Big Room Training is a term used to describe an accelerated approach to introducing teams within an organisation to the ways of agile practice, in anticipation of implementing an Agile Release Train, often shortened to ART, where all teams involved are trained simultaneously.
In a sense, big room training is like being sat in a university lecture theatre, listening to your professor about a new topic, frantically scribbling notes in your notebook, along with the hundred-or-so fellow students. By teaching a whole cohort in a large room, you can ensure that every individual in that space has been provided with the same information in the same way, thus reducing discrepancies in understanding due to miscommunication, meaning that misunderstandings of information derive from an individuals’ comprehension of what they are being told. This means that it can be rectified through elaborating, as opposed to simply being internalised incorrectly.
In SAFe Distilled 5.0: Achieving Business Agility With Scaled Agile Framework, by Richard Knaster and Dean Leffingwell, refer to the experiences of Mark Richards, SAFe Fellow at CoActivation in Australia. In the fourteenth chapter of the book, Richards is quoted explaining that he was “initially unconvinced” that big room training could prove effective. Therefore, despite having been encouraged to partake in the practice, Richards instead “worked with [his] clients to schedule four or five SAFe Agile team courses over the period leading up to the first PI planning. He explained that in setting up a number of courses, he had “requested that [his clients] send entire teams to the same course so they could sit and learn together, and [his clients] would promise to do their best.”
However, the impracticalities of having to schedule these events, across multiple days etc. shone through almost immediately. Richards described this “pain” in the following: “First, the teams would often be in flux until the last moment. Then they would be too busy on current commitments to all come together, so they would dribble through two or three people at a time. And distributed team members would go to different courses.” After having taken the initiative to implement big room training instead, Richards said that he had been “blown away [by its effectiveness], and [he] spent some time sorting through how on Earth it could be so powerful.”
By implementing a big room training approach, particularly in the induction phase of an Agile Release Train, you can accelerate the learning process. Not only due to the capacity of learners in the training sessions, but also through the process of immediately being able to elaborate and rectify any vocalised misunderstandings within the space.
This is also cost-effective, as by using big room training, you will not have to spend as much money on bringing in an agile coach for as many training sessions as you would by breaking down the training into individual pre-existing teams, or departments.
Furthermore, this practice is also regarded as standard practice when implementing agility due to the nature of the practice allowing a team to begin socialising interchangeably and allowing relationships to form consistently and naturally. The teams, taking in the information from an agile coach would be able to communicate amongst themselves, and begin to establish rapport. This collective learning approach allows socialisation between colleagues, and means that everyone is on a level playing field with understanding the new practice within their organisation. This reduces the likelihood of individuals feeling superior above their colleagues due to having been privy to the training before others.
In using big room training you may be overwhelmed; seeing the sheer enormity of the commitment you have made already. It may appear daunting, but, this is the first time, you will be able to see, the change happening first-hand, watching the cogs turn in employees’ heads, and see the understanding occur. It’s aweing.
Based in London, U.K., and founded in 2016 by Arvind Mishra The Agile Works (www.TheAgileWorks.com), is an up-and-coming recruitment and Agile consulting company. Arvind is a Certified SAFe SPC and regularly delivers both private and public SAFe certification workshops.
He is a design thinking expert, Sr. enterprise, portfolio Agile Coach with over a decade of experience working as an Agile coach in diverse industries such as banking, pharma, retail, auto, oil, gas, consulting and government.
The Agile Works; a small team of three strive to help shape the leadership's mind-set and values in readiness for their business transformation journey challenges. With Arvind at the helm, we strive to provide you with the agility tools to make your company that can thrive, and not just survive.
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