For the past 3+ years, I’ve been delivering pro bono Agile workshops for active and former servicemembers.
My theory was that if you’ve succeeded in the military with Transparency, Collaboration, Communication, Teamwork, Goal Setting, Discipline, etc. you are an ideal candidate for an Agile Team where we emphasize transparency, collaboration, communication, teamwork, goal setting, discipline, etc.
I wanted to see if this theory would work in practice, and I was fortunate that some supportive people allowed me to “work it out”.
I took my hypothesis to the Dolce Center for the Advancement of Veterans and Servicemembers (CAVS) at Northeastern University and was given a 3-minute window to pitch my idea to a room full of active and former servicemembers at a CAVS networking event.
There was sufficient interest that night, and more than a dozen people signed for one of two 2-hour Intro to Agile Workshops I delivered the following month. These workshops were well received, and I continued working with Andy McCarty, CAVS Director, to share suggestions for more comprehensive training workshops. Andy has embraced the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) for Teams 2-day Workshop as a value-add for his constituents. I’ve delivered two SAFe for Teams workshops in the past 4 months for CAVS. The response has been overwhelmingly positive especially for veterans already working in the software industry.
This is a hands-on interactive workshop. You can see from the following CAVS pictures that everyone self-organizes into effective teams.
Early in the workshop teams decide how to best process a queue of work (tennis balls in this case) based on Flow. Servicemembers have outperformed commercial teams by several orders of magnitude in this exercise.
Hands-on planning exercises are part of the curriculum, too.
Through a fortuitous conversation with Conrad Holloman, Co-Founder of Operation Code, I was introduced to Code Platoon in Chicago. Code Platoon is an intensive, 14-week cohort-centric immersion in software development practices requiring 6+ days a week in the lab/classroom.
One of the many distinguishing features of Code Platoon is their internship phase where a matriculating Code Platoon student is engaged by a Code Platoon sponsor for 3 to 6 months. There’s ample opportunity for sponsors to meet students during the 14-week period, too. The acceptance criteria for Code Platoon are rigorous, and they have an exceptional success rate post matriculation. I pitched including the SAFe for Teams workshop as part of the Code Platoon program to Rod Levy, Code Platoon CEO. Rod was supportive, and I’ve delivered three SAFe for Teams workshops in the past 5 months for Code Platoon. The response here has also been overwhelmingly positive. We even get to smile and laugh, occasionally!
The Code Platoon classroom/lab is ideal for collaboration.
One reason I approached CAVS is that I’m a Northeastern University graduate. I wanted to see if I could do more than make the occasional gift or buy a sweatshirt in the Book Store. Northeastern News approached Andy McCarty about writing a story about CAVS, and Andy suggested that my workshops be the focus of the article. Select Northeastern University below to read this article and to hear from two recent workshop participants, too.
What I Learned
Military training and experience do prepare you for Agility and participation on an Agile Team. My experience coaching, training and mentoring professionals without military training and experience has shown me that coming from the military and participating in SAFe training will help accelerate your career and preclude you from experiencing (and manifesting) the cultural impediments many Agile Team members experience.
We in the commercial space can learn much from our military colleagues especially when it comes to a lack of fear of the unknown and committing transparently to self-organizing teams. There’s no sign of “Me” or “I” amongst the military professionals I have met and worked with in these workshops (and in my workplace experience over the past four decades, too.)
You don’t have to have years of technical experience to be an effective Agile Team member. There’s a workplace myth that the senior technical and product staff can easily transition to being an effective Agile Team member. My experience outside of
these workshops has proven that a falsehood, and my work within these workshops further debunks that myth. It’s attitude and aptitude plus an opportunity to participate. These are the key factors regardless of years of technical and product experience.
These workshops are fun! I’m regularly asked probing questions and encouraged to rethink how I’m facilitating this experience both during the 2-days and in the Scaled Agile anonymous student feedback data I receive.