In 2009, I got a chance to see my beloved New Zealand All Blacks play England in Twickenham Stadium. I was thrilled at the prospect of seeing in person the players I’d watched on TV so many times. It cost a small fortune to get decent seats but I managed to do it, midfield about 35 rows up. At last, I was going to get the see the sweat drip off Richie McCaw’s brow up close and in person!
But… that’s not exactly how it turned out. Even with our pricey seats, we were still far away from the action. The only way I could identify Richie was by reading the “7” on the back of his jersey and even then, I had to squint. As the match went on, I noticed that I watched more and more of it on the huge screens in the stadium.
That experience taught me that live events and in-person events can be different. Each has their virtues and challenges. They probably should not be compared so much to each other as to other similar events.
This week, I am doing something unprecedented. Due to the crippling effects of the coronavirus on public gatherings, the Scrum Alliance has agreed to allow a select number of Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner courses to be taught via distance learning.
My training courses are highly interactive and rely heavily on group work, so the question occurred to me: will a virtual class be the same as my in-person class?
No, it won’t. But that doesn’t mean it won’t be great in its own way.
The tools and technologies that help us collaborate remotely have come a long way in the last few years. If you had asked me 10 years ago if I thought a distributed team (where members are not physically together) would ever function as well as a co-located one, I would have said no. But my clients have proven me wrong. I’ve seen great self-organizing teams where members are sometimes thousands of miles apart. And I’ve seen dysfunctional teams that sit a cubicle apart. Teamwork is much more about commitment and transparency than it is about proximity.
I’m excited to try delivering the CSM and CSPO courses through this new modality. For some people, due to company-wide travel bans, it would be the only way they could attend. It’s a way to keep moving forward, to continue growing people’s knowledge of agile practices when it seems that much of the rest of the world has ground to a halt.
Do I expect online training to replace the in-person CSM and CSPO? No. Just as there is always a time and a place for heading to a stadium to watch your favorite sports team play, there are also times when the in-person experience of learning is the best choice. But giving people another option—to learn from the comfort (and given the current health crisis, safety) of their own home or office—also has its place.
In 2015, I got to see the All Blacks do something their fans had dreamed of: win the World Cup. I watched the match from my living room couch. Thanks to the great camera crew on the job, I saw every scrum, line-out, and tackle up close and personal. It didn’t just feel like I was there in person. In some ways, it felt better than being there in person.
It was a great experience and I wouldn’t have changed a thing.