Becoming a Great SAFe® Instructor Learning doesn’t just start in the classroom. It continues as learners take the knowledge they’ve gained and apply it to their role. So, how can SAFe instructors and trainers create a more powerful learning experience for the SAFe learners and give them the support they need to grow? In this episode, we turn to our Scaled Agile colleagues, Tamara Nation, director of product management, and Bill Sizemore, SAFe content advisor, for advice, tips, and stories from the field about how to become a great SAFe instructor. Click the “Subscribe” button to subscribe to the SAFe Business Agility podcast on Apple Podcasts Subscribe Share: Learning doesn’t just start in the classroom. It continues as learners take the knowledge they’ve gained and apply it to their role. So, how can instructors and trainers create a more powerful learning experience and give learners the support they need to grow? In this episode, we turn to our Scaled Agile colleagues, Tamara Nation, director of product management, and Bill Sizemore, SAFe content advisor, for advice, tips, and stories from the field about how to become a great SAFe instructor. Tamara and Bill discuss learning and training elements including: Magic moments that create new perspectives and connectionsEffective training methods based on their experiencesHow to stay connected in virtual classesAdvice for people looking to improve their learning and teaching skillsThe future of training Follow these links to learn more about these topics discussed in the podcast: Learning cluster designSAFe forums and communities of practiceRemote training guidanceMedia library on the SAFe Community Platform Hosted by: Melissa Reeve Melissa Reeve is the Vice President of Marketing at Scaled Agile, Inc. In this role, Melissa guides the marketing team, helping people better understand Scaled Agile, the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe), and its mission. Connect with Melissa on LinkedIn. Guest: Tamara Nation As director of product management at Scaled Agile, Tamara is a results-driven servant leader with a proven track record of motivating high-performing teams to deliver positive outcomes in complex environments. She collaborates with her team of senior product managers, and other stakeholders, to identify and define customer needs, and understand customer and market dynamics to develop product vision, roadmap, and features to bring to market. Find Tamara on LinkedIn. Guest: Bill Sizemore Bill is a SAFe Content Advisor at Scaled Agile where he inspires people, teams, organizations, and companies to think differently. He taps into his extensive experience as an Agile coach and constantly seeks opportunities to mentor people, help them grow, and be better versions of themselves. Connect with Bill on LinkedIn. Transcript Speaker 1: Looking for the latest news experiences and answers to questions about SAFe®. You’ve come to the right place. This podcast is for you, the safe community of practitioners, trainers, users, and everyone who engages SAFe on a daily basis. Melissa Reeve: Welcome to the SAFe Business Agility Podcast recorded from our homes around the world. I’m Melissa Reeve, your host for today’s episode. In this episode, we’ll share advice, tips, tricks, and stories from the field about how to become a great SAFe instructor. And if you aren’t a SAFe trainer, stay tuned as we teach others in our lives all the time. And the tips you hear on this might come in handy in other places in your life. Let’s get started. Bill let’s kick off with you. How did you become a trainer and how have you evolved as a trainer? Bill Sizemore: I actually have been training for many, many years, even before I moved in into Scaled Agile Framework and agility and software development. It’s been a part of my journey as a professional and even in my personal life, I’m always seeking opportunities to mentor people, help them grow, and learn to be better versions of themselves. Right? So in my previous role, I was the training lead and I used training from the back of room principles, right? As I worked in the classroom to help learners move on a journey of self-discovery, I believe it’s more important for them to discover the answer on their own; instead of impressing them with the knowledge that you might have as a trainer, let them discover it themselves. It’s a much more powerful learning experience that they’ll take beyond the classroom. After being the training lead for several years in my previous role, I pivoted from the classroom to the experience after the class, I realized that there was a bit of a gap, right? So, I shifted my efforts to help learners move beyond the classroom. So, they finished a SAFe class, they get their certification, and what’s next? How do we help them grow in their role and build those muscles so that we can truly improve the flow of value across our enterprise? Right? So, I realized that we were missing some resources there and began to focus on our efforts on how to practice at