Ambling Madly — The Travels of a Certified Scrum Trainer

Snow. My plane on Monday was diverted from Heathrow to Prestwick, near Glasgow. It took me an additional ten hours to reach London, in addition to the thirteen I had already traveled. When it snows Britain comes to a standstill. No trains, no airports, no buses and no schools. It is as if it has never before snowed in this country. Someone should teach the British government inspect/adapt principles. Learn from experience. Don’t repeat the same mistakes. Prepare for bad weather for heaven’s sake, it happens every year! Other European countries seem to deal with inclement weather just fine. Imagine if Finland stopped when it snowed.

I had some inspecting of my own to do in Cambridge, and as an aside, it may be interesting to some CSTs that this inspection ties in with a current discussion thread on the Scrum Trainers list on how to improve powerpoint presentations.

Around December I stopped using powerpoint altogether on my CSM courses. I had considerably reduced my deck over the previous couple of months and decided to take the plunge and do without. I do have pre-requisite and follow up reading for the participants, but I prefer the focus of the class itself to be on the experience of Scrum, the feeling, rather than the theory: full immersion — that’s the pedagogical ideal behind this decision.

I have found this approach changes the nature of the course greatly. A theater analogy would be that I have moved from the proscenium arch focus to theater in the round. The course has become much more interactive, and the room itself becomes a flexible space that we can create into anything we like, changing focus as necessary. It also means that the material can be explored in different ways and in a different order for each class. For me, these are all good things.

Are they so good for the participants? Well, as always, in depends. Some participants love this approach and I have heard audible sighs of relief when I announce (or remind) that there won’t be any powerpoint slides. Others have a harder time, and miss the comfort that a pre-defined framework gives them. I have allowed the course to take on its own life, and be driven by the needs of the group, as defined in their collective vision statement, rather than be driven only by what I believe they need to know. This again has pros and cons.

In Cambridge, after the first day of training I recognized that I have erred too far towards flexibility and lost some boundaries. I have been thrusting the participants beyond their comfort zone a little too aggressively, and in Cambridge they raised their voices in protest during the day one retrospective. Their honest and courageous feedback reminded me that I need to offer a clearer framework for the course, and make that more apparent at the start in order to counterbalance the lack of visual material. A clearer framework will offer a greater degree of security. When we feel secure we are better able to explore and take risks, which after all is what I am seeking. It seems I pushed too hard in that direction.

Sometimes less is more.

Tobias Mayer
CST

Download the PDF version: Ambling Madly 3_Cambridge CSM without PPT_blog

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