Category Archives: training

Should Engineers Take Scrum Product Owner Training?

I was recently asked if engineers or other members of the scrum team would get value from a Certified Scrum Product Owner workshop.

Our Certified Scrum Product Owner workshops are designed to build knowledge and skill in three main areas:

  • How scrum works and how to use it effectively
  • How to build shared understanding of the requirements between stakeholders and the development team so the team builds the right thing
  • How to identify and focus the team’s efforts on the most valuable deliverables

These are topics every member of a high-performing team should be versed in. Having engineers participate in product owner training helps them understand the context within which they do their engineering work, and helps them understand how to interact better with product owners around topics such as the business value of paying down technical dept.

For products that are extremely technical, engineers usually work closely with the product owner in order to define and refine the user stories. If the engineers lack story writing skills, then the resulting ‘stories’ are often little more than a restating of the architecture and technical design. The problem with this is that many of these ‘technical stories’ need to be implemented before there is anything meaningful to the stakeholders. Once those engineers have been exposed to the story writing and splitting techniques in our workshop, they are better able to define/refine stories in such a way that they stay pertinent to stakeholders at all times.

I’ll also point out that all scrum masters should take the product owner training, as scrum masters are the scrum experts who provide guidance to the scrum team and the greater organization. Frequently, the scrum master will be called upon to coach the product owners in the various skills needed to be effective in product owner role.



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Elizabeth McClellan: An artist’s interpretation of scrum

Artist, illustrator and graphic facilitator Elizabeth McClellan is one of my favorite people, proving as she always does that the kind of work we do here at Agile Learning Labs–and what our clients do when they develop software–is as much art as it is business. Last June, as Chris blogged recently, Elizabeth recorded everything that happened in one of our Certified Scrum Master Workshops in her inimitable style. This week, she did the same for our Certified Product Owner course in Redwood City. Click on each image to see it in all its detail and glory.
Read the full article…

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Who needs certification when you can get this awesome ScrumMaster button?

We are a bit enamored of swag over here at Agile Learning Labs. Witness our latest effort, this adorable 3″ Scrum Master button you can wear on your conference tee or use to decorate your cubicle scrum room.

The only way to get one is to attend one of our trainings, public or private. If you are dying to get your mits on one of these puppies in time for the holidays, sign up for our December 4-5 Certified Scrum Master training with Chris Sims and Jeff Mckenna, and you can have it all–Scrum Alliance certification and your very own piece of Agile Learning Labs bling!

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Training The Trainers

Agile Learning Labs is partnering with Tobias Mayer to put on a brand new series of workshops aimed at trainers, coaches and advanced practitioners of Agile. We’re calling it Creative Edge: Training & Coaching for Coaches & Trainers. Catchy, eh? The Scrum Alliance is generously sponsoring the series, so there will naturally be special pricing for members.

So far Tobias has assembled a diverse and stimulating lineup:

  • Lyssa Adkins will teach a course titled Coaching Agile Teams. If you’re a fan of Lyssa’s recent book, Coaching Agile Teams: A Companion for ScrumMasters, Agile Coaches, and Project Managers in Transition (as you should be) you won’t want to miss this one.
  • Lee Devin will teach Artful Making for Coaches and Teams, which draws from improv traditions to help you become a more responsive and innovative instructor.
  • Sharon L. Bowman will lead a workshop based on her rather awesome book, Teaching from the Back of the Room. If you’ve been wondering how to avoid being responsible for lecture/PowerPoint snoozefests in your work, this course will teach you how to create more organic learning opportunities.

These courses will be offered repeatedly, in San Francisco, Philadelphia, Chicago, Boulder, and Seattle. The first date is October 28-29, so visit the Creative Edge homepage with alacrity. There you can find out which class that will be, and sign up to be notified when venues are finalized and registration opens. We will be offering highly favorable pricing, and if you’re a member of the Scrum Alliance, the discounting will be absolutely crazy, so hie thee hence!

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CSM Early Bird Tickets On Sale!

Chris and Jeff will be leading another weekend Certified ScrumMaster class on September 11-12, and if you register before August 21, you can get you some earlybird pricing. And, to mix species metaphors, if you can muster being an eager beaver in addition to an early bird, and get yourself signed up for our newsletter before the next one goes out bright and early Wednesday morning (that’s the 11th), you can snag yourself a discount code for a significant additional discount.

Due to popular demand, we’re also working on scheduling a repeat of our popular Certified Scrum Product Owner class, so give us a shout if you’re interested in announcements for that class, too.

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Experiencing Agility at SD Forum

Chris will be giving a brief, experiential introduction to Agile on the morning of July 27, sponsored by SD Forum. For anyone who just wonders what the "fuss" is all about, this is a way to get a quick dose–not of lore and theory, but of what it might actually be like to live in an Agile world. One thing is for certain: there is no PowerPoint in this utopia. Also, if you're hesitating over whether or not to take the plunge and get your CSM, this is a good way to test drive Chris' material and teaching methods. This workshop will set you back a mere $35–$25 if you're an SD Forum member, and why wouldn't you be?