scale, to take those concepts and competencies that we taught in the classroom, and then break them down into small, bite-size chunks in a 40-minute or an hour-long session to grow and really begin to build those muscles. Melissa Reeve: You said something that was really key to me, and it resonated, you know, there’s that, that old saying that says, you know, “tell me something, I’ll forget; show me something I may remember and involve me. I’ll truly understand.” And it sounds like you very quickly realized that in order to get that retention, in order to get that interaction, you needed to, your learners into a place of self-discovery, where they were truly interacting with that content. Bill Sizemore: That’s very true. It can be rewarding to impress people with your knowledge. But what happens to me as a trainer, when I see someone discover the answer on their own, it’s not only a more powerful learning experience for them, but I find it extremely rewarding because then I’ve helped them grow personally. Right. And discover the answer on their own. And it’s much more rewarding for me to help them move down that road than it is to impress them with knowledge. Right? Melissa Reeve: I agree with you. So Tamara, talk me about your journey. How did you get into training? Tamara Nation: Yeah, my mother would say it started when I was six years old, and I sat my sisters down in the basement and started teaching them. So, she wasn’t at all surprised that I started training in my adult career and I loved it. I love what Bill was talking about, which I think of as the magic moment. That magic moment when there’s a spark, when somebody sees something from a new perspective or learns something new or makes a connection in class about the topic or about some new concept. That is so much fun for me, I love that part. So, I don’t get to train as much as I used to. As I moved into product management, I get to work on how to build great classes now. So that’s how my training experience has been evolving. And I get to, you know, work with instructional designers and professionals in that realm to build modern learning approaches to things inside the SAFe environment. Some of the things that we have been working on are ways to improve the training experience and are things that I was using to become a better trainer. Like how to review feedback scores and how to interact with the class and elicit feedback throughout the course through different types of assets that we’ve been creating, or different types of resources that we’ve been creating, like knowledge checks. Right? So, we added this ability to start to query the learners in class about their progress through a particular lesson. And that was something that I saw one of my colleagues do in the field. And it was amazing. Because you got to see those magic moments happen so much more quickly or clearly when we’re asking real, specific questions as we move along through the class. Melissa: Yeah. And I think that was an aha moment for me. I mean, I’ve spent 20 years in education and training, but I remember when I first came into the field, it was an aha moment to hear about things like instructional designers. Like, it had never really occurred to me that there’s a whole discipline behind how to structure content, how to structure learning, and how to present that. Do you want to share a little peek behind the curtain and talk about how we approach learning here at Scaled Agile? Tamara Nation: So, we use the learning cluster design approach internally and that’s been pioneered and really synthesized by two experts in the field. They wrote a book; they have a pretty significant impact in that instructional design community. And we’re really excited about that approach. Melissa Reeve: Yeah, and we’ll go ahead and we’ll put that in the show notes if anybody wants to follow up on that learning cluster design. And I get what you’re saying about the magic moment, you know, and for me, some of those magic moments have been when we all start learning from each other. Because I think both of you would agree that as a trainer, you never walk out of a class where you also don’t learn something. Tamara Nation: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. There’s the learning about yourself, like how I’m showing up in the moment as a trainer, and then how I’m handling tough questions or the challenges that inevitably show up in any kind of training class. And I think it’s also the kind of endless curiosity and capacity that people have to learn. I think that it’s like renewed learning every time I teach a class. Melissa Reeve: So, it feels like, you know, of course, however long ago, is at 18 months, 24 months, I don’t even know how long it’s been since COVID—it feels like the never-ending COVID. But it certainly has caused Scaled Agile, and I know many others, to rethink their approach to training and engage in remote learning. And Bill, I’d be interested to hear how remote learning has impacted your approach to training and what