Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: October 2019

Learning and Networking at the Vienna CSP® Lounge

Learning and Networking at the Vienna CSP® Lounge


Held on October 28-30, 2019,

the Vienna, Austria Scrum Alliance Global Gathering provided an excellent opportunity to collaborate, learn, and network vein the popular Certified Scrum Professional (CSP)® Lounge. To earn the CSP credential, candidates must hold the Advanced Certified Scrum ProfessionalSM (ACSMSM) certification with Scrum Alliance, validate 24 months of work experience specific to the ScrumMaster role, and other key requirements.


Sharing Knowledge

There are three major sessions held in the CSP® Lounge: Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) Application Information Session, Coach Application Information Session, and Coach the Coach. The CSPs are committed to gaining additional knowledge, and many of them are interested in pursuing additional credentials (i.e., CST), as these accomplishments increases their impact in the Agile community.

A notable takeaway from the CSP® Lounge session is the commitment from the participants to share knowledge. While there are three formal sessions scheduled, much of the value is gained from the many informal sessions held, such as one-on-one discussions regarding career advancement opportunities.

Ravneet Kaur of San Francisco, and owner of Agile School, Inc., had the opportunity to get direct feedback regarding her Certified Enterprise Coach (CEC) application from her reviewer. Kaur stated, “He shared exactly what I was missing on the application, and I have a better idea regarding the direction I need to go.” The CSP Lounge allows individuals to get in an environment that facilitates effective communication.


Volunteering Opportunities

I first became aware of the CSP® Lounge when Tanya Nascimento, Global Education Events Specialist, reached out to CSPs regarding their interest to volunteer at the Global Gathering held in Austin, Texas. Volunteers were asked to help other CSPs learn the purpose of value of the lounge. In addition, pictures are taken of the attendees and placed on a huge map based on which country the individual represents. For the Vienna event, Europe was well-represented.

Volunteering provides one the opportunity to get more involved in the gathering activities. We take the time to welcome the CSPs to the lounge and to create a positive networking and learning environment. To make things even better, food and beverages are provided. For those who volunteer, Scrum Education Units (SEUs)® are earned, which are used to renew Scrum Alliance certifications.

Thoughts from the CSP® Lounge Facilitator – Stefan Zumbraegel

The facilitator for the Vienna CSP lounge, Stefan Zumbraegel of Germany, reached out to the volunteers in advance, and scheduled them based on need and availability.

Zumbraegel stated that the lounge provides CSPs with the opportunity to connect in a quiet space away while attending a busy event. He noted, “The participants have a dedicated space to share information and knowledge with each other.”


The opportunity to mingle in a quiet space during a busy conference added value to the Vienna Scrum Alliance Global Gathering. By having this dedicated lounge, the participants can create more meaningful relationships that can advance their careers. Given the success of the CSP Lounge, Scrum Alliance will continue to provide this venue in the future. The next Global Gathering is scheduled for New York City on May 11-13, 2020.


TBR – Tricia Broderick

Training from the Back of the Room Experience

On October 17-18, 2019, I took the Training from the Back of the Room (TBR) workshop offered by Tricia Broderick of Agile For All. TBR was created by Sharon Bowman, and it’s a popular approach to delivering interactive classes by using exercises that involve the learners. Sharon’s book, Training from the Back of the Room: 65 Ways to Step Aside and Let Them Learn, is included in the workshop. As a college professor and corporate trainer for nearly 30 years, I’m ashamed to admit that I have never taken a training of this importance, one that completely changes how I deliver my classes. I’ve known for years that engaging the classroom is important, and I’ve tried a few exercises here and there, but the activities taught by Tricia take it to a new level.

Why the TBR Training

My mentor, Steve Spearman of Agile For All, recommended that I take the TBR training. He mentioned that it could improve the quality of training that I provide my students. With Steve’s recommendation, I conducted a quick web search and found Tricia’s class. She offers this TBR training just once per year to the open market and limits the class size to 12 participants. I was fortunate that I found the class when space was still available, and quickly signed-up for the 2-day session.

For many years, I’ve heard the value of flipping the classroom, which means that students take a more active role in the learning process. In fact, given that I teach adult students, I have a good understanding of Malcolm Knowles’ Andragogy Theory, which states that adult learners prefer a self-directed approach where they can an integral role in the learning process.

The Value of TBR

Here are some of the top takeaways from the TBR training:

  • Apply six learning principles based on current brain research, regardless of the complexity of the topic, size, and level of learners.
  • Increase learners’ attention, retention and engagement with learning activities that engage the whole brain.
  • Use the “4Cs Map” as a training design and delivery model. The 4Cs include Connections, Concepts, Concrete Practice, and Conclusion.

From the get-go, Tricia demonstrated exercises that improve the engagement process. For example, instead of starting with an orientation about the class and where one can find the bathrooms, it’s best to have the students engaged in an interactive introduction activity. Also, Tricia used the classroom expertly, such as by leaving space in the back of the room where we could conduct exercises.


Humans are Mobile – Naturally

During the class, Tricia quoted the book Brain Rules by John Medina. I downloaded the audiobook on Audible and listened to it. Medina states that human beings evolved faster largely because of our ability to be mobile, walking up to 12 miles a day as hunter-gatherers. As we move more, we get more oxygen to the brain, which enhances the learning process. As instructors, it is essential to create learning activities where the students are doing instead of sitting down listening to lectures.

We learned the following exercises that can be incorporated into the classroom: Quick Start, Blackout Bingo, Standing Survey, Concept Centers, The Gallery Walk, Teach-Backs, Learning Logs, and The Walkabout. On Day 2 of the training, we worked collaboratively to apply these tools by using the 4Cs Map. This exercise allowed us to create interactive lessons based on a framework that is applicable to any learning environment.


