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.

Scrum Guide Update

A few days back there was a new update to the Scrum Guide – the definition of Scrum. So what’s new? Not much, which is a good think. Most of the changes were minor, correcting, clarifying and updating the text so it’s clearer. Few interesting updates:

The trend of using Agile and Scrum out of IT was addressed explicitly:

Scrum has been used to develop software, hardware, embedded software, networks of interacting function, autonomous vehicles, schools, government, marketing, managing the operation of organizations and almost everything we use in our daily lives, as individuals and societies.”

Nothing new, for us, but it can make a difference to the people new to Scrum.

I specifically like the update in the Daily Scrum section where the three questions were only made as one option. Finally, right.

“The structure of the meeting is set by the Development Team and can be conducted in different ways if it focuses on progress toward the Sprint Goal. Some Development Teams will use questions, some will be more discussion based.”

So there is a chance people stop using it as individual status meeting and use it to inspect and adapt their plan ow they are going to achieve the Sprint Goal.

The only change I don’t understand as it is to my opinion going against the philosophy of Scrum as a framework, not a process is the Sprint Backlog section:

“To ensure continuous improvement, it (Sprint Backlog) includes at least one high priority way in which the team works, identified in the previous Retrospective meeting.”

So here we are, pushing one practice which may be good for the teams who are at the beginning of their Agile journey and don’t improve as part of their DNA to everyone. I can imagine many other ways how to improve then making it part of Sprint Backlog and soften the line between delivering value and “other important tasks which need to be done”.

I like Scrum as it is not much prescriptive and I hope such weird changes will not increase as they will eventually be the end of Scrum as a flexible framework…

Make product as wide as possible

Some time ago, when I first heard the definition of LeSS (Large-Scale Scrum) product, I found it a bit unrealistic. Large-Scale Scrum is one of the Agile Scaling methods and I happen to like it as it’s very close to what I had experienced to be successful in various environments before. But the definition of the product is quite wide. Specifically – the product shall be as wide as possible, but still practical. If the customer feels it’s the same product or if it’s similar from technical perspective, it is the same product. When you start to apply this rule, in general it means that most of the companies have one product only.

Let me give you a few examples… Amazon and all its services shall be one product because that is how customers see it, the service company delivering internet solutions and mobile apps for variety of the customers is one product despite of the diversity of the customers and technology, the maintenance and the new development is one product as it is same from the technical perspective. Your projects are just Epics in your Product Backlog. When you think about it for a while it makes sense, as you need consistency in your delivered functionalities, flexibility to be business driven and ability to prioritize your business only by business value not by technical skills or domains. This is the real crossfunctionality we aim for. It’s not that difficult despite of the complexity of your product. The people who create our software are usually having university degree which shows they can learn. They are smart and creative software engineers. They can make it. If you do it this way it makes everything so much easier as dependencies at code level are much simpler than dependencies at business level.

Definition of Done

Definition of Done (DoD) is a simple thing, although people are often struggling with it. It only defines what “done” means. It brings consistency into the product delivery. It sets the bar of quality we all keep the same. People often mix it with the acceptance criteria and are confused. So let me summarize it. Definition of Done shall be the same for all Product Backlog Items, as we need consistency, we need to know which quality standards are kept.  Definition of Done is created as an agreement between Product Owner and Development Team, so it contains both technical and business quality requirements. It shall be stable for the product and not change Sprint to Sprint. Eventually, we can improve it, but we aim for consistency so we keep it stable. Definition of Done is the same for all teams who work on the Product Backlog to keep that consistency.

So how can such Definition of done look?

  • Coded
  • Tested
  • Reviewed
  • Documented
  • Running on test server
  • Accepted by Product Owner

You can make it more specific:

  • Coded according to Product Backlog Item (User Story) definition
  • Automated tests (unit, functional)
  • Reviewed (by different team member)
  • Documented (internal)
  • Running on test server
  • Accepted by Product Owner

Eventually, in some time we may improve it for example as follows:

  • Coded
  • Tested
  • Reviewed
  • Documented
  • User documentation
  • Translated to Chinese, French and German
  • Running on production
  • Contains business measures how users used it
  • Accepted by Product Owner

In this case, we achieved continuous delivery within our Sprint. We release each Backlog item to our users directly whenever it’s done. We need to translate it as a part of that otherwise we can’t be able to release. And we have to add some business measures to know if we are getting the expected impact or not and get fast feedback. As you might see, the more the organization is Agile and teams cross-functional, the wider is their Definition of Done.