adjustments you had to do. Bill Sizemore: Yeah. When COVID hit, I have to say, we took a step back and for a couple weeks we thought, OK, this’ll pass <laugh> right? And then it didn’t. And then we waited a little bit longer and it was persistent and here we are now, but after about three weeks of that, we had to make the decision as a training team. Are we going to be remain relevant and impact our customers and impact our transformation at our company? Or are we going to become obsolete? So, we chose to be relevant, and we had to dig in to understand what it takes to teach a class virtually. You know, one of the things that I discovered early on, and I actually shared this when I had a voice of the customer before I came on board here. I did a session on how to read the room when you’re not in it, because after a little while we were like, “how are we going to understand what our learners are experiencing?” If we’re not in the room with them, we can’t see their body language necessarily. And even though you’ve asked them to have their cameras turned on, they don’t often have them turned on—their camera’s broke or they’ve got something else going on and they’re doing other things. And so you have to run with that, but it became very challenging with our learners, right? So, we had to do things like listen for engagement from folks in the session and those less-dynamic voices in the room, make sure we’re pulling them into the conversation. In the breakout sessions, having somebody in those breakout sessions from our team who was good at pulling them in and making sure that they’re inclusive in the discussion. So, we had to do a lot of things around that. And then of course you ask yourself the question, “how good do we want to get at this?” Right? You know, because honestly, my feeling is that nothing beats face-to-face training. But the reality of our world is that we’re probably headed toward a hybrid approach that we need to focus on. Right? And so, there are other challenges that come along with that, that we could unpack as well. Melissa Reeve: Yeah, as I was listening to you, I was thinking about not only the people who are training, who might be listening to this, but also just in my everyday life. I think a lot of the things you brought up could be applicable. You know, if you’re in a room or you’re in a meeting at work and it’s your meeting, be sure to listen to the quiet voices as well. Look for that engagement and try and read the room because that will help you determine, probably the effectiveness of the meeting, but also how people feel about that meeting. So, I really like the guidance that you’ve given there. Tamara Nation: That’s a tricky one, Melissa, because I can think about times that I’ve called people out in meetings like, “oh, hey Melissa, what’s going on?” And then they ended up being distracted. So, that is something that we’ve, we’ve seen in both meetings and the training, there’s this particular challenge in the work-from-home environment where who knows what kind of distractions are happening for folks. I’ve met all my colleagues’ pets and children. And that’s certainly a huge treat, but that may not be the most conducive thing to an effective training environment. So, we’ve seen some of our SAFe trainers develop some really amazing home studios and different types of noise mitigation techniques in the remote environment. I’ve certainly seen people upgrade all their microphones and lighting in the field. So, all of those things I think are in service to the learner. So, the great instructors that we get to work with are doing this because they know the training’s not about them. So, yes, they look better, and they sound better, but that’s because it’s so hard to concentrate at home with all those distractions. So, just a really clear voice, a well-lit screen, a well-lit speaker, well-presented material—that all helps engage folks and accelerate that learning that can be … it definitely is more challenging in the remote environment. Melissa Reeve: Mm-hmm <affirmative>. So, do you feel Tamara, you talked about those, those people who are easily distracted and you know, I think all three of us have been there where you’re calling on somebody whose camera is off and, and they’re not responding. So, I’m going to posit something, and I’d like your reaction to it, which is, do you feel like there’s less judgment in this remote world to things like kids and pets and distractions and noises than perhaps there was before everybody went remote? Tamara Nation: I don’t know. Let me think about that a second. I mean, certainly for me, I feel more connected to my colleagues. So, I know that people worry about that but getting to meet people’s family partners, children, pets, see their homes. I think I know them better. So perhaps there’s more empathy and that drives less judgment. Melissa Reeve: Mm-hmm <affirmative>. Yeah. It’s cool. I agree, to get to know more about the people we work with. Bill, what’s your take? Bill Sizemore: You know, that’s a really