Trainer's Take: RTE Workshop
We’ve all been there; sitting in a classroom, just waiting for the day to be over. Our minds wander to "What’s for lunch? How many likes did my selfie get on Instagram?" The endless droning on and on from the guy at the front of the room feels like it will last forever. "Why did the company even send me to this?...It's a total waste of time."
I’ve been the recipient of enough training like this to know that I can’t, in good conscious, teach my classes this way. Sometimes that’s easier said than done, though. If enthusiasm is low from the start, it’s a particular challenge. A great way to keep things interesting and fresh is to break up the lecturing with other mediums of learning. I often use videos and games to prevent information overload and to help reinforce concepts. Creating quizzes using a platform like Kahoots!, for example, can be a great way to maintain engagement. When the curriculum itself has built-in opportunities for class engagement, my job becomes much easier.
The SAFe RTE class was designed with lots of student participation in mind through learning-by-doing, rather than learning-by-listening. When I attended the RTE class myself back in May of last year, I was a bit skeptical. How different would this class be from "Implementing SAFe", and would there be enough value to justify a three day class? You can check out my podcast for initial thoughts and reactions to the class here. It turned out to be an outstanding class. I found the RTE class to have a great balance between lectures and group activities. Attendees are divided into groups of five, and roughly half of the class is spent in group work, allowing ample opportunities for attendees to learn from one another. Altogether, there are a staggering 65 exercises that add up to 6.5 hours of teamwork across three days. Concepts become real when they are brought to life through problem solving scenarios and role playing activities.
One of my favorite group exercises from the class was to pick a principle, such as “Take a systems view” and draw pictures of what that principle means to you. A common reaction to this type of exercise is a blank stare followed by "I'm not an artist." You know everyone’s thinking, “Ugh, really…what am I supposed to draw? What’s the point of this?” You’ll be surprised, though. When you put people in a group, give them ample time to collaborate, and let them know they’ll be presenting to the whole class afterwards, they start having fun and really getting creative. This activity was followed by a gallery walk where we got to hear the thought process behind their creations. These types of activities were definitely a highlight of the class.
We were also able to have useful conversations about topics of concern for the group, such as the problems that can arise with abandoning simple, low tech or analog methods of planning like post-it notes and flip charts and switching to fully digital tools like Jira. What value is lost in the process? SAFe really encourages a blend of analog and digital planning methods. The act of writing things out by hand has value; using post-it notes during PI planning meetings, for example, has a much different impact than having just one person typing what others call out. With technology people there can be a tendency to convert all planning activities to digital for the sake of efficiency. Although there does need to be a digital copy of everything that is planned in order to make have a rollup of metrics such as PI burn-down charts, the amount of work it takes to transfer hand-written notes to digital form is often over-estimated. In fact, we came to a consensus that it would only be about a half hour of work to transfer the post-its into Jira. Not so bad, after all.
Since the class is centered around learning-by-doing, there is a lot of opportunity to hear from class members and dig into the real issues they are facing within their ARTs. After all, this training should be just the beginning; a re-fresh that inspires folks to go back to their own trains ready to implement what they have learned. We talked a lot about continuous development on the third day, taking one person’s context at a time (particularly focusing on any reoccurring problems) and simulating Inspect & Adapts (I&A) workshops. I can’t overemphasize how valuable it is to have these kind of collaborations. Not only does it allow people the opportunity to hear other’s perspectives, it makes the class much more interesting and engaging.
Finally, the class came up with a prioritized list of topics and concepts that they want to carry into their RTE Community of Practice. There was a lot of interest in making their SAFe events more consistent. Their trains had diverged quite a bit from one another on following best practices, each doing their own thing and using different tools. For instance, out of 11 trains, less than half where doing Inspect and Adapts. They decided they wanted to meet regularly in order to share patterns for success, in order to learn from one another.
To round it up: it was a great class and I'm looking forward to teaching more RTE in 2018!
I'd like to hear your side of the story. Have you taken the RTE class or taught it yourself? What are your thoughts?