Definition of Done shall be visible so everybody can see it. Never compromise. The User Story is either done or not. Any other state only brings chaos and makes any release completely unpredictable.

Undone Organization

Agile and Scrum transformation is not any easy and it takes time. For a big organization, such time can easily be counted in years. During those years you would be dealing with so-called undone organization. Scrum itself only knows three roles – ScrumMaster, Product Owner, and Development Team. That’s all we need to deliver value to the customer. The other roles are ultimately not needed.

However, at the beginning of our journey, the undone organization might be bigger than the Scrum part of our organization. As our Definition of Done is extending, the teams are getting more and more cross-functional, we are able to embrace those people and make them part of the team. The more the team extends its cross-functionality, the closer we get to the production quality and real-time feedback.

For example Architect and UX people are often at the beginning of the Scrum journey outside of the team but as the team is getting better and learn, teams are able to take it over and make it part of the Definition of Done and separate Architect and UX roles disappear and people move into teams. At first, it sounds unrealistic but in some time this is exactly what needs to happen in order to optimize for fast value delivery and feedback.

Entire System – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The third element is called Entire System. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. As organizations are complex systems, you can stay here forever. There is always some change which needs your attention, there is always a better way how we can do things, there is always a better way of work.

Level 3: Entire System

At this level, ScrumMasters shall look at the organization as a system, from ten thousand feet distance. Searching for organizational improvements. They shall become servant leaders, helping others to become leaders, grow communities, and heal relationships. Bring the Agile values to the organizational level. Address the system in its whole complexity and make it a self-organized network of great teams. At this stage, you can see your organization as a living organism. This living organism has one goal of which no one has doubts. This system takes experiments and learns from failures. The safety, transparency, and trust are deep in the system DNA. The culture value collaboration and trust which gives us an opportunity to come up with more innovative and creative ideas then hierarchical traditional structures.

#ScrumMasterWay - Entire System

You might feel you are done, you made it. Please celebrate, it’s a huge achievement. And then let me remind you, there is no end of your journey. The goal is to achieve the right mindset of inspect and adapt every day. Being Agile is the star on the horizon, you can never touch it, but in short iterations, you can get closer. That’s what Agile is all about.

If you are struggling about how to create such Agile organization and how to work at this Entire System level of #ScrumMasterWay concept, join my Certified Agile Leadership class (CAL) which we now offer as the only ones in the Czech Republic and Slovakia.

Relationships – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The second element is called Relationships. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. If you do it right, and your organization is not too dysfunctional with a lot of politics and difficult stakeholders and product structure, what you build at the Relationship level, could be sustainable in about three years and gradually you may gain more and more time to the next level of the Entire system.

Level 2: Relationships

The Relationship level brings higher perspective. You are not focusing on the elements of the Myself dimension to the development team only but to the broader system. You look after all relationships your team has with anyone outside and use the mix of aspects from Metaskills, Learning, State of Mind and Leadership elements to improve them.

ScrumMasters focus their teaching, mentoring, facilitation, and coaching skills to improve relationships between the development team and Manager, Product Owner, customers, stakeholders, and other teams. For example, you may coach the Product Owner to build a great vision, facilitate conversation with other teams, help the manager to understand how to change the performance reviews, and much more. Whatever helps the bigger eco-system to become self-organized, consistent and coherent.

#ScrumMasterWay - Relationships

At this level, the eco-system begins to use the high capacity of the previously created high-performing teams in a meaningful way. We maximize work not done, is in the Agile manifesto. Too many companies are using Scrum just as a tool to deliver any idea which goes around. This level helps organizations to prioritize and focus on true value delivery. There are thousands of practices from this space you can teach (Story mapping, splitting patterns, Impact mapping, Lean startup, beyond budgeting, management 3.0). The list never ends, so keep in mind that it’s not about practices despite the fact that they can be useful but it’s about building the right Agile mindset. Increase transparency and openness. Help them to become a great team together with one goal.

My Team – The World Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay Concept

The world dimension of #ScrumMasterWay concept represents three levels ScrumMasters shall operate. The first element is called My team. Though the time and energy ScrumMasters spend on each level differ based on the team or organizational culture and maturity level, they have to be present at every level to keep an eye on changes. If you do it right, and your organization is not too dysfunctional with people actively fighting against what you build at My team level, you shall be ready to move to the next level in about six months.

Level 1: My Team

The first level of #ScrumMasterWay concept is My team. Being ScrumMaster at My team level feels like being a team member. They look at things from the development team perspective: Explain different Agile practices, facilitate Scrum meetings, help to remove impediments, coach the team, and make the team great. If people are only aware of the existence of this level, we often hear that ScrumMaster can be a team member at the same time, or it can rotate, or it shall not be needed at all after some time. They are all huge misunderstandings of the ScrumMaster role.