Tricia’s Training from the Back of the Room workshop is dynamic, content-filled, and a must for anyone wishing to improve the delivery of the classes they teach. One student who attended stated the following to me: “After this class, I’m going to revamp all my classes … this stuff works!” I feel the same way about how this knowledge will radically alter how I delivery both my university and corporate training courses.

Key Takeaways from Advanced-Certified ScrumMaster Training

In September 2019, I attended the Advanced-Certified ScrumMaster (A-CSM) 2-day training taught by veteran Scrum Alliance trainer Jim Schiel. To qualify for the A-CSM, the candidate must have completed the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training and have at least one year of experience as a ScrumMaster after the certification is earned. The A-CSM is a key step in the progression to Scrum Alliances’ Certified Scrum Professional-SM (CSP®-SM) credential.

The level of rigor for the A-CSM is far higher than is required for the Certified Scrum Master (CSM®) certificate. Given that my experience is working with online delivery of courses for higher education institutions, I appreciated that Jim’s company, Artisan Agility, provided students with access to the Training Academy in advance. In essence, we were asked to complete pre-work prior to the face-to-face course. In total, I spent about 20 hours preparing for the 2-day class by completing all of the online activities, which included readings, videos, interactive discussion board activities, and checkpoints to test our knowledge. It was cool that Jim responded to some of our discussion posts.

Jim’s class is effective because there are plenty of hands-on lessons. In one exercise, we were asked to pick a topic that would lead us to create the product backlog. Given my topic recommendation was selected, I assumed the role of the Product Owner. We assigned the ScrumMaster, and the rest of the participants assumed the role of the Dev Team. We worked through this interactive exercise for about 15 minutes. Once we were done, Jim provided tips and advice regarding our performance. His vast experience in industry and as a trainer makes a huge difference because he can present feedback from different angles.

The class had an added benefit because an additional Certified Scrum Trainer (CST), Ram Srinivasan, was in attendance. Jim noted that Ram was present in the session to expand his knowledge base, which is important for all trainers. As a trainer and educator myself, it was good to see that Jim and Ram were committed to enhancing the learning experience. On several occasions, Ram shared feedback to the students that was on-point and valuable.

A key takeaway from the A-CSM training was related to the psychological safety topic. From an Agile perspective, this means that team members know they will not be punished when making mistakes. Jim recommends that ScrumMasters take the following approach to ensure psychological safety: (a) approach problems as a collaborator, and not the enemy; (b) speak human to human, and not boss to worker; (c) anticipate reactions and plan countermoves, and (d) replace blame with curiosity. These concepts are critical to creating a work environment where teams flourish and exceed expectations.

To complete the course, Jim provides a homework assignment that we must complete before setting up a phone call with him directly. We must pick three activities from a list of five and be prepared to discuss them. Here are two of the items: (1) Identify a challenge facing the self-organizing capabilities of your team, and devise a countermeasure to the challenge; and (2) Evaluate your vision for your career and your pursuit of advanced certifications as a ScrumMaster. If Jim feels we have adequately provided the responses, he will update our status on the Scrum Alliance website, and we will earn the Advanced-Certified Scrum Master certificate.Psychological_Safety

Critical Obstacles that Limit the Product Owner’s Success

The product owner (PO) must be a meaningful participant of the Scrum project. It’s necessary for this individual to be engaged from start-to-finish, meaning that other responsibilities should be kept to a minimum. The PO must help foster a culture of high-participation and a commitment to providing value to the customer early and often. The value expected by the customer is only truly known when the PO takes the time to learn the outcomes that are essential for this stakeholder, which means that knowing the vision of the organization is vital to success.

Obstacle: Product Owner Lacks Power to Make Decisions

Steve Spearman, Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) and Principal of Agile for All, states that a key obstacle faced by product owners is failing to be the real “owner” who is empowered to make the final decisions. The PO is a key stakeholder who has a clear grasp of the business requirements and shares that content with the dev team. In some organizations, the product owner must get clearance from layers of management before rendering a decision, even in cases when the issues are trivial. Lacking the decision-making power is a recipe for failure for the product owner and for the project itself.

Obstacle: Too Busy Doing Other Stuff

There is a sharp difference between ideal time and actual time allotted to Scrum-related work. The ideal perspective means that the product owner and other Scrum core team members are working 8 hours per day on the assigned activities. However, Spearman cautions that oftentimes the PO has insufficient time to be effective in this role. For example, the product owner might also be assigned operational duties, such as managing accounts and providing tech support. There are also many situations in which the PO is pulled from the Scrum project to help put out fires. When the product owner lacks the time to work on the project, the value promised to the customer may go unattended. To make matters worse, the dev team may proceed without input from the product owner and work on deliverables based on limited knowledge.

Obstacles: Poor Relationship with the Dev Team

In some cases, product owners get off on the wrong foot with the dev team, and it goes downhill from there. Spearman mentions that the PO may not feel part of the team. To improve the relationship with the development team, the product owner should promote a culture of collaboration, trust, and transparency. The concept is rather simple … that is, focus on using the combined skills, knowledge, and talents to provide maximum value to the customer. The product owner must also be aware that the dev team is composed of subject matter experts (SMEs) in their respective disciplines, which means their opinions regarding how the work is performed matters.


Spearman notes that product owners may sometimes feel overwhelmed with too much responsibility, thinking that all work is dependent on them with little to no help from the dev team and other stakeholders. However, to improve the chances of success, successful product owners should possess excellent awareness of the situation and the stakeholders particular to the Scrum project they are assigned to lead.

The fact is that obstacles are par for the course when taking on the role of the product owner. In short, the difference between a successful product owner and one that falls short of expectations depends on how the obstacles are either mitigated or managed when they arise.

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