Posted in Liberating Structures, Teaching

Training facilitation – Talk less, make more sense

As an Agile Coach helping software teams finding ways to improve their ways of working and deliver better solutions with higher quality, I have a responsibility to do exacly the same with my own services. This is a post on how I have worked with improving my training sessions.

I have conducted quite a number of training sessions in various settings. The more courses/classes I teach, the more I realise that I need to talk less. Not because I don’t have the knowledge, but because people don’t learn so well, just by hear me talking and seing a slide deck projected on the wall.

Therfore I have come to value a few principles when designing training sessions:

  • People don’t learn from listening to me, so talk less and engage them physically and verbally in the learning process.
  • I am not smarter than everybody in the room combined, so utilize the knowledge in the room.
  • I don’t know the nuances of my participants context, so let them figure out how theory applies to their context.

I have come to realise that I use these principles in all training session I conduct, regardless if it’s a fixed scope course (eg. SAFe), a session about “Agile” I designed myself, or even in dance classes.

With the last full day agile training session I developed and conducted, my aim was to enable the participants to act differently to improve their working environment towards a more agile fashion, without telling them explicit the process they must follow. With the principles mentioned above I designed a full day workshop, where I only did 3 ten minutes presentation during the day. The rest of the day was about making sense of it, and share insight within the group. Liberating structures was the tool to facilitate sensemaking and sharing.

The Learning 3.0 Flow by Alexandre Magno

Here is how the session was organised:

The session was about “Flow in Product development” and It was based on the content of Donald Reinertsen. D. Reinertsen’s work serve as basis for many (if not all) of the SAFe principles, and since my organisation were already using SAFe, this session was also about connecting and understading the theory behind these principles.


  • Presentation (10 minutes only): Showing to visualise basic concepts of flow and queues, to set the stage from an easy-to-understand and relateable context

  • Impromptu Networking – Sharing initial insight about why this is relevant for particpants and their context.

  • Presentation (10 minutes only): A brief walkthrough of the 12 problems of the current orthodoxy, which Donald Reinertsen describe in his book, “The principles of Product development flow – Second Generation Lean Product Development”
12 Problems of Current Orthodoxy By D. Reinertsen – visualised by me 🙂
  • Gallery Walk – To debrief the presentation. What confuses you the most? What do you feel strongest about? What gave you the biggest insight?

  • TRIZ – To identify the problems that participants could recognise in their own context, while having fun

  • Presentation (10 minutes only): Introducing some principles from Reinersens book. It may seem overwhelming with 175 principles, and since we were already working with SAFe, I decided to link it to the 10 SAFe Principles to make it more digestable.

  • “Make a Principle Poster”. Each group selected a SAFe principle to visualise. Poster definition of done:
    • Principle name and number in a headline
    • What problem(s), from the current orthodoxy is this principle trying to solve?
    • A drawing
    • A stement to explain how you in your role can work by this principle “As a [role/jobtitle] I will [do this action to live the principle]
Guidelines for making the posters ( Sorry for
  • Shift and share – To share insights and give feedback to posters across the group

  • 1-2-4-all – To discuss and connect principles to elements in the SAFe big picture, to build understanding of the purpose of the SAFe Process

  • Eco-cycle planning (and 1-2-4-all), to assess how the organisation was currently living the SAFe principles, and to determine where improvements could be made.

  • 9 why’s – To identify and articulate why it matters to the participant to work by the SAFe Principles.

  • 15% Solutions – To help the participant identify, where and how they could act, to start improving, without getting lost in how difficult it might be.

