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.
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.
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.
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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