Dr. Jimmie Flores

Month: November 2019

Great Tips When Selecting Your Next Agile Class

For those looking to expand their Agile knowledge, there are a ton of courses out in the marketspace. In fact, the many options can make it confusing. Should we go to a workshop? What about a national or global conference? Oh … there are also leadership training courses, right? From my perspective, I find that having the end goal in mind is what makes the most difference. I do mean the end goal … such as having a clear idea regarding my career and the direction I want it to go.

Selecting the Best Training Option

Veteran Agile trainer, Jim Schiel of Artisan Agility, makes a good point about selecting the most appropriate training to take. He states that far too many individuals are concerned about the location and date, which means that many excellent training options are ignored. There are times when the best training for someone is scheduled in a city or country different from where one lives. I do understand that coordinating schedules and paying for travel can be difficult, but if the training can make a huge difference in one’s career, it should be taken. It’s also true that many people who make excuses about the travel and location are the same ones that might pass on learning opportunities held in the city where they live.

Make sure the Training Organization is Reputable

Schiel makes it clear that those seeking training should make sure that the organizations are reputable and are teaching the underlying knowledge and concepts in the Scrum Guide, which was written by Ken Schwaber and Jeff Sutherland. There are some organizations that are manufacturing their own Agile principles, and even offering certifications that carry little weight in industry. For this reason, Schiel recommends training from Scrum Alliance, Scrum.org, and ICAgile, which all offer high-quality training and certification paths.

Review the Trainer’s Qualifications

Unfortunately, there are situations where trainers lack the knowledge and passion to make the class informative, meaningful, and exciting. My experience with the Scrum Alliance instructors has been excellent, taking courses with Steve Spearman (Certified Scrum Product Owner), Schiel (Advanced Certified Scrum Master), and Anu Smalley (Certified Agile Leadership I). These trainers bring significant applied experience to the classroom, and they teach by using examples. Further, they practice Training from the Back of the Room principles, which means they engage the students throughout the entire learning experience. I recommend doing your research to ensure you avoid signing-up for a class that is PowerPoint-intensive. The research is convincing today in that students learn more when they take an active role in the learning process, such as by having table discussions, performing skits, and even teaching a topic to the rest of the class.

Take Action

When attending the Scrum Alliance Global Gathering in Vienna, Austria, I had the opportunity to speak to Stefan Zumbraegel, who recently met the rigorous Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) requirements. He stated that he had attended the previous five Global Gathering events that included Dublin, London, Minneapolis, Austin, and Vienna. This conversation with Stefan reminded me of what Schiel mentioned pertaining to the importance of making the commitment to attend any training regarding the location and date. As I stated here, one must consider the training based on the end goal. We must know where we want to go and select the right training with the most qualified trainer to help us reach our career goals.


The Scrum Guide (2017) states that ScrumMaster helps the team understand the Scrum theory, practices, rules, and values. One might think that meeting the requirements of this role is straightforward, and possibly easy to do. However, the fact is that performing the role of the ScrumMaster presents many challenges and requires this individual to have the necessary knowledge regarding how work gets done in the respective organization (i.e., corporate culture).

Pitfall #1

Trainer Steve Spearman of Agile for All states that a common ScrumMaster pitfall is failing to overcome past tendencies, such as opting to take a command-and-control project manager approach. The Scrum Guide is clear that the ScrumMaster should take a servant leadership role, and not one where orders are barked to the Dev Team at the beginning of each day. Given that many new ScrumMasters come from the waterfall way of doing business, it’s common to treat Scrum meetings as status sessions. In other words, they will expect the Dev Team to provide an update regarding the work performed and are ready to provide direction on what to do next. As you can tell from this discussion, this directive approach where there are sprinkles of Scrum practices falls short of creating a truly committed and engaged Scrum Team.

Pitfall #2

Spearman notes that another common ScrumMaster pitfall is failing to understand the true intent and power of the role. As noted earlier, the ScrumMaster is a servant leader to the team. For example, the ScrumMaster serves the Product Owner by doing the following: (a) finding techniques for effective Product Backlog management; (b) making sure the Product Owner understands how to order the Product Backlog in a manner that provides maximum value to the customer, and (c) understanding and practicing agility, such as welcoming change and delivering frequently.

The ScrumMaster serves the Dev Team in the following ways: (a) coaching the team to be self-organized and cross-functional; (b) helping the team as necessary to build high-value products, and (c) removing impediments that negatively impact the intended progress. An impediment is defined as anything that limits the productivity of the team, including the situation where a team member is pulled in too many directions.

Pitfall #3

Spearman states that another common pitfall is when an organization either fails to support or actively undermines the ScrumMaster’s role in changing both the team and the organization. An important point here is that many organizations struggle with the adoption of Scrum, which means the ScrumMaster should take the lead in coaching the organization in this effort by engaging in the following actions: (a) help the employees and stakeholders understand and enact empirical product development; (b) causing change that increases the productivity of the Scrum Team, and (c) working with other ScrumMasters to identify best practices to increase the effectiveness of Scrum within the organization.

Key Takeaways

The adoption of Scrum in any organization requires a change in mindset. The traditional command-and-control approach is counterproductive to business agility. The ScrumMaster must overcome common pitfalls to ensure the Scrum Team is highly-productive and provides maximum business value to the customer.

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