Agile Software Development Workshop

Last week, I hosted a training/workshop about "Agile Software Development" for a customer. They had already started introducing Scrum in their teams. And actually they had already gotten quite far: They had all of the basic things in place (the meetings, task board, user stories, ...).

I did agile training in the past, but this time I did some things differently: I basically had next to no slides, and I let the audience do most of the work. We tried to learn everything together, discussing and drawing on flip charts. Also, this was the first agile training I did where all the participants were from the same company.

Well Prepared...
Well Prepared...
Live Drawing
Live Drawing

Break almost over...
Break almost over...
Classroom
Classroom

Here's what went well, and things that positively surprised me:

  • I thought we would do the training in a meeting room at the customer's office. But no: They rented a really nice villa for two days!
  • They brought in almost everyone from three different teams, plus managers, project managers, ... Basically everybody who has to do with software development.
  • They already tried to implement Scrum on their own (quite successfully). So everyone had at least a basic understanding of "Agile" and we were able to spend a lot of time discussing (and trying to solve) their concrete problems/challenges. Because of that, the workshop was very hands-on.
  • Everybody participated in all the exercises.
  • In some of the exercises, I was really just a facilitator. The participants researched, discussed, drew the flipchart pages, ...
  • The weather was really nice (especially for February), and we were allowed to also use the garden of the villa, so we did some of the sessions outdoor.
  • I had to shorten some topics on my agenda, but I actually expected that. And I did that after a discussion with the participants, so they got to decide what they wanted to do in-depth and what we could shorten.

I took pictures of all the flip chart pages and sent them everything I drew on the whiteboard. I also sent them lots of links and books for further reading, grouped by topic. So, even though I didn't really have any "course material", I hope the participants have enough information to remember what we discussed/learned anyway.

Outdoor Sessions
Outdoor Sessions
Group Discussion
Group Discussion

Preparing to discuss
Preparing to discuss
Writing good user stories
Writing good user stories

Again, the best thing about this particular workshop was, that they had already tried some things, and had a lot of concrete questions that we could answer together. We also tried to solve some of their problems together, and worked out a list of things for them to try next.

There were also some things that didn't go so well, and things I need to consider for future workshops/trainings:

  • The time was almost too short - For that group size and what they wanted to learn, three days would probably have been better than too.
  • The days were almost too long - But we took a lot of breaks, so I guess it was OK. At least, nobody fell asleep.
  • Some people told me afterwards that they really would have wanted more slides and a hand-out. I guess I will prepare some for future workshops, but also inform the participants in advance that this is mostly a workshop, not a talk or training with ex-cathedra teaching.
  • The group size was rather large, and during my planning, I didn't really consider that some activities are quite slow with larger groups. Had the group been even bigger, we probably would have needed a third workshop day or cut even more topics from the agenda. I have to consider this when planning future trainings / workshops.

For me, it was a great experience. And the first results from the anonymous survey I sent to the participants are also very positive. In future trainings or workshops, I will definitely use a similar teaching style, but change a thing or two to address participant concerns from this workshop and earlier trainings I gave.

Facilitated discourse
Facilitated discourse
Concentrated
Concentrated

Preparing for a retrospective
Preparing for a retrospective:
"What did we learn?"
Results Gallery
Results Gallery

And I will have another chance to teach soon: Next month, I'll co-host a workshop about "Test Driven Development for iOS Apps" together with Rene Pirringer. Interested? You can find out more Information here (German): Mathema Workshops, and you can also register at that page. I heard that there are still some places left...

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My name is David Tanzer and I have been working as an independent software consultant since 2006. I help my clients to develop software right and to develop the right software by providing training, coaching and consultanting for teams and individuals.

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