August 28, 2017
If you are planning an agile pilot or even a full-blown agile transformation, a critical consideration is your Agile Training Plan. After all, people need to understand Agile generally and specific frameworks like Kanban and Scrum in order to do their job effectively.
This post will help you to understand the key considerations for planning, what types of training are appropriate for various audiences, how much agile training will costs, and how to plan the timing of agile training delivery.
Most people start with the question of what a particular training session is going to cost. They fret about pulling people away from their tasks to participate in training. Or they try to shortcut training. That short-term thinking doesn’t lend itself to longer-term effectiveness.
In order to develop an effective agile training plan, and an accurate cost estimate, I recommend that you think through the details and come up with a comprehensive training plan. An outline that I have found helpful is below along with a detailed explanation of each.
The starting point for any planning effort is the needs and goals of the Agile training. Some organizations do a formal needs assessment, but it is more common that people find everyone is starting with only a little knowledge and experience with Agile. Training everyone is a good way to level set and bring everyone to a more common understanding.
Here are some key questions to ask to refine your training goals:
All of these factor into your goals for your Agile Training.
Even if you are planning a wholesale Agile Transformation for the organization, it is unlikely that training everyone in the organization upfront would be a worthwhile investment. By thinking about training by roles, you can make sure that everyone gets training that they need.
Given that most people will forget their training if they don’t put it to use soon after the course, I recommend that you train on a just-in-time basis. Start with those people who are going to need to lead the Agile initiative. Then train those who are going to be the first to use it.
Training for the Agile Champions
There is frequently a small group of leaders responsible for implementing the Agile initiative – a common name for this group is the Agile Champions team. It is important that this team has a deep understanding of Agile and Scrum so I recommend that they take more training than everyone else.
The training for Scrum Master certification provides a great overview of Scrum theory and empirical process control and the nuts and bolts of how Scrum works. So your training for the Agile Leaders or Champions could include a Scrum Master Foundations training course or Scrum Master Certification Course.
I would actually recommend a more strategic training course, targeted to leaders, that helps explain the agile benefits, agile success and failure patterns, and how to successfully lead an Agile Transformation. This could be the Certified Agile Leadership (if certification is important) or Agile for Leaders.
Training Plan for the Agile Teams
The first to use Agile, Kanban and Scrum will be the cross-functional agile teams that are going to develop the solution. In an IT context, this would include designers, front and backend developers, business analysts, testers, and others.
This team needs to understand the Agile Values and Principles as well as Kanban practices and the Scrum Framework. The best training courses are hands-on and highly interactive so that the participants are prepared to begin using Agile immediately. This is typically an “Agile for Teams” training course of 2 or 3 days.
An additional (and optional) training for team members is the Scrum Developer certification training offered by both the Scrum Alliance and Scrum.org. The focus of this training is hands-on software development using the Scrum framework. Developers learn modern engineering practices and how to best leverage the framework to address change.
Training Plan for The Product Owner
In Scrum, there is one key business stakeholder per team designated as the Product Owner. The Product Owner is responsible for product vision, prioritizing the backlog, and working closely with the team to develop the solution.
The Product Owner is a very important role and those who play the Product Owner role should receive customized training. Product Owner training focuses on how to maximize the value of software products and systems.
Product Owners will learn to use metrics and make data-driven decisions about their products through instruction and hands-on exercises. I recommend either the Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) course from the Scrum Alliance, or the Professional Scrum Product Owner (PSPO) course from Scrum.org.
Training Plan for The Business Stakeholders and Subject Matter Experts
Business participants may be part of an Agile or Scrum Team, though more frequently they are a stakeholder and have infrequent interactions with the team. In most organizations, the role of the business stakeholder is not dramatically different whether using Agile or other development approaches.
The key to training for business stakeholders is to help them understand the iterative and incremental approach to building solutions with Agile, and the just-in-time nature of requirements gathering, rather than the big bang long development cycles that may have been used historically. They also benefit from learning the terminology. Typically a 2-hour agile overview course is sufficient for this group.
Scrum Master Training
One of the most important roles in the Scrum framework is that of the Scrum Master. It can also be the most confusing, based on the number of questions I get about ‘What does a Scrum Master do?’ In short, the Scrum Master helps the Agile teams adopt Scrum and perform at their highest level.[See related posts: Puzzled about the Scrum Master Role?, Project Managers make Lousy Scrum Masters, and Transition from Project Manager to Scrum Master]
They also serve as an Agile coach and internal champion of Agile and Scrum in the organization. Getting the right person for the role and developing their skill sets is important if you want your Agile initiative to succeed.
