Practical Agile over Ideological Agile

When is it OK for Practical Agile to Overrule The Scrum Guide?

In these fast-paced, often unpredictable times, should we change our approach to training and teach more practical agile methods, so our clients are better equipped to manage change? I’ve been reaching out to colleagues and competitors, discussing the state of agile training and consultation. Many of my colleagues still believe that certification in their favorite ideology is the best approach to training.

Certification Teaches Ideology

Certification trainers teach the rules and ideology of their method du jour, mainly The Scrum Guide, Disciplined Agile Toolkit, Scaled Agile Framework or favorite ICAgile topic. Each method has their own idea of what it means to practice agile. That implies there is no one right way to practice. I acknowledge that many students take certification classes to beef up their resume. With high unemployment rates, everyone wants their resume to stand out. 

Good certification trainers reach into their own on-the-job experience to explain how they’ve applied the principles to past projects. However, not all certification trainers have actually worked as scrum masters or product owners on an agile team. Their students learn enough ideology to pass an exam. The reality is that some students may return to work after passing their certification exam unprepared for the challenges ahead.

Practical Agile Increases Adoption of Agile Mindset

I love Scrum and the agile mindset. I am a practicing Certified Scrum Master (CSM) through the Scrum Alliance, I teach practical agile methods based on Scrum, and I spent the last year developing a program for individuals to apply practical agile methods to their personal lives. Our company, GSD Mindset, prides itself on teaching, coaching and practicing our practical agile approach called the GSD Scrum Method

World and business leaders must adopt an agile mindset or their organizations may not survive, given we live in a world with many unknowns. To increase adoption of the agile mindset and therefore increase our client’s chances to succeed, we should add a 13th Practical Agile Principle to the original 12 Agile Principles: Take a practical agile approach over our ideology as written.

Ways to Make Scrum Practical

Since we teach an extension of Scrum, I’ll use Scrum to illustrate my point. Many organizations adopt their own version of Scrum anyway. Sometimes those organizations see productivity and quality improvements, sometimes they don’t. Because we are agile influencers, it is our responsibility to guide the individuals who take our classes to apply a practical agile approach that actually works for their business.

For example, The Scrum Guide assumes you already have a prioritized Backlog. Many who practice Scrum don’t know how to organize and build one. Even though building your first Backlog is not in The Scrum Guide, our primary responsibility should be to provide our clients with tools to start focusing on the right things in a more productive way, and that starts with building a well-written Backlog:

  • How do you decide what to build?
  • How do you define the Minimum Viable Product?
  • How do you prioritize a Backlog? 

Even the authors of The Scrum Guide admit that Scrum is “Difficult to Master.” As coaches and trainers, after we train our clients how to build a Backlog, we need to help them correctly adapt the formal Events of Scrum to work in their unique situations:

  1. Plan without knowing all the answers.
  2. Meet Daily to keep focused on the right things.
  3. Review status and quality of work on a regular basis.
  4. Reflect on what’s working, brainstorm new ideas and learn how to recognize when to pivot. 

The key is to internalize the ideological principles and develop a practical agile approach that you can adapt to any situation.

Are you certified?
How have you changed your approach to agile?
Do share! 

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn


Cynthia Kahn







Wanted – Guest Bloggers Passionate About Agile

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How to Get Your Boss to Pay for Scrum Training

Convincing your Boss to Pay for Scrum Training

With businesses tightening their budget, it’s getting harder and harder to convince your boss to pay for professional scrum training. People ask us all the time how we suggest they get their boss to cough up the tuition.

The traditional response is to explain paying for professional training helps employees become better prepared to do a better job. Armed with new tools and techniques, not only does the employee’s performance improve because the employee is better equipped to do their job, the team’s performance improves because the employee shares these new techniques with the rest of the team.

To be more effective you can modify the traditional response to include concrete benefits. If your boss pays for the class, then after the class, you offer to create a plan that applies one or two of the new techniques you learn and metrics to measure improved performance.  Who can say no to concrete benefits?

I also recommend these additional three reasons to pay:

  1. Continuous learning
  2. Professional development and certification
  3. Find out how the competition does it


1. Continuous Learning

We’re agile and agile is all about continuous learning, right? Is your team stagnating a bit? Do the same problems continue sprint after sprint, retrospective after retrospective?

If you answered “Yes” to any of the above questions, then the continuous learning reason may just get your boss to pay for scrum training. Everyone can use some fresh insight. Explain to your boss that scrum is evolving. New tools and techniques come out every day.

After you attend the class, you can bring back process improvement suggestions that the entire team can benefit from. The next few retrospectives after scrum training can result in process changes that increase productivity. Isn’t that worth the cost of admission?

2. Professional Development and Certification

Most professional certifications require continuing education hours in order to renew, such as the PMI PMP. If your boss paid for your initial certification or your boss pays for the renewal of your certification, then paying for the continuing education hours required to maintain your certification should be a no brainer.

Even if your boss does not pay for your certification, you can argue that your boss definitely benefits from employing someone who cares enough to obtain and maintain professional certification. If your boss shares the benefit, then your boss should share the cost. #Justsaying

3. Find Out How the Competition Does It

We all enjoy going to scrum training because we meet people from other companies, network and learn the techniques they apply to maximize their team performance. Some of the students we network with at class may work for our competitors. We get insight into how they practice scrum. You may never get that detailed insight at a professional dinner.

Discussing what works and what doesn’t with others at training class is a natural way to share ideas and learn real life application of the techniques discussed in class. Even if none of the attendees work for direct competitors, learning how the other companies practice scrum and what techniques they’ve tried, allows you to leverage their experience in your own practice. You can’t get that information in a book!

I hope these suggestions start you thinking about how to apply business reasoning to encourage your boss to pay for scrum training.

If you have some other techniques do share!

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn

Cynthia Kahn  503.799.5500




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