Review of Certified Agile Leadership Course: An Insight to Yourself & Your Company’s Ability to Change & Grow

Introduction

I’m going to start a review of this course in an unusual place, by not initially talking about the course itself. I arrived at the building with a feeling of excitement about the topics, and also the trainer – although excitement about learning is not really difficult for me as it’s one of my passions. Throughout the course I was never disappointed;  by the end of the course I was more even more excited and exhilarated by what I had learnt and who I had spent my time with. The course brought insight, knowledge, a sense of community and sharing that I have rarely experienced so quickly, and an absolute revelation on a number of topics I had been considering, reflecting and developing for a number of months.

 


So what is Certified Agile Leadership?

I love learning, so I regularly spend time reading articles about new topics, new courses etc. so it’s not surprising that I was very intrigued when I read that the Scrum Alliance had brought out a new certification: “Certified Agile Leadership”. So what is it? The name doesn’t provide any clarity, and I found the Scrum Alliance website is even more vague about what the Certified Agile Leadership course contains. What does a course with the “goal of developing Agile leadership competency and maturity in order to increase the effectiveness of a leader in these rapidly changing conditions” actually do?

Even after having completed the course it is still difficult for me to explain what it is… in fact what you learn will depend upon who takes your training, and who is on the course with you (so research your trainer and their ideas – or just choose Michael Sahota). This is because each trainer is to free to develop the course according to their views on both leadership and organisational change.

Instead, I will ask the question from a different angle – Why should I be interested?

I’ve already developed a number of leadership skills and I understand principles of:

  • change management,
  • communicating changes,
  • leadership behaviours,
  • working as a team,
  • providing direction not instruction etc.

so why should I be interested in another Leadership course?

This course, I found was ideal for those of us who have lead bottom up agile implementations, or been brought in with a direction to “implement agile” and then found frustrations when changes created stress on the Agile Leader, or found that friction had been created between the “Agile Team” and the rest of the organisation. Most of us on this course had this problem… we could share the war stories, empathise with each other but none of us had worked out a replicable solution.

This is because in hindsight we were missing at least part of these key reflections:

  1. The impact of leaders
  2. The importance of choice
  3. The need to have an open mind and change our ideas, and view our behaviour and past experiences in a different way.

What does Michael cover as part of his understanding of Agile Leadership for change?
A reflection on the subject…

 

Why write something when Michael has a picture to describe his course subjects?

When we examine culture and leadership closely, we see that they are two sides of the same coin; neither can really be understood by itself.” – Edgar Schein

 

Let’s take a wide look at the subject… the goal of implementing agile isn’t agile! It’s the value and benefits to an organisation and its leader that agile brings. Therefore agile implementations can go wrong before they even start… by not understanding the real desired goal and not achieving the right focus or making the right decisions to enable achievement of the goal. This is coupled with the fact that most agile techniques are tactical (systems, roles and processes), and focused on bottom up/team led implementation. Therefore there is no process or support for the organisational leaders to change too, and learn to work differently.

This course, therefore, provides a chance for people to learn more about strategic and cultural elements of Agile so that you can support an organisation through the desired change. As well as better understand how the organisation’s behaviour can change as the leadership’s behaviour changes.

I’m not going to discuss more on the subject as you need to attend the course to learn this. The subjects and topics we discussed were so wide and deep that it would take a book or an intensive 2 day course to explain it. So I will conclude this section of the review as to what I learnt.

What I Wanted & What I Gained

Why I wanted to go on this course and what I gained from this course are quite different, and at the same time similar. I went on this course to learn to be a better leader; I gained this in spades as the first part of change is through yourself – to quote Michael Jackson:

I’m Starting With The Man In The Mirror
I’m Asking Him To Change His Ways
And No Message Could Have Been Any Clearer
If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place

But the surprising thing I gained was a greater love and compassion for leaders. To paraphrase Ben from our course

“to see leadership differently so that I can help leadership see things differently”.

I now have more and better tools to help support organisational change, and a deeper understanding of how agile leaders

  1. Give away power and
  2. “Hold space” to enable an organisation to function.

Reflection of Michael’s way of teaching?

Michael’s approach to shared learning (I won’t call it teaching as he is as open to learning from us as we were with him, and with everyone else on the course) was a bit of a revelation to me. I’ve been on plenty of brilliant teaching courses before, with fantastic people whose level of knowledge is second to none, but for the first time I was able to see a new way to approach new group dynamics and creating a safe environment. The shared learning journey created alignment and understanding from the beginning, and seeing a demonstration in action of a great agile leader really helped give proper understanding.


What did I learn, what would I recommend, what next?

This course combined with all the people and discussions we had, capably led by Michael, enabled me to have lasting clarity and understanding of the source of the strength of agile. The source comes not from the processes/methods/frameworks but the principles and values that are central to all these agile methodologies. But as the current agile ‘methods’ are focused at team level and not at an organisation, its culture, and its leaders. So how can companies and individuals create and have the long term plan for enacting real change?!

From this course I now have a clear plan, understanding of who I am and within my roles what I can influence, and how I can support those that want to change. So would I recommend this course to others, YES IF…, if like me you found that same problem and weren’t sure what to do next AND you can be prepared to listen to viewpoints and beliefs maybe opposite to your own and consider if they are valid. The good news is that you will find plenty of other people all with the same problem.

So the next step in my pursuit in self-improvement… besides keeping my new different outlook on how to support agile implementations, I’ve already taken an additional change management course focused on understanding and supporting change at an organisational level.

 


 View dates and book Certified Agile Leadership Training in London here


 

I’m currently a contract Product Owner and Scrum Master. To sum me up I love Agile, bunnies and guinea pigs. This isn’t the place to talk about bunnies and guinea pigs so instead I’ll explain why I love Agile. Since being introduced to Agile in my first Business Analyst role 11 years ago I’ve loved the principles and culture that Agile grows from.