Where possible, identify or hire people who already have training and experience as a Scrum Master. This may not always be possible and you may have to grow your own by developing Scrum Masters from your existing employees.
Rather than simply assigning project managers to this role (different skills), look for individuals who have leadership and interpersonal skills, who are learners, and who have good relationships.
The Scrum Master is not a working member of the team so usually, it doesn’t make sense to take architects or others who are needed to do the valuable work of the team.
The most common training for the Scrum Master is a 2-day hands-on training course that leads to certification. The two most popular Scrum Master training courses are the Certified Scrum Master (CSM) training from the Scrum Alliance and the Professional Scrum Master (PSM) certification from Scrum.org.
(BTW if you are wondering what is the best Scrum Master certification, please see my related post, Quick Guide to Agile Certifications.) In each of these courses, participants learn Agile and Scrum principles and empirical process theory.
They also learn the role of the Scrum Master and how to support teams to deliver solutions. This course is heavy on hands-on exercises.
Your agile training plan should include a timeline or at least a high-level schedule. Developing a timeline for training can often be a challenge. What is the sense of urgency to move to Agile? Even in an organization that wants to move quickly, it is often difficult to do so. While a simple Agile Pilot can be launched in 30 days, an Agile Transformation will be years.
The more people you have involved, the longer it will take. Some of the important points to be considered:
This last point is an important one. Training for a team or group, such as the Agile Champions team, is generally most cost-effective if an external trainer brings that on-site.
On the other hand, there may be fewer members who need Scrum Master Training, Scrum Developer Training, or the certified Scrum Product Owner Training. My recommendation is that if you have less than 5, then you send these to a public offering of the course.
Both Scrum.org and the Scrum Alliance hold public Scrum certification courses on a regular basis, so they can usually be accomplished fairly simply. (Tip: The trainers for these organizations can vary in both their styles and the quality of their training. Ask around to get recommendations from others about training providers that they have found effective.)
Consider the Sequence of Training in Your Agile Training Plan
The Agile Training Plan will be incomplete without timelines, even if they are best guesses. When do you schedule Agile training? Here are some successful patterns I’ve used over the years Scheduling the training
Google searches for agile trainers will provide an overwhelming number of returns, and qualifying them may take some time. Here are some things to consider when screening and qualifying trainers.
It may also be important to consider whether the firm doing the training will be able to provide coaching after the training. Though not required, it will be more effective if the agile trainers and the agile coaches are on the same page.
The Agile Training Plan often follows patterns based on the direction the organization is taking with the pilot or agile transformation. While all the audiences you identified in section 2 above are important, training for everyone may be tailored based on the organization.
Training for an Agile Pilot
If you are planning an Agile pilot, you will generally need to train a lot fewer people. An Agile pilot is a common first step for an organization looking toward agile adoption. It is often viewed as an experiment to learn what works and what doesn’t work. Often the end of the pilot is a go or no-go decision on whether to continue with Agile development approaches.
Given that there is no certainty around proceeding, the training for an Agile Pilot may be limited. Rather than train everyone, training may be limited to the Agile Champions and the Pilot Team or Teams. Training for specialized roles may be deferred until after the pilot is completed and a decision is made to move forward.
You may even want to limit the exposure to Agile from the rest of the organization. In fact, some people purposefully follow a “stealth Agile” approach where they quietly train the teams, run an experiment and gain some success before revealing it to the broader organization.
Stealth Agile may be appropriate where there are strong organizational forces that could derail your efforts. Instead of broadcasting intent, those following a stealth Agile approach will limit training to just those who are immediately involved in the work.
Once a stealth agile team makes a successful release, typically in 4-6 months, they might reveal their work and showcase the success of the Agile effort. Nothing succeeds like success so this type of approach is often good for getting skeptics on board after you’ve already demonstrated that Agile and Scrum work in your organization.
If you are in an Agile Transformation, your decision to proceed was already made. Woohoo! While keeping in mind the transitory nature of any learning, you would be more likely to schedule on-site training for large groups of people.
Big classes allow for economy of scale to include interested people beyond just the immediate development teams. And multiple classes provide an opportunity for people to attend multiple training.
