Why the Yogi Berra jokes? Why the music? Why all the questions and sarcasm in class?

I want to explain the techniques I use in the CSM class, or at least something about them.

First, some people really like these techniques, and want to know more.

Second, sadly, a few people find the techniques annoying, especially the first day.  In general this is a small percentage of people, but in some classes it can be more than one person.  So, in part, this post is an explanation and a kind of apology to that small group.


I believe different people have different ideas when they come into a CSM or CSPO class.

I believe some expect it to be an exposition of basically logical and straight-forward ideas.  And, they think the aim is to add a bit of additional information to the mind, really just an extension of existing basic concepts, so that things can get modestly better.



This (the two paragraphs above) is not really what I try to do in a CSM class.

First, I think the amount of change that is possible is dramatic.  Very dramatic.  So, in part, my aim is to get attendees emotionally ready for a big change.

Second, I believe that Scrum is a huge paradigm shift for most people and most organizations.

Learning a new paradigm involves destroying the old paradigm or going around the old paradigm in your head.  This is very difficult to do.  Apparently the brain is built to maintain the old paradigm.  People listen politely, and then, the science shows, their brains ignore the new paradigm, (Cf Piaget and others.)  Ignore it almost completely.

So desperate times call for desperate measures.

Third, I believe all of the people in the class need to support innovation and creativity.

One simple version of this is left brain – right brain theory.  The left brain is logical and the right brain is intuitive (aka ‘creative’).  Not sure I totally buy this theory, but I do support the basic concept: that we want all our knowledge workers, the ones engaged in innovation of new products, to be more innovative and creative.

In many companies this is a new ‘idea’.  In some ways this used to surprise me, but I am now no longer surprised.

Fifth, when you work quickly with a team, at a fast pace, one has to be willing to accept how people are ‘odd’.  Things are spilling out quickly, so all the old mechanisms through which we controlled people can no longer be used.  People are talking too quickly.  We must be more direct, more honest.


So, what does this cause us to do in the class?

It causes me to try, especially in the first day, to throw people off balance.

It causes me to try to get them to laugh and to try to overwhelm the logical mind.  Put them in situations where the ‘right’ brain must take over.

I use the non-sequitors of Yogi Berra.  In part to befuddle the brain, in part to make them laugh (some people find them funny), in part because some of them are very appropriate to agile (eg, ‘when you come to a fork in the road, take it’).

I also ask questions and mention things in raid fire succession, as tends to happen in ‘creative’ sessions to loosen the walls of ‘conformity’ that used to apply, and help them allow more of the creativity to escape.

I am sarcastic, mainly to make their brains work hard, so that, through the cracks, the new paradigm can sneak in.  By being sarcastic about half the time, they always must be thinking ‘did he mean that straight or was that a sarcastic comment?’  This keeps them awake, but more importantly, it opens the brain.  Or so I hope.

It could be said that I am cruel.  For some people (I never know in advance who will be affected), this makes them uncomfortable.  If they tell me this, I back off some.  Often they do not tell me until later, sometimes not until the end, or not at all.

Certainly the goal is not to make anyone ‘very’ uncomfortable.  I am quite willing to back off from these techniques to some degree if someone is uncomfortable.  I am not really sure I should do this (for the sake of the others, for example), but this is what I do.  But, as I implied, if I do not know someone is uncomfortable, I do not know to back off.

It is important to mention:  Scrum is simple, but it is very hard.  I have only a brief time with them, and I am very aware that the attendees really need far more than I can give them in three days.  So, as I suggested, I am ‘cruel’ or rough in class (for some people) so that they learn more, and have a better chance of immediate success with a difficult ‘sport’.  I must be cruel only to be kind, as Shakespeare said.

As a parent, one knows how hard this is.  Also, that it is necessary.  So, it pains me, but it seems it must be so, to get the level of success that the attendees deserve.  For most people it is not really ‘painful’ at all.  But, sadly, it is ‘painful’ for some.  Again, I am sorry that seemingly must be so.


I also want to make plain my goals.

I have already implied: I am not looking for you and your team to make a minor (say, 20%) improvement.  I am looking for a 100% improvement in one year.  Or more.

I could ‘dumb it down’ for the kind of people who do not like to change, but I am not willing to do that.

Similarly, what I am really interested in are those people of strong energy who intuitively and quickly understand agile. (I find this kind of person seldom objects to my techniques.)   They, once  educated a bit and opened up, can change many more people than I.

I am not at bat to just ‘get on base’.  I am at bat, in the course, to hit the home run with these few special people (special for Scrum or agile).


So, for those who wonder if there is a method to my ‘madness’, at least you know now what I am attempting to do.  Or at least know somewhat more.

Of course, even I do not think I execute these difficult methods nearly as well as I would like.  And I am not a mind-reader (even though I would very much like to be).

If you find my techniques annoying, my apologies.  I was not trying to annoy you.

Still, there is no style of presenting Scrum that is ‘happy’ for all people.  There is no trainer that does not ‘annoy’ some people.  So, while I am not happy with my own imperfections, I can live with the trade-offs I have chosen.  I think I chose the highest-value goals.



« « Proposal: Scaling Workshop || Proposal: Learn about Open Agile Adoption » »

Leave a Reply