Ambling Madly: #1 Helsinki, January 2009

January 7, 2009 CollabNet VersionOne

Ambling Madly — The Travels of a Certified Scrum Trainer
#1: Helsinki, January 2009

Short days, low suns, frozen sea. Grey buildings. Serious people. Fish. Those little rock-hard lumps of sugar that never seem to melt in your coffee. This is Helsinki, my first stop on a series of twenty-five CSM courses throughout 2009. I have set myself the task of writing a Scrum Trainer Travel Blog. This is intended to help me reflect on what I do as a trainer, and hopefully to offer some light reading to counterbalance all the heavy process and technical blogging that surrounds us. You know that feeling of eating too much rich food? Sometimes you just want a light salad. I am the lettuce.

This Helsinki class is small, just seven people. Generating the right energy for learning is harder with such a small group. I find Finns to be a little austere, a little serious in nature, which makes it perhaps harder still. It is such challenges though that keep this work interesting, and allows for continuous re-conceiving of both the format and the content of the course.

You see, Scrum is so simple it can be taught in a couple of hours, maybe half a day. The rest of the two-day CSM course is taken up in different ways by different trainers. My preference is to immerse the participants in exercises of an interactive and physical nature, in order to embody the principles and values of Scrum. This is done through game playing and/or complex problem solving exercises. A few courses ago, I abandoned PowerPoint slides. It was liberating! This freedom allows me a great deal of flexibility from course to course, as I am not tied to a format, but rather driven by the needs of the group. It means I have to sharpen my listening skills, stay alert.

But this is all general stuff. What about this Helsinki group? It took me most of the morning to break the ice here (ice is thick at this latitude). I was struggling to have this small group of seven take responsibility for their own learning. There was an opportunity here for this group to simply be a Scrum team, but it wasn’t happening. So I asked: what would a good Scrum Master do? and I remembered my own advice about “management by leaving the room”. I set a clear goal to the team to come up with a vision statement and a set of themes for the next day-and-a-half of training that expressed their common needs. I gave them a time box of 15 minutes. Then I left the room. I went for a walk… and guess what? It was cold.

When I sneaked back in after about 10 minutes, I observed more activity and felt more energy between the participants that I had for the whole first part of the morning. People were moving, writing, sticking things, having conversation. Get out of the way — it’s a good principle for Scrum Masters, coaches and it turns out, even for trainers.

The Vision exercise also created a sense of trust between the participants, and I observed a greater comfort in speaking up, offering comments and questions, listening to each other. The rest of the day was a lot more fun, very interactive, rather silly in content, but always serious about experiencing the principles and values of Scrum.

And tomorrow? I’m not sure what we’ll do yet, but I am confident we will figure that out as we go. And we have a great framework to guide us. It’s called Scrum 🙂

Do it. be it.

Tobias Mayer
CST

Download the PDF version: Ambling Madly Part One_blog

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