Learning and findings

  • It worked extremely well to have only 3×10 minutes presentations for the whole day
  • People were engaged and energised during the whole session.
  • Laying the eco-cycle on the floor, created an awesome group dynamic. Note: Make sure the items are color coded in a way that makes it easy to get an overview from the distance, without having to read.
  • To save time during the workshop I experimented with people giving feedback on sticky-notes during the Shift&Share of posters. This didn’t work as intended, and felt akward and useless, since there was no time to follow up on that feedback. Instead the groups just presented a few posters in the large group, with feedback from the large crowd. This worked better, but didn’t engage everybody as intented.
  • The Gallery Walk resulted in quite a lot of people being alone on one of the 12 stations, leaving them with no-one to talk to, about the pormpts. Instead groups of 3 were formed and the prompts discussed in those groups. That worked quite well, keeping everybody engaged.
  • The 15% solution really made actions tangible. One participants expressed it this way: “I was about to leave the room with no hope, because the task to fix these challenges seems so overwhelming, and will involve the whole business. But the 15% solutions gave me insight, that I can start acting differently, to influence others. I leave now, full with energy, and determined to execute my self-defined action”
Posted in Liberating Structures, Working Agile, Working as a ScrumMaster

An approach to kick start the usage of Sprint Goals

Sprint goals proves to be a vital element of Scrum, but it is often overlooked and neglected because it is difficult. This blog post will describe one way to kick-start the use of sprint goals in a team or ScrumMaster CoP. Before I describe the approach I would like to explain the background, that lead me there.


I was blinded by my own approach and I was just executing Scrum in a Zombie like way. In my eagerness of facilitating the events “right” I have forgotten why we were doing this in the first place. I was fallen into the trap, but the content of Barry Overeem and Christiaan Verwisj from The Liberators came to the rescue.

One of the two driving principles as described in their article about the Scrum Framework made me realize that using and working with sprint goals, was something I have neglected, even though I know it is important. Then I listened to the the podcast Scrum Mythbusters: Having A Sprint Goal Is Optional In Scrum. It changed a lot for me. The podcast highlighted many of the challenges I faced together with my teams, and I felt that every sentence was an important point that could help the team. This was too much information for me to remember, and I didn’t want to miss a thing, so I decided to do a graphical recording of the Podcast.

It resulted in 4 posters.


With these 4 posters in hand, and a topic to important to be forgotten, I had to find a way on how to share this and enable others to reflect upon and start working with spring goals. I ended up with the structure below, which can be used in many settings, such as a Scrum Master Community of Practice, a team or any group that work with or could benefit from working with sprint goals.

My approach to kick-start the usage of Sprint Goals

Purpose: Share the content (in this case about sprint goals) and let participate arrive with their first impressions and conclusion about the topic. This is the foundation for the future development and usage on the topic.

Preparation: Hang up the 4 posters in different places of the room allowing people to walk up to it. If you want to facilitate this online, add the 4 posters to an online white board, where every participant have the access to view.

Step 1 (10 min)

Invite the participants to walk around the room an take in the impressions from the posters. Let them imagine they are on a museum. Encourage to take personal notes.

Step 2 (3×5 min)

Prompt the whole group with one question, and invite the participant to go to the poster that match the answer to the question (1min)

At the the posters, people form small groups (2 to 4) And discuss the topic and the prompt (4 min)

Repeat step 2 three times, using different prompts. Here are the prompts i used:

  • What confuses you the most? Why?
  • What do you feel strongest about? Why?
  • What gave you the most valuable insight? Why?

Step 3 (5 min)

Debrief together, by sharing insights from the group discussions

Step 4 (25 min)

Use the Liberating Structure 15% solutions to help the individuals discover and focus on what each person has the freedom and resources to do now.

  • Explain the concept of 15% solutions (2min)
  • Invite people to make their individual list of possible actions based on inputs and insights from previous discussions. (5min)
  • Share your lists, in groups of 3 (3 min per person)
  • Refine and improve each others lists (actions) (3 min per person)

My reflections

Based on the discussions during the workshop, and feedback afterwards, it seemed like this was a good approach for participants. But why is that? Giving this a few thoughts I have come up with the following

  • It enables participants to drive the change by themselves.
  • It gives any group/team freedom to decide what to focus on – in this case when working with sprint goals.
  • It changes the concept of learning from “teacher to students” to “Emergent learning”, where a group or a team learn together by sharing experiences and perspectives.
  • It allows people to focus on “the first step” in dealing with a difficult topic, and fostering a “one step at the time” approach for the change.

Maybe you have input on why this seem to work well or maybe you have other comments. anyway, it would be great to hear from you.