Education vs training

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It was when I was hired as a senior agile coach for ”the biggest agile transformation ever” I really understood the importance of K in ADKAR. Until then education had been something we added on demand and often by sending people to a two-day course. When coming back from the course we expected them to catch up with the work piled up rather than spreading the new knowledge. I wrote about the lack of value from the learning sessions in another post but in short the biggest problem were sessions without immediate practice, taught by people not having practical experience from the topic and unable to answer questions.

At this big transformation we hired an external company to do the education, but they were thrown out after the first session when not being able to answer questions beside the PowerPoints’. So, we senior agile coaches needed to step up to do the sessions and ”reskill” the project managers to 140 new agile coaches and 500 product owners. The to-be coaches and product owners went through the education with a format consisting of 90% theory without any challenges (homework/practice) and when back at their teams, it was business as usual.

Later I got a call from the online gaming company to join them as an agile coach doing hands on coaching for teams and the change team. As I had worked for this company 2009 as their first agile coach, including education of product owners and team leading the Sportsbook, I was determined to implement the best of my previous training’s and avoid the pitfalls. Back in 2009 this company had five teams and eight product owners but today 50 teams. A scaling of factor 10 in 12 years, not bad.

So, I put up the concept of an ”internal academy” we called Product Development Mastery (PDM) and I took the lead as principal. The first I did was creating a purpose and a goal of this effort. When the why was sanctioned by the management, I recruited five internal to-be trainers which at that point was on an up-skill journey as Product owners (PO).

The plan was to for 15 weeks “up-skill” 70 to-be Scrum masters (SM), or Team Captains that were their title, with these five ”to be trainers”, and me as a mentor with a train the trainer approach. A part of the plan was me fading out and handing over to the these new trainers. To do this we divided the 70 to-be SMs into six groups with 10-15 SMs each. Then we scheduled all 10 sessions in our SM training course catalog I had created for the 15 weeks, including which PO should facilitate what sessions and what SMs should be in which groups. A core concept was “train the trainer” where I always ran the two, three first sessions on a topic together with a wingman and to-be trainer. Later this wingman became the trainer and picked his wingman for his sessions. So each session was managed by two people, one trainer and one wingman. The purpose of the wingman was to be able to step up as trainer but also do a lot of facilitation behind the scenes to enable the trainer to focus on the content.

So, I created the content with theory PowerPoint slides but marinated the slides with discussions, storytelling, practice, gamification to avoid the Ebbinghaus forgetting curve. I was running the first two groups as trainer but with different POs as wingman’s for each session and the last four groups was done entirely by the new trainers with new as wingman’s.

We started with the internal tool Microsoft Teams but soon we understood it lacked from the core feature we needed to enable our assistant, the ability to set up breakout rooms as a co-host. We then moved to my own license of Zoom and got a much better tool, but I can see MS Teams are catching up fast.

With great inspiration from my previous failures and success as a trainer, but also best practices like flipped classroom and the Pygmalion effect and the books Toyota kata and Brainbased learning we set the goal for each SM to become comfortable in their new role and enabling great teams.

A core part of the concept was Learning by doing (or Doctrina pro facis as our slogan). We understood that traditional education is not enough. We need to enforce the new learnings in the beginning to make them habits and skills. The actual sessions were much about inspiration and make sure people desired to practice them and try. We applied the flipped classroom concept where much of the sessions was about discussions and prepare for homework or what we called challenges. We also understood the differences between education and training which is core, an education may reinforce knowledge in which that you already have a foundation. That’s where training differs; training gives you the skills to do something better rather than just know about something.

If your sixteen year-old daughter told you that she was going to take a sex education course at high school, you might be pleased. What if she announced she was going to take part in some sex training at school?

Jay Cross

The output and feedback of this five-month academy was

  • 70 new Scrum masters trained
  • 50 teams trained by these Scrum masters
  • 8 new internal trainers
  • Score: Objective met 4,4
  • Score: Content and teaching 4,5
  • Score: Learned something new 4,1
  • Score: Trainer 4,4
  • Score: Material 4,1
  • Score: Challenge 3,8
  • Score: Collaboration 4,3
  • Score: Theory 3,9
  • Score: Invitation 4,4

Now it is up to the company to make sure this output will become an outcome.

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