What Certified Scrum Trainers (CST) need to learn

One of the things you have to know as a trainer is how to design a content for your class. The traditional teaching methods which were mostly about listening and reading, are very inefficient. Even if you tell a lot of stories, most of the content never survive in people brains until next week. The modern teaching methods are about experience. When you think about it, the things which you remember the most are those you experienced, things you have to figure out yourself. Therefore, the modern teaching is much more about team discussion, simulations, and facilitation of the class instead of teaching. After all, no matter what you say, people are only able to keep focus for about 5min. Then they start their own thinking process in their mind of side thoughts initiated by any associations with what they heard and simply they stop following what’s happening. Don’t believe me? Say them something important in the middle of 15min block. Do it the best you can. Work with your voice. And then, one hour later ask them the question about it. Surprised? And it’s even worse. The more different is the message you are saying to their current reality, the smaller the chance is they remember it and even hear it. It can work for mathematics, but not in a class which has only one goal – change the mindset.

The most popular book which describes a different approach to teaching and learning is Training from the Back of the Room. Get a copy and try it. The hardest is to accept that your students are creative and smart enough so they can figure it. You don’t have to tell them the answers; instead, you shall design a class in a way so they can answer their questions by themselves. They will figure it out.

Interestingly, one requirement which every CST – Certified Scrum Trainer has to do, is to design the class content. The candidates including me were always asking why is that. But it’s actually quite important. Firstly, it proves that you understand the topic enough so you can put it together in a meaningful way – and yes, during co-training with many CST candidates, I’ve seen people teaching Scrum in quite a random way – you know, cooking a soup from great ingredients, doesn’t necessarily ends up as a great soup. Teaching somebody else’s material is like using great chef’s recipe. And again, we are not teaching simple stuff, Agile and Scrum are about changing mindset. So it’s not a cupcake recipe, it’s more like baking macarons. Secondly, considering modern learning trends, where you shall facilitate (not teach) a class, and coach the entire system there to highest learning – there is no way you can copy someone else’s content. It must be authentic. It’s like an art 🙂

Once you got that, one of the skills you need to develop is to design a game. It’s not that hard, but still, it’s great to have a framework. If you like to know more, I can more than recommend Luke Hohmann’s Game Design Master Class, which shows the “secret ingredients” of serious, collaborative game design. Cooking had never been easier :). I joined game design class this summer and I very much enjoyed it, so here is my recommendation. We talked about game theory, game structure, and design strategies, all in very collaborative and fun environment.

So here is my current recommendation summary, if you want to be successful in teaching Agile and Scrum, changing people’s mindset and eventually becoming CST – Certified Scrum Trainer which is the highest quality bar of teaching Agile and Scrum, you need the following mix of ingredients:

  • Class facilitation (i.e. Training from the Back of the Room.)
  • System coaching (i.e. ORCS – Organizational System Relationship Coaching)
  • Game design (i.e. Game Design Master Class)

Be aware that this is not official advice; I’m just one CST (Certified Scrum Tariner) sharing my personal experiences on how to be a great Agile and Scrum Trainer.

Are we Agile… ?

Are we already Agile? How do we know we are Agile? What level of Agility have we? It’s hard to say. On one hand, you never touch Agile as Agile is like a star on the horizon. On the other hand, you can feel it after the first 15 min you enter the organization from the energy, level of the positivity, interactions from people, and company space setup. A bit later you might search for more tangible proofs of Agility / non-Agility. But the initial sense if usually right.

It’s so hard to measure as once some authority publish the assessment questions, companies make those things happen and fake it. It will most likely not even be conscious, as people are starving for simple recipes. So such assessment can only work once in life. Here are the first seven ideas which come to my mind. If you like to answer, be honest and use the whole scale <0 .. 10>.  No organization is ideal, and so there is low chance you will be the ideal one.

I can continue, but firstly people can only answer few questions, I hope 7 is not too much and secondly, it’s just a short test which is only valid for the first time you do it, next time when we meet during my Agile coaching, I will ask a different set of random questions :). It’s not any complete assessment, just a fun test which can possibly make you think about yourself and your way of work.

If I got enough replies, I will publish them in some of the future posts.

Scrum Transformation Journey

As one of the CSTs – Certified Scrum Trainers – I’ve got a unique opportunity to travel around the world during the last two years and teach Scrum at a variety of businesses, organizational environments, and very different cultures. I must admit that Scrum is awesome as it is universal. You can apply it to software, hardware, marketing, HR, executive teams and be rapidly successful, significantly better, change the way of work and become the best of the greatest. The flip side of the coin is, that despite the easy way how Scrum is defined, there are still companies, teams and individuals completely failing to understand what Scrum is and therefore failing to implement it.

I draw this picture to illustrate that becoming Scrum is a journey. You can’t just do Scrum, you have to embrace it. You have to become Scrum yourself first. It’s often not that straightforward as we’ve been got used to the traditional processes throughout the history, but at the same time, this is the very best strength of Scrum. Once you master it, it becomes the part of your life. It’s not just a process, it is a way of living.

Scrum Transformation


Technical Scrum

First, let me say explicitly that “Technical Scrum” is not Scrum. It only pretends to be Scrum. It’s a camouflage. However, it might be the necessary first step in certain organizations to move to the real Scrum. How do you recognize Technical Scrum? People “do” Scrum. They are looking for ways how to remain the same as they used to be. They are eager to get checklists of practices which need to be done, in order to do proper Scrum. Therefore Technical Scrum is all about estimations techniques, burn-downs, measuring velocity. The very important metric would be individual utilization, so they usually insist on time task estimates, capacity calculations, and time-sheets to be filled. They have identified new roles, but in reality, they just renamed the traditional roles and didn’t change the behavior. Scrum meetings are usually long and felt redundant. Managers use Scrum to micromanage.  The overall team focus is on “how”. The team is not any team but a group of individuals working on similar items. The individual accountability matters. They are looking how to split responsibilities instead of how to collaborate to achieve the goal. Product Backlog is usually a to-do list where most things have to be done.

Scrum Mindset

In the real Scrum, your team understands the mindset and they are “living” Scrum. They take it as the way how to focus on customers, how to innovate, how to collaborate. The estimates, efficiency, and utilization become quite unimportant, as they focus on delivering value to the customer and overall long term results. The first step here is usually “Team Scrum” where the development team becomes a real self-organized and cross-functional team which works together. The team creation process produces a huge trust internally among the team members but also externally to the organization. It’s the first tiny ‘snowball’ which afterward starts the whole transformation and creates forces to change how we run our business and how the organization itself is structured.

The “Organizational Scrum” builds on top of the values we experienced at team level – openness, transparency, and trust which leads the organization to be more business driven, flexible, and open to innovations. The business slowly starts to be picking up and the organization has to follow the rest. At this time, the snowball is big enough to attract the rest of the organization. At that time, you are truly Agile.

Such transformation can take years. It’s not uncommon that companies are falling back and restarting the whole initiative again. It’s hard. To succeed you need a good reason for change and courage. Eventually, every company has to change as the word is getting more complex and fast. The same way as industry revolution changed the way we were hundred years ago, the complexity of our current life is changing us now. To succeed in a long term, we have to be more flexible and dynamic – more Agile.