Insufficient training is a leading cause of Agile failure

As a certified Agile trainer, I was particularly interested to note that insufficient training was reported as one of the highest reasons for the failure of an Agile project in the most recent State of Agile survey.

Some 30% of the respondents to the survey said that they blamed insufficient training for failed Agile projects; a humbling fact when you consider how simple this problem is to solve with a little investment.

Further scrutiny reveals that insufficient training can be broken down into one of three categories:

  • Nobody received training
  • Not everybody who needed training received it
  • Some received training, but the training wasn’t very good

Nobody receiving formal training is unfortunately all too common, especially within companies who may not have a dedicated training budget to utilise. It normally falls on whoever last picked up an Agile book to educate the rest of the team; often leading to disaster.

Insufficient training is amongst the leading causes of Agile failures

Insufficient training is amongst the leading causes of Agile failures

The wider team not being trained happens all the time. I’d wager that within the vast majority of Agile teams, only the Scrum Master has received any formal Agile training. Whilst the Scrum Master training course is fantastic, what about the rest of the team? Training courses such as the BCS Foundation Certificate in Agile do a much better job of educating everyone involved in the process instead of isolating specific roles.

Finding the right training supplier is often critical. My experience has showed that large training organisations who offer hundreds of different off the shelf courses can often provide much less in the way of value, than if you were to work with a company who specialise in just Agile training.

If you’re serious about an Agile transition within your team, ignoring formal training isn’t the right approach and will never lead to a successful Agile organisation. It’s important that everyone involved in your Agile efforts receives relevant training and it is wise to invest in training early. Not only will it give the team the knowledge of Agile techniques, but also an understanding of why it is the better approach.

You can download the State of Agile Survey here.
You can find out more about the BCS Foundation Certificate in Agile here.

Certified Agile training is vital, but certification alone won’t make you an expert

Certified training has become extremely popular within software development, as candidates are more willing than ever to learn and expand their knowledge. In addition, as technology evolves so quickly, training courses must adapt and evolve to accommodate these changes.

Some people feel that certified training is nothing more than a tick-box exercise and only has limited value. Whilst I don’t agree, I do feel that enrolling on a certified training course is not enough on its own if you’re serious about becoming a respected Agile practitioner.

I don’t want to devalue the importance of recognised and established certification programmes. Having a globally recognised certificate is important; it demonstrates not only your ability to learn, but your desire to educate yourself at the very highest standard.

The ideal scenario is to start with a brief Agile change plan, outlining what your roadmap is. Become certified with a suitable and relevant Agile training programme and then apply the knowledge you have learned from the classroom to some real case studies through workshops and activities.

Agile Coaching

Consistent Agile coaching is encouraged throughout

The important element is having a coaching layer running throughout your Agile journey. This adds much needed consistency, and having the experience of a seasoned Agile veteran to help guide your transition can become invaluable. Agile places value in people over process, after all.

You’ll likely have a slightly different change plan and roadmap, but if you take this proven approach as a guide, you’ll have a much better chance of making your Agile transition a successful one; not just for you, but for your team and your organisation.

Certified Agile training should be treated as your starting point – something to engage your brain with the fundamentals, before utilising workshops and the support of an Agile coach to apply your knowledge and add real value to real projects.

The bottom line is simple. Certified Agile training is an essential ingredient to your professional development and Agile journey. But as with any great dish, it’s only part of the recipe.

Just make a decision! Talk at South Wales Agile Group

I was asked recently to present at the South Wales Agile Group, and I decided to talk about a topic not often discussed – making decisions. I wanted to explore why teams are often terrified of making project decisions; fearing that the consequences are worse than actually making a decision in the first place.

I wanted to talk about decision-making within projects because I felt that whilst this is a problem that goes back a long way, it is mostly thanks to the implementation of Agile shining a spotlight on real bottlenecks that the problem has become more widespread.

The hardest decision I made in the 90's - Sega or Nintendo?

The hardest decision I made in the 90’s – Sega or Nintendo?

I talked about how some decisions are easy and some decisions are hard but, ultimately, if you have empowered the right people to make these decisions you have at least a fair chance of making the right ones.

It’s important to remember that a decision should only be hard to make if the consequences of that decision carry a lot of risk. You might consider the dreaded “what do you fancy for dinner?” question to be a tough one – but is it really? The biggest problem is not what to have, but spending so long thinking about an answer that you actually get no dinner at all. And this is true of project decisions, too. Often, teams will spend far longer than they need to making a decision that has minimal impact or importance for the bigger vision. What this leads to is less production and ultimately less delivery.

The reason I believe people still worry about making project decisions is due to the fear factor of getting it wrong. You can trace this back to the waterfall projects of old where all decisions were forced up-front prior to development and there was little, if any, room to adjust or change your mind as you moved forward. You had to make your bed very early on and then lie in it for the duration of the project.

The tyranny of waterfall makes making decisions feel scary

Fast forward to a more modern Agile approach to project delivery and one of the biggest differences is obvious. We’re encouraging teams to spread their decision-making throughout the life of the project, adapting to what is most important on that day. If things don’t work out the way they were anticipated to, it’s possible to very quickly move in a different direction. This approach takes a huge percentage of risk away from making a decision and, importantly, empowers the right people to make them.

Adopting Agile doesn’t make decision-making easier – it’s not a silver bullet. In some ways it actually adds the potential for increased mistakes as you’re encouraging more decisions to be made on a regular basis. In every area, Agile keeps the pressure on to encourage regular delivery.

The very best teams will thrive on the pressure, but the very best teams will also make bad decisions from time to time. What makes them the very best teams, though, is that they learn from bad decisions and improve themselves moving forward.

You can view the slides from my presentation here:
Just make a decision. It won’t kill you.