a powerful statement Tamara, to think about the fact that when we moved into a 100% virtual environment and working situation, did we think that our relationships would actually improve? I would venture to say that at the beginning of that, we probably would’ve said, this is going to be much more challenging to be effective in the work that we do. But we were resilient. And in that, we got to your point, we got to know each other better. We got to know people’s pets, you know, someone’s cat walks across the screen on the desk, right. I’ve seen that in meetings over and over again. And so, we get to know each other on a different level. So, we’re taking that and leveraging it in our relationship. Not necessarily consciously, it’s a byproduct of the environment that we’re in. And if we can find our way to a hybrid model in this new way of working in the state of the world that we’re in, we may find some great, positive results in response to that. Melissa Reeve: Yeah. Thanks for that, Bill. So, we’ve been talking a lot about trainers and the trainers’ point of view. Let’s flip the table around and start to talk about learners. Tamara, what advice can you share with learners about staying engaged in these virtual classes? Tamara Nation: Well, the first thing that comes to mind there is ask questions or write them down. Like start to create a list of questions that you have for the instructor, for your colleagues, things you need, want to get answered when you’re back on the job, and just be really curious. I mean, that’s just a life perspective, right? Curiosity. But being really curious in the class is one way that we find helps folks stay really engaged in the moment. The other things I could think about that really drive engagement for myself and for others in the class, things we’ve seen some data on are, “how do I want to follow up with additional learning?” So, we often find that the class is just a first step, right? In fact, they’re written and designed to be the first step in a SAFe journey. So, what’s my next step. So, starting to think about, well, this is an area that I need to explore, learn more about when I get back on the job. Or I want to partner with someone to get better at facilitating a retro or conducting a specific kind of workshop that we have in SAFe, like value stream identification. So, kind of what additional learning. And then the other thing that I can think of that I’ve heard folks use to their advantage is to start to engage with the videos. So, we’ve created a large number of well-produced videos for the SAFe community, and those are really popular. So, kind of looking through that and trying to figure out what that next learning is, maybe just watching a video is another way to kind of stay engaged in class. Melissa Reeve: Yeah. What I heard you say was, as a learner, you know, there’s absorbing the content, and there’s understanding the content, and then there’s something that has to happen beyond the classroom, which is applying what you’ve learned. And so, if you can bring that stage into your classroom experience, and as you’re hearing something, think about “how am I going to apply this in the real world, in my life? That really helps your brain stay tuned in to what’s being presented. Tamara Nation: Yeah, absolutely. I think you’ve said it better, Melissa <laugh>. Melissa Reeve: Well, thank you, Tamara. So, Bill, how about you? You know, I know you’ve dealt with a lot of learners. What, tips do you have for the learners out there? Bill Sizemore: This is actually one of my favorite questions. When I am training, which I haven’t had the luxury of doing. And I said luxury because I love training people. I’ll usually close out the class with some comments in this space. And I understand that we throw a lot of material at our learners in a short timeframe, and they feel like they’re drinking from the fire hydrant, and they leave there thinking they have to go solve world hunger. And my message to our learners is that “no, you don’t have to go solve world hunger.” Pick something that we talked about in here that might resonate with you, and whether you apply it to your work or your personal life, try to apply it and move the needle just a little bit to make your situation or your life better in some way. And then, if we all do that and we do that collectively, we can then collectively begin to move those bigger mountains, right? An example would be you go into a large company that might have 250,000 employees, the big question or constrains you hear, or impediment that you hear is will never solve the funding model. It’s always going to get in the way of us doing this work. And they’re right. The people in this room in this class won’t be able to solve that. But if each person who takes a little something and moves the needle in their personal experience, and it impacts the world around them, collectively we’ll move those big mountains in those funding models together. But it begins with us taking action on just one concept. And