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This article is a collaborative effort by Sabrina Love and Sander Dur

The workplace is a jungle. Dr. Christian Erique Richard Tificates (pronounced like Socrates), or as his professional badge reads Dr. C.E.R. Tificates, holds a Ph.D. and multiple Master’s degrees in his field. He passed all the imaginable tests with flying colors. Considered to be a thought leader in his field, he posts regularly on all the important platforms: LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, you name it. Yet, there is something lacking.

Photo by Chris Abney on Unsplash

Christian sometimes seems unable to put all the theoretical knowledge he holds into practical execution. After contemplating life during his regular introspective meditations, he uncovered something that Sander (one of today’s writers) learned after finishing university as well: theoretical knowledge holds no value if you’re inhibited from turning that into practical application.

We want you to meet Tiffany Renches. Miss T. Renches does not hold all the Master’s degrees Christian does. She didn’t even finish high school, for that matter. But what Tiffany DOES possess, is street smarts. In business. Business smart. BS for short. Tiffany has a lot of BS. Her lack of theoretical knowledge is compensated by her ability to find the right people that do own specific skills required. Understanding the dynamics of the organizations and the challenges they face provides Tiffany with starting points to work with. All his BS helps her to get things done.

The biggest difference between the two people is that one is highly skilled in a theoretical way, while the other one is more pragmatic. It might be a bit odd from a perspective of a company that provides certificates and training, but this is only the start. Too many organizations expect people to go to a course and come back to be an expert. When the desired results don’t materialize, the Scrum framework gets blamed. While in reality, it’s the lack of proficiency that is keeping them back from reaching their true potential. Talking the talk is one, walking the walk is two. This is why it makes a quintessential difference for Professional Scrum Trainer to have experience from the proverbial trenches. Having been in that business jungle and having navigated their way passed the tigers, gorillas, and snakes. 

Somewhere down the line, many organizations have lost their sense of pragmatism. Hiring people with the best certificates doesn’t say anything about the ability to solve organizational challenges, bridge cultural differences, or form a team out of a group of apparent strangers. 

Proficiency trumps dogma

Someone asked this question during our talk at a Swiss conference last week: “our Agile Coach is making us do things just because it used to say so in the Scrum Guide. It’s creating more problems than it’s solving, do we have to follow Scrum at all times just because the Scrum Guide says so?” Christian would have said “yes, you have to follow it”, whereas Tiffany would be focussing on the goal and skipping out the rules of Scrum. The truth is somewhere in the middle. Someone who is proficient out of experience, with a solid foundation of theoretical experience.

For instance: having a Daily Scrum every 3 days instead of every single day diminishes the opportunity to inspect, adapt, and reach the Sprint Goal. Highly recommended to do it every day. However, if there is an important company meeting that happens to be at the same timeslot as the Daily Scrum, it goes without reason that the latter has a higher importance. As long as you remain aligned, as a team, on the progress toward the Sprint Goal and what to do to increase the chance to achieve it.

Sometimes people become overly dogmatic over any framework and lose the ability to apply common sense. Common sense seems to be one of the least common things these days. On the other hand, skipping out on the Scrum events too often opens up the window to stop having them completely, in return lowering the ability to deliver a valuable, useful Increment each Sprint.

Arrange a marriage between dr. C.E.R. Tificates and Tiffany 

But what to do now? We want to get the best of both worlds. Be pragmatic and goal-driven, but provide proper boundaries to push against. Don’t automatically assume someone with a proven ability to pass exams, to be able to apply that knowledge when things become tough and someone’s feelings come to play. Feelings are never able to be transferred through theory. “Perception is reality” as Dr. Phil puts it. Equally, someone who is relentlessly anarchical might leave a trail of burning cars. 

Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

Trailblazers are what we’re looking for. In modern complexity, not a single product is the same. Therefore, we can’t copy the same developmental path of other teams and people 1 on 1. Proficient trailblazers can get us there. Provide them with the people and resources they need, and step aside. 

We’re curious, what’s your experience with people like C.E.R.Tificates and T. Renches? And how did you handle it?

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