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Chris is on the Cranky Middle Manager Show talking about Agile

The Cranky Middle Manager Show If you want to hear Chris explain agile in layman's terms, have a listen to this episode of the Cranky Middle Manger Show, where Chris is the featured guest. The show is hosted by our friend, Wayne Turmel, who is jovially cranky in a way that only a stand-up comic-turned-management trainer can be.

We did a pilot for a two day course with Wayne in Chicago last year, aimed at introducing newly-promoted individual contributors to the dark arts of management. It was a lot of fun, and would be even more fun to do in-house at your company now that you have a hiring freeze and need to bootstrap your junior people into management… but I digress.

Wayne dedicates each show to a historical figure; it's always someone fascinating you've never heard of, and it's always eerily apt–don't know how he does it. This episode is dedicated to Gaius Marius, "reorganization consultant to the Roman Army."

Another Cranky standard, the quote of the week, is from the Kaballah, and is also astonishingly relevant to agile practice:

"Every phase of evolution commences by being in a state of unstable force and proceeds through organization to equilibrium. Equilibrium having been achieved, no further development is possible without once more oversetting,"
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Management 2.0: What makes a great manager?

Just before the holiday, we had the pleasure of debuting a brand new course, Management 2.0, in partnership with Wayne Turmel, aka The Cranky Middle Manager. It was also our first course offering in a new market: Chicago. To kick off day one of this action-packed two day course aimed at those who have recently made the move from individual contributor to manager, Chris led the participants through a brief session that examined the question, "What makes a great manager?"

Chris used the exercise as an opportunity to teach the Group Wisdom Without Groupthink method of structured brainstorming, using Nominal Group Technique (NGT) to gather ideas, then sorting the results using Decision Optimizing Tiny Stickies
(DOTS or Dot Voting).

Each attendee thought about the best managers they had worked for, and what attributes, practices, or skills set them apart from the rest. Our group included experienced engineers, a few management consultants, and one professional clown (You think clowns don't need management and team-building skills? You just try getting ten of them into one of those tiny cars.)—as diverse a collection of minds as we've ever had the pleasure of surveying. Everyone participated in several rounds of brainstorming, and once the conference room wall was plastered with ideas on giant Post-Its, everyone voted for their top choices.

The result was a tiered list of valuable qualities, with 'tier one' being those that the group felt were most important. According to this group, a great manager…

Tier One:

  • develops people
  • values fun
  • sets clear goals
  • gives timely feedback

Tier Two:

  • is open and honest
  • is empowering
  • develops strengths

Tier Three:

  • removes obstacles
  • seeks to understand
  • is a systems thinker
  • gives frequent positive feedback
  • uses metrics/measures
  • expresses appreciation
  • is “but” free

Tier Four:

  • cares about the “whole person”
  • keeps the “big” perspective
  • is flexible
  • gets out of the way

Tier Five:

  • understands the job/responsibility
  • states goals positively
  • fosters a team environment
  • personalizes interactions
  • gives direction, not details
  • is an enabler
  • has a sense of humor
  • follows up

It is interesting to compare the results of this exercise across the several other groups that have gone through the exercise for the same question. This group tended to emphasize the manager's role in developing people. As most of the people present were fairly new to management and worked at the level of team leader, it made sense to us that they would see management as centering on helping individual contributors to shine. Here are some links to the brainstorming lists other groups have generated:

The California Employment Development Center
IEEE Technology Management Council
Bay Area Engineering Managers' Support group

Go beyond Management 2.0, with our Agile Manager workshop!

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Management 2.0 – Becoming the kind of leader you would follow

I have teamed up with Wayne Turmel, host of The Cranky Middle Manager Show, to create a 2-day workshop to help you move beyond being ‘good at your job’ to helping others excel at theirs. When we take this show on the road in 2009 the price will be $1,000 a seat, but we are holding a ‘dress rehearsal’ in Chicago on December 15 & 16, for a mere $450.

Learn more about the workshop

Claim one of the last available seats



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Agile Project Management Workshop

On June 17th, the Technical Management Institute, Effective Training Associates, and the IEEE are teaming up to put on an agile project management workshop. The workshop will be held in Palo Alto and is open to the public, but admission is limited to the first 12 registrants. The proceeds will benefit the Silicon Valley IEEE.

Workshop Description:
On a software project, uncertainty is certain. The customer will change their mind, a ‘must have’ feature will be discovered, deadlines will move, or an unexpected competitive threat will need to be countered. The agile approach to project management allows the team to easily adjust to these changing conditions in order to produce the most valuable software possible.

This workshop teaches the fundamentals of agile project management, and is recommended for everyone who will be involved in an agile project. We will explore the key roles, responsibilities, interactions, and processes that make a successful agile project happen.

Participants will learn:
– Estimation
– Release planning
– Prioritization
– The rhythm of iterative development and delivery
– Roles and responsibilities on an agile project
– Communication on an agile team
– Empirical process control
– Agile metrics
– Simple tools for managing agile projects

The workshop focuses on practical ‘how to’ skills development, while providing enough theory for participants to understand why the techniques work. Interactive exercises allow participants to learn by doing. Class notes, suggestions for further reading, and free follow-on consulting are all included to ensure that the workshop’s lessons can be effectively applied back in the real world.



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