once you feel like you’ve moved on that, grab a hold of something else and begin to apply that to your work. Melissa Reeve: Well, what I’m hearing you say, Bill is take an Agile approach and do small incremental changes. Bill Sizemore: Yes, exactly. Melissa Reeve: Lovely, yeah. And just to throw my hat into the ring here, something that I’ve found as a trainer is setting expectations up front. That we are all here to learn from each other. And just because I’m leading this class or serving as the primary facilitator, that doesn’t mean I have all the stories. That doesn’t mean I have all the answers and having people contribute their stories really can add to that engagement and enrich the class. So, now I’m going to ask you to peer into your crystal balls and give me some thoughts about what you think the future of training and teaching look like. Tamara, why don’t we start with you? Tamara Nation: Oh, the future is hybrid. So, I think that that was already the trend. I mean, we were seeing all kinds of remote and hybrid PI Planning events. The big change for the SAFe community was the move to all remote with COVID. But now we’re seeing all of the advantages to what we might call blended learning. So, using e-learning before the class to start to prepare, to develop cohort-based classes. So, we have two cohort-based classes that are shortly to be released. And what that means is the class will last several weeks. There’ll be instructor-led portions where you’re conducting them in a group, and then there’s some homework and practice that happens between sessions. And then you come back to the same group and the same instructor, and then you continue the discussion and the learning. So, definitely the future of SAFe learning is all about the hybrid model. Like, people mixing in-person and remote, mixing different types of learning modalities, like e-learning, cohort-based learning, social learning. It’s still our favorite instructor-led learning and training of all types. Melissa Reeve: Yeah, I can see a huge advantage to that, this multi-modal approach where you can really optimize the learning for the mode that is most appropriate for what you’re teaching. Maybe video is that, maybe in-person is that, maybe it’s e-learning. Whatever it is, I can really see the power in that. Bill, what about you? What do you think the future looks like? Bill Sizemore: I agree. I think the future is a hybrid model. But it’s not going to be without some challenges. Right. Our folks that are training in facilitating sessions are going to have to be experts at facilitating. An example would be when you’re in a hybrid model and you’ve got some students in the room with you, and you also have people remote. You can’t, unless you have a camera that tracks you in the room, you won’t be able to move from the podium because then the remote folks are looking at a blank wall or something else where the camera is focused to. The other piece is dynamic conversation. The people in the room, while they’re talking, it’s hard for a voice on a microphone from a conference call to interrupt that dialogue. So, the instructors, the trainers, the facilitators, are going to have to get really good at facilitating so that the remote learners don’t feel like their experience is less than the people in the room. And that’s going to take some growth and some digging in to really understand how to be a good facilitator. Melissa Reeve: Yeah. And I can see the seeds of that. You know, I I’ve seen, for example, those cameras that sit in the middle of a conference room table and, you know, you’ve got, I think it’s called an owl or something like that where it can; it’s got a 360 view of the table. And the audio is responding in a much more responsive way for the remote folks. So, I think there might be a technology component to making this work as well. Tamara Nation: Yes, multiplex sound <laugh> you always need it. So, the idea that you can hear two people. That’s the power of a multiplex sound. So, yeah. Upgrading, continuing to upgrade our home equipment, I think, is money well spent in this hybrid world. Melissa Reeve: Totally agree. Yeah, and while we’ve focused a lot on, and we’ve offered up some great tips for trainers and people who are learning, I do want to emphasize that if you are looking to improve your training abilities, Tamara mentioned it earlier, there is the SAFe® Community Platform. There are a lot of great videos out there and resources, guides, et cetera, on remote training, tips on remote training, just how to get the most out of your classroom. Bill, Tamara, it’s been such a pleasure chatting with you today. Bill Sizemore: Thanks, Melissa. It was my pleasure to be here. Yeah. Tamara Nation: Thanks for having us. Melissa Reeve: And thanks for listening to our show today. You can find even more helpful links about topics we covered today in the show notes at scaledagile.com/podcast. Be sure to revisit past topics at scaledagile.com/podcast. 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