Professional Agile Leadership – Evidence-Based Management (PAL-EBM) is the newest course in the Scrum.org portfolio. To prepare the launch and our trainer community for this one-day workshop, we ran several train-the-trainer events. I enjoyed participating in one of those, and I am glad to share my experience with you.
We were 19 people, 17 students, and two trainers, which is quite a large number for a virtual class. PST Todd Miller and Patricia Kong, Scrum.org Product Owner for the Enterprise Solutions, conducted the class. We, the trainers that we also want to teach the course, took a student stance, which is not always easy for us, eager to learn and openly discuss the content of the class.
PAL-EBM is an 8-hour class usually split up into two 4 hour blocks. We ran it in one day. You can see it as an introduction to how goals, evidence, and empiricism can increase your business agility. The course will help you close customer satisfaction gaps and improve your decision-making towards more valuable outcomes — a fun way to work collaboratively on your agile mindset.
The structure of the course is that the topics go from abstract to concrete. The first half set up the framing, and the second half fits the pieces together.
The target audience for the course is senior practitioners, agile leaders, managers, executives, and Product Owners who are looking in their often turbulent market conditions for ways to improve:
- Their customer outcomes (customer satisfaction),
- Organizational capabilities (ability to respond to change),
- And, of course, their business results (company output).
Framing the need for EBM
After the introduction, we started to answer the question - Why what you measure matters. We had an insightful discussion about why we measure at all and shared good and bad measurement experiences. Before you start to measure, think about what do you want to know. In other words, what is your goal? Then derive measures from those goals that help you get evidence if you improve on getting the outcomes that you want to achieve.
Under uncertain conditions, in other words, in a complex environment, an empirical approach as EBM is appropriate and needs to implement the three pillars of transparency, inspection, and adaptation. Measurements create transparency that is crucial to inspect fact-based. EBM is sensitive. It needs and also creates transparency. Your evidence is the starting point to adapt and run small improvement experiments based on hypotheses that will generate new insight to close your feedback loops.
We emphasized the importance of trust to bring clarity, create alignment, and foster autonomy on the team level. Trust is fragile. The more you have, the more you can focus on your valuable outcomes. We also saw how the level of trust and measurement reflects behavior. Goals, measures, and behaviors are all intertwined. With inspiring goals and meaningful measures, you will foster the right actions and behaviors.
Completing the framing, we brought down to the three different levels of goals. The Strategic Goal, that is big and far away. Often vague on how to achieve it, with many uncertainties along the way. The Intermediate Goals indicate the path to the Strategic Goal. And the Immediate Tactical Goals define critical near-term objectives towards the Intermediate Goals. We learned why these types of goals are important and how to formulate them to drive organizational improvement to deliver more value.
Fitting the pieces together
After discussing goals, measures, and empiricism in the second half of our workshop, we elaborated the EBM framework elements deeper. We were working with a case study to determine what is important to measure when focusing on value creation.
The Evidence-Based Management (EBM) framework, with its four Key Value Areas (KVA), gives us a holistic overview of the vitality of our initiative. We deepened our understanding of what is valuable and how to measure it. When resolving complex problems, we learned that outcome goals get more critical and should be the main factor to consider. Often companies focus on Time to market but always remember it is vital to draw a holistic view to improve your customers‘ experiences decisively.
People like to measure. It seems to be something natural for us. The metrics provided by EBM, so-called Key Value Metrics (KVM), are only examples. They are context-specific. To be context-specific also applies to charts and dashboards, which visualize the metrics. Not all should be the same.
The last chapter of the course showed us how to inspect and adapt within EBM. We studied how to use an experiment loop to evaluate progress and eventually adapt intermediate and strategic goals.
To summarize, EBM focuses on empiricism, an appropriate approach for solving complex problems:
- We get evidence if we are making progress on reaching the Strategic Goal
- We obtain proof if we focus on the right Strategic – and Intermediate Goals
- An Experiment Loop helps to find out if we create value with Immediate Tactical Goals
- EBM is beneficial both on a portfolio - and product level
- It can be used to match investment to goals and helps to reconsider investment strategies
- It gives you valuable data on whether your budgeting is reasonably aligned
- EBM empowers teams in their self-management and foster organizational alignment
- It fits fine in an agile environment and can be used to increase business agility overall
During the course, we learned in an interactive and fun way:
- How to handle uncertainty by using empiricism to achieve (strategic) goals,
- A business goal-oriented way of measuring,
- How best available evidence improves your decision-making,
- How to cultivate an environment that fosters self-management, experimentation, and beneficial goal-setting to increase your business agility.
After the course, we had an additional two-hour preparation event together. We used a Lean Coffee format to structure the schedule and be able to discuss the most important topics for us. In this kind of event, we usually play a challenging game called „Questions I am hoping students do not ask“. As a trainer, you prepare these questions first, which helps you think about your knowledge gaps. Then you have to answer some questions of your fellows on prompt. This time we played it a bit differently. You had to answer your own „most difficult“ questions first. That was even more challenging. When I played this game for the first time, it was truly stressful. With more experience, I see it as an excellent opportunity to lose fear and prepare for real-life class challenges.
It was a great experience to learn in such a group, and I am happy to be part of this fantastic professional community. With EBM, students get a framework for evidence-based decision-making in complex circumstances. That helps them adapt quickly to new challenges and opportunities to deliver more value faster to stay competitive.
What is about your organization? Can you use change as your competitive advantage? To improve your abilities, join a PAL-EBM course, invite evidence, and seek toward your goals in a series of small steps!