I had an agile champion at an organization that took the Certified Scrum Master Training every time it was offered in his organization and he found he learned new things every time!
For an Agile Transformation, I recommend running multiple offerings of the same course to accommodate vacations and work schedules. Publish a schedule ahead of time and track who will be attending.
The downside of this approach is that participants sometimes cancel at the last minute, thinking that they can always catch the next training.
Another consideration for Agile Transformation training is how to address new joiners and ongoing training needs. Training, especially for Agile, should not be considered a once and done affair. Most organizations build their own internal training capabilities.
An approach that I have seen helpful is if the Scrum Masters in the organizations own the internal training. They are closest to the teams and can use their experience and the training they have received to build both trainings for new joiners as well as training on advanced topics.
I’ve worked closely with Scrum Masters at several organizations to develop a minimum set of training for new teams. They also frequently need some communications materials on the benefits of Agile and Scrum and how they are effectively used in organizations.
Now that you have figured out the other elements, then you can start answering the question – How much is all of this going to cost? That is an important question that you are going to get, and obviously, need to be able to answer. It depends on all the factors discussed above.
Costs for Onsite Training Courses
Onsite Training courses are going to get you the biggest bang for your buck. Onsite training courses range from $4,000 to $6,000 per training day, for up to 30 students. Some training providers will be a little less and some a little more. Most trainers are negotiable.
Costs for Online Training Courses
Online training courses can be an effective way to stretch your training budget. Be aware that there is a wide variance in costs (and quality) for video-based, online training. Some providers will give access to all training modules for a fixed fee per participant, or a fixed fee for the client.
Public Training Courses
In some cases, it makes sense to send your people to public course offerings. I recommend it when you have a small number of Leaders, Scrum Product Owners or Scrum Masters to be trained.
Public training courses can range from $1,000 to $1,600 per person, and most will lead to certification for Scrum Masters and Product Owners. (Curious about the various Scrum Certifications? See my quick guide to Agile Certification here.)
Vitality Chicago offers public training courses in Chicago for Scrum Masters, Product Owners, and Agile Leaders. Visit our Agile Training Page for more information.
Here are some successful patterns I’ve seen clients use for Agile Training Plans over the last few years when either piloting agile or as part of an Agile Transformation.
I recently had a client that wanted to pilot Agile with 2 separate teams working in different areas of the business. They had an Agile Champions team lead by the IT PMO, that they wanted to bring up to speed on Agile before training the team.
They scheduled two training courses, aligned to when the Agile Pilot Teams needed to start. The Agile for Leaders training was delivered 2 weeks prior to the Agile and Scrum for Teams training. Some of the leaders attended both trainings.
This organization had one certified Scrum Master and a second Scrum Master who was not certified. They did not invest in training for the Scrum Masters. They also did not invest in training for the Product Owners.
This client was on the path for an Agile Transformation for 11 teams across three locations. Training started with Certified Scrum Master Training which the Agile Champions team attended, along with a few other interested team members.
The client then encouraged experimentation and held numerous town hall discussions to share learnings from the agile experiments. After about 4 months, they provided additional training for all team members and hired a Certified Scrum Coach to conduct a 2-week mini sprint for several teams. The costs below are all estimated costs.
Another client took a more gradual approach to their Agile Transformation following a team by team transition. Each quarter, 3-4 teams were trained and coached to use Scrum effectively. This transformation included 21 teams with an average of 7 team members each, 8 Product Owners, and 8 Scrum Masters.
Each quarter, the teams that were transitioning to Scrum would receive 2 days of Agile and Scrum Training for Teams. The Scrum Masters attended the training with the teams and in some cases, the Product Owners did as well.
Scrum Masters were also encouraged to take Scrum Master Certification Training from the Scrum Alliance. Stakeholders were also provided a 2-hour overview of Agile Terms and the Scrum Framework.
One of the reasons that the client was able to minimize training costs was that they had onsite coaching for all the new teams, new Scrum Masters, and Product Owners.
We also offer advanced Agile training for PSM, PSO, Developer, and UX Designer:
I hope this agile training plan template was helpful to you. Do you have an experience to share with training for Agile? I’d love to hear from you – please leave your comments below.
Please visit our Agile Training Page for a complete list of introductory and advanced agile training courses. You can find role-based training, agile and scrum certification, and get more information about custom training delivered onsite at your location.