Thursday, August 27, 2015

Courageous Leadership to help their students using Scrum

I recently had the opportunity to get together with a great group of people at Blueprint Education as a volunteer to help out their leadership team.

They are passionate about helping students to achieve their full potential through self-empowerment and self-responsibility and have been working with John Miller from Agile Classrooms to introduce a Scrum approach to education in their classrooms.

The focus is on a feedback driven approach to learning goals. The roots of this approach come from Scrum and are based on the Agile Manifesto (modified for education of course).

To learn more about this approach, start here...

As part of this type of change at the school, or in this case, many schools, understanding and knowledge of what the students are going through was important to the leadership at Blueprint.

The leadership team appreciated that to truly help their students work in an agile way, they will benefit greatly by experiencing and living the values of the agile manifesto and using Scrum themselves.

The best way for the leadership team (Principals, CEO, COO) to help the students work in an agile way is to experience Scrum with Agile Values and Principles themselves.

As sessions proceeded, I made a point of always asking … “What can we learn from this? How does this affect students?’, how can we apply this to our situation?

What is the learning we could share with others?
Early on, this drawing appeared on the wall of the leadership team room…. The leaders realized that for them to embrace this approach of working, they would need to change a primary focus as educators.

They would have to become great at coaching with less focus on teaching.  This, as you might imagine could be problematic for the traditional educator.   

What would this realization mean to them?

A workshop facilitated by the Principals for themselves revealed that the Retrospective (part of the Scrum Framework) would require them to reflect on their own leadership style on an ongoing basis.

This supports the Agile Principle …

At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behaviour accordingly..


More details about this specific session can be found here..

Scrum’s simple approach of limiting work in process through the application of a timebox and creating focus is impressive. By embracing the timebox with cross-functional teams, people  learn to re-organize and collaborate to deliver potentially deliverable value in small increments where feedback is possible.

To educators, this can mean that the student (or team of students) can establish their own objectives for learning over a fixed period of time, focus on that learning and then obtain feedback on how they might adjust their learning patterns for the next cycle.

To realize their ability to work cross-functionally, we did an exercise using a Skills Matrix approach originating from the OpenAgile Framework.

What are the skills necessary to operate and grow our company and schools as a leadership team?
The leadership team at Blueprint Education grouping their ideas about the needed skills for their team.

The results looked like this...

The team decided on these for their definition of the quadrants for each skill...

All 4 quadrants means you can teach this.

Completed Skills Matrix

This exercise served several purposes including (but not limited to)..
  • It allowed the team members to recognize each other’s skills and strengths and from whom they could learn more.
  • It helped the team recognize that they do in fact have the skills necessary to take on almost any goal in a cross-functional way.
  • It allows individuals to recognize where they might grow their skills to help the team and the organization.
Over time, we’ll learn more about the wonderful things happening at the school(s). 

By example, this video was the creation of the teachers and leaders at Hope High School in Phoenix Arizona. They worked together as a team to discover a shared vision for their school…

If you are interested in learning more, I encourge you to reach out to John Miller or the Blueprint Education folks.  Of course, I'd also be glad to help as well.

More to come...


John Miller & Agile Classrooms -
OpenAgile Institute -
Skills Matrix - OpenAgile -

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Ask Why. Then sit back and watch the magic happen.

I recently had the pleasure of spending some time with Blueprint Education and Hope High School in Arizona. They have some courageous and amazing teachers who are working to inspire students to make better choices and be champions of their own learning. 

I was reminded again of the power of individual contribution to team goals and the amazing things that can happen when you let others lead the conversation.

We played a game designed to iterate over cross-functional team goals and to learn about each other's skills. 

Instead of me facilitating the follow-up discussion (retrospective), I asked one of the principals who was there if they would be willing to facilitate for their team.

I started by simply asking them.....

"Why do you think I just did this exercise with you?"

"What was the purpose?"

Then, I just sat back and let things happen.

Wonderful conclusions happened from the Principals and the rest of the Leadership team.

Define Objective

  • Reflect on Leadership Style to look for ways to empower Staff to Run w/Goals
  • Live the Learning
  • Less Rules: More Creativity
  • Knowing When to Release the Reins
  • Team Progress Allows more opportunity for Innovation & Risk Taking

I had not planned on taking them to this place, but was amazed they came here. It was far more than I had hoped for or could have planned for.

This is why I love to use this approach. 

As a facilitator, if you can find ways to allow self-expression happen instead of trying to decide on outcomes yourself, the results can be amazing.

Next time you choose a session or a game, consider asking "Why did I choose to share this particular learning with you?"......

Then sit back and watch the magic happen.

Mike Caspar
Passionate About Agile


Blueprint Education
Hope High School

To learn more about Agile in Schools, start by following @agileschools