I am increasingly becoming aware of the importance and need for hands-on experience and exercises to accurately convey Agile concepts and thinking. These exercises and simulations are designed to teach participants through experience. Although the analytic side of many of us scoffs at these exercises as unnecessary touchy-feely “fluff”, having first hand experience trying to instruct teams and managers in often foreign concepts like “team self-organization”, I have witnessed their value and subscribe to “fluff” myself as a necessary and key part of learning.
Actually, it isn’t fluff at all. Exercises teach a form of knowledge largely under-appreciated by western-society called tacit knowledge. Some knowledge is simply difficult to capture in written or verbal communication. Take, for example, a master craftsperson or chef. The master mostly teaches the apprentice by working side by side together, by example and lead, rather than through manuals or lectures. Similarly, many of the skills and concepts that make Agile work cannot be communicated through books or lectures. People learning agile do best when they experience the concepts, work with knowledgeable craftspeople, and learn Agile thinking through experience, or tacit-to-tacit learning. For a more in-depth discussion, see Takeuchi and Nonaka’s Knowledge Creating Company.