Written by Kevin Heisey
on December 01, 2022

It’s common to see organization’s Agile training and adoption efforts stall when teams struggle to put classroom training into practice in their unique work environments. Agile is a new way of working that is a dramatic change in how teams are organized and how work is done. What’s the best way to learn and apply something new? In an applied practical context.

Think of how you learn a new sport. If you’re unfamiliar with basketball, the basics of scoring points are straightforward; teams try to put the ball through the hoop. But how do you learn the fundamental rules of the game? To move the ball up the court, players must bounce or dribble it as they go. If they run with the ball without dribbling, it is a traveling violation and they turn over possession of the ball to the opposing team. Players can’t dribble the ball, stop dribbling and start again. That’s a double dribble violation. Once they advance the ball past the half-court line, they can’t move it back behind the line or they are called for a back court violation. There are all sorts of basketball rules that players internalize automatically as they learn the game but aren’t immediately obvious and have to be learned.

Hands-on Training Works Best

If you don’t know the sport of basketball well, the previous paragraph and its references to traveling, double dribble and back court violations are tough to follow. You don’t truly understand the rules of basketball until you start watching or playing and see how the rules are applied in action. It’s the same with Agile training. In both cases there are significant learning gaps between the introduction of the concepts and understanding them in practice.

Hands-on training in practical settings bridges the gap between learning new concepts and applying them in practice. With Agile training, you’re not training your people to be Agile scholars, you’re training them to work in ways that focus on delivering value to customers, relentless improvement and rapidly responding to meet changing customer needs. The ideal setting for learning Agile is in the normal work environment where teams can learn from each other as they discuss new concepts and how they can be put into practice. Teams effectively gain understanding of theoretical concepts and gain practical knowledge while delivering business value.

Use Agile Coaches to Guide Your Teams

Many successful Agile training models use experienced Agile Coaches embedded in teams to guide and coach them in their learning and application of Agile frameworks and concepts. Instead of teams trying to figure out how to work with and apply concepts on their own, they now have an expert to guide them through options and to help them reach solutions by applying Agile principles.

Teams work with the Agile Coach to investigate multiple ways within an Agile framework to solve problems. As they evaluate what works best for them, they master and retain Agile concepts by seeing how they work in their unique context. As the team progresses, the Agile Coach steps back and eventually moves off the team with the Scrum Master taking up the reins to lead the transition toward becoming a self-managing team.

Just as basketball’s rules and concepts for moving the ball around the court become second nature to players who can then focus on their team setting up shots and scoring points, through hands-on training, Agile teams master and internalize Agile concepts so they can focus on value delivery and relentless improvement.

Download the Apply Practical Learning infographic for more tips on the benefits of Practical Learning and the important role of Agile Coaches in achieving Agile training success.