Tuesday, August 6, 2013

My Session at Scrum Gathering India 2013 - Part 1

I believe that writing a blog post to communicate with you is more effective than sharing a slide deck.   That works for me and you because of two reasons.  First, my slide decks are very crisp and heavy with pictures and animation.  I use them as presentation tools.  They are not for offline communication.  Second, blogging helps me articulate my thoughts and present them in a conversational style, add some stories and summarize the takeaways.   When this happens to be a 2 to 5-minute read, it saves time as well.   This blog post is about my session titled, ‘How Do We Learn? -  A Key Question for Practicing Scrum Teams’.

How do we learn? This is one of the seemingly most simple but important question you and your team members need to ask yourself and think through.  We are professionals.  Obviously we know why we learn and what to learn.  However, many of us seldom think enough about how we learn.

We are individuals
We are individuals. We attend class room sessions at colleges or universities. We go to conferences. We attend workshops and seminars.  We seek mentors or coaches. Mentoring and coaching are essential aspects of professional life these days.

Does it mean that we can put as many adults through class room programs and start churning?  No!  Let us stop churning!

Image Source: http://mimiandeunice.com

Let me tell you a story. It happened last year.  That day I completed a group session to spread awareness on Agile Software Development. It was a group of thirty young engineers.   They were part of agile teams.  They attended my session to know more and wanted me to clarify their doubts.  At the end of my session, I looked at one of them and asked, “Now tell me, what the next steps are for you and your team?”   He waited for a second and replied, “I think we will attend more detailed training programs on continuous integration, unit testing, etc.”   I paused for a moment before I encouraged him to start hands-on learning, or learning by doing things.   He was not aware of the 70-20-10 formula.

70-20-10 formula
According to the 70/20/10 formula, which is a concept developed by Morgan McCall, Robert W. Eichinger, and Michael M. Lombardo at the Center for Creative Leadership, 70% of learning happens through practice, hands-on experience or problem solving, 20% of learning happens when we work with experts or coaches, observe them and listen to their feedback, and 10% of learning comes from formal training.

We read books. We browse the internet.  We validate what we hear or read by going through additional references. Sometimes we learn by writing.

We learn by practicing, experimenting, exploring, observing, applying and thinking.   What we learn from class rooms and conferences or workshops is just the beginning. Are we doing enough practice?

We learn from our mistakes. We say ‘fail fast, fail early’.  It does not mean that we can fail frequently and learn from mistakes because doing so is expensive.   Sometimes, mistakes motivate us to unlearn. And we can’t stop learning from mistakes.   And we cannot avoid learning from others’ mistakes!

Image Source: http://mimiandeunice.com
Involve me
Have we ever seen team members who feel that they are not being involved? As a Scrum Master or a leader do you involve all your team members?  Involvement is essential to kindle learning.

“Tell me I forget. Show me I remember. Involve me, I understand.”  -  Chinese Proverb.
Teaching is an effective way of learning. How about making teaching or knowledge sharing a culture in your team?   When there is no involvement, team members do not come forward, they do not share their ideas, and they do not volunteer to teach and their participation remains sub-optimal in retrospectives.

Learning Styles
Then there are learning styles.  Here are some examples.

Visual – If this is your style, you prefer using pictures, images, and spatial understanding.
Auditory/Musical - If this is your style, you prefer sound and music for learning.
Physical/Kinesthetic – If this is your style, you prefer the sense of touch.
Solitary – If this is your style, you prefer to learn alone through self-study.
Social - If this is your style, you prefer to learn in groups.

Even though we work in teams, we need to keep in mind that the learning styles of our team members are not going to be the same.   Some are going to be great experimenters and the others are going to be great contributors to discussions.   We cannot force one way or one style of learning on all team members.

So what do we do? Find more on this in the next part.

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