to reflect on what motivates them, and visualize how a decision or change might affect the aspects of your work that give you satisfaction. I can see this being a very useful tool in getting to know a new employee or in doing some pre-work to consider how an upcoming change may affect the morale of team members. It might also be useful as an individual exercise for examining your own motivators in the context of a work or personal situation – I may run this exercise with my teenage son to help him think through some decisions he needs to make.
All the materials from this class are easily accessible outside of the training. The content comes straight from the Management 3.0 book, and all of the exercises are downloadable from the Management 3.0 site, so there are ways to get at this goodness if you can’t get funding to attend the course. Having said that, like most good trainings I’ve attended, the greatest value is not in the material itself, but in the discussions and interactions that take place in the classroom, sharing insights and reservations about what is being presented with other interested people. The other thing to keep in mind is that while this is a management class, the content is important regardless of your role in the organization – management is by definition a 2-way relationship, and it’s important that people who work in a company understand what good management practice looks like and how their organization is designed to support (or block) it regardless of what their title might be.