#ScrumMasterWay - My Team

My team level is a great start. If you do it right, it will help you to demonstrate the success of Scrum, and show you a way to the next level of addressing product success, and building an Agile organization. If you do it right, the team becomes not only cross-functional, and self-organized, but high-performing as well. The team will be significantly better that anything you ever experienced before. More productive, always improving, proactive and taking over the ownership and responsibility for the overall goal.

You can’t skip this level, as this is something tangible, something which helps you to demonstrate success. Something which helps you to taste Agile for the first time. And get feeling how it shall be. The first Myself dimension will help you to address My team level and prevent you from falling into assistant or mother of a team. You are done when you build the great team from the group of individuals. You recognize it with a high level of energy, positivity, and activity in the team. Team members will be happy to go to work, they will enjoy it, and take other team members as friends.

Leadership – Myself Dimension – #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the last element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog posts, each element of this dimension is represented by a dice which you can roll every day of Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The fourth dice stands for leadership. If you want to transform the organization, your leadership style shall change first. In this element, we talk about being a servant leader, creating the culture, feedback, motivation, collaboration, and leader-leader style.

Servant Leader

ScrumMaster is a leadership role. One of the aims of ScrumMaster is to make others work better, they are servant leaders. They can heal relationships, create communities, listen to others, have empathy, and think beyond day-to-day tasks and short-term goals. Only when you become servant leader you can be the great ScrumMaster.

We Culture

Agile needs the right culture. It’s all about us, how we work as a team. Be collaborative, support each other, take over responsibility and ownership for the team. ScrumMasters shall be using their leadership skills to create such culture because without it Agile and Scrum can never be successful.

Feedback

Give and receive feedback is critical for every leader. It’s important prerequisite to inspect and adapt. ScrumMasters shall be actively searching for feedback and find creative ways to allow people to learn from it.

Motivation

Part of the motivation is coming from the environment and culture. ScrumMasters support intrinsic motivation factors as they are aligned with their goal to create a self-organized team. Motivate through an understanding of the purpose and clear goals, safe to fail learning environment, and open and transparent culture.

Collaboration

Collaboration is written in the Scrum DNA. Scrum is all about teams and collaboration. There is no individual work important in real Scrum, no individual goals. We do our best to achieve the goal – deliver value to the customer.

Leader-leader

The leader-leader model helps you to change the traditional leadership style of leader–follower where people are expected to follow orders into the leader-leader concept of servant leadership where leaders are here to help the other people to grow and become leaders themselves.

Learning – Myself Dimension – The #ScrumMasterWay concept

Let’s continue with the next element of ‘Myself’ dimension. As we already said in the previous blog post, each element of this dimension represented by a dice which you can roll every day or Sprint and choose the aspect you are going to take. The second dice is for learning. Scrum Masters shall learn new things every day. This element shows a direction where you can focus the learning activity to gain Agile, coaching, facilitation, business, change, and technical skills.

Agile

ScrumMasters you must be Agile enthusiasts, constantly looking for new practices, concepts, and ideas. Joining local communities, attending or speaking at conferences. Looking for trends where Agile is heading. The world is changing fast, so do Agile and Scrum.

Coaching

Without good coaching, you can’t create sustainable high-performing teams. So better start right away. There are many classes and books on coaching, plenty options to choose from. But after all, it’s all about practice. Start tomorrow and get better during the time.

Facilitation

Facilitation is critical especially when the team is not that mature. Be ready to facilitate not only during meetings but anytime. Every conversation can go wrong, and create a conflict or misunderstanding. Be on a watch for those situations.

Business

As part of the mentoring and teaching, you will need to understand the Agile Product Ownership. Have an idea on how to form a vision, how to prioritize, how to build the backlog. Help Product Owners with business Agility concepts.

Change

ScrumMasters are implementing change in organizations, they change their culture, and way of working. Such change is one of the hardest. You are change manager, change is your day to day job, so be better at implementing change.

Technical

Finally, the most controversial aspect of this element is technical. It’s controversial because as ScrumMaster you shall not be a team member at the same time as you will lose the overview. The technical aspect here points to the Extreme Programming practices as continuous integration, shared codebase, auto-tests and TDD, BDD, pair programming, regular refactoring, agile architecture and continuous delivery. They are critical for team success and every great ScrumMaster shall have a decent knowledge about them.