Last autumn, I underwent Basic Motorcycle Training (CBT in the jargon). Reflecting on the experience, it offers an interesting and maybe better model for training than we generally have right now. In particular, the following factors stood out:

Learners, Not Masters

After one day of training, I don’t get to call myself a BikeMaster. Indeed, until I have a lot more road experience, and a further test, I am limited to small motorbikes, where 40 Miles Per Hour (65 KPH) feels fairly quick, and I must display a prominent “L” (for Learner) plate.

When I learned to drive a car as a teenager, my instructor told me

I am teaching you to pass your driving test. And then you’ll start learning how to drive.

A few months down the line from my CBT and still without a bike to go out riding on, I am definitely starting to feel rusty. I’m sure that within an hour of unbroken road time I’ll be back there. But the impact of lack of road hours is very clear to me. I haven’t yet learned how to ride.

My license is only valid for 2 years. By then, I need to get that further test, or repeat the training to be allowed to continue on the public road. And to do that, I need to practice. Daily, for preference.

Theory, Simulated Practice, Supervised Experience

The class consisted of some theory — just enough to inform and contextualise for missing meaning, without which competence and materials don’t build consistent practice — but quickly moving on to actually riding. For most of the day, this consisted of a set of instructed exercises in an off-road environment, safe to make mistakes; to fall off even.

Only when judged sufficiently competent towards the end of the day did we conduct the required couple of hours of riding in a real traffic environment, where we completed a set of scenarios under close supervision from instructors.

Entry Criteria: Building on Existing Knowledge

To undergo the training, I needed to already have a driving license for a car. And have a good working knowledge of The Highway Code, the UK’s Rules of the Road. My core instincts of the environment are generally therefore pretty good already; it’s the context of vulnerability that’s new.

Summary

At the end of the training, I was judged as being sufficiently competent to go out and ride a bike on the road, subject to the constraints mentioned above.

And so it is with many of the classes that our industry finds valuable. Yes, I do want to have an independent validation that a practitioner knows what they’re talking about. Once you get beyond a small practitioner community, this means some form of certifying body. Goodness knows that anyone (or their family pet) can put Agile Coach on their Linkedin Profile, without needing any basis to do so, and that is absolutely not good enough.

However, I am not at all convinced that you can be called a Master of anything after a single two day class. I do understand the etymology may not be intended to convey full Mastery, let alone authority over people. And that every practitioner has to start somewhere; a short class may well be A Good Thing at the start of a learning journey.

We need an entry level class, but we need to treat it as an entry level class. We need to treat it as only the first step on a learning journey that requires ongoing learning-by-doing, and considerable hands-on professional mentoring and support within a community of practice.

Does this change the training classes we run? Generally, no. But it profoundly changes the meaning and intent with which we invest them.

Acknowledgements & Appreciations

Thanks to

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Martin Burns

EMEA Director, Digital Advisory & Consulting Services at HCL Enterprise Studio
Previously: Leader of software delivery portfolios in large scale orgs.
Specialism: Transforming complex delivery organisations to be more Lean/Agile.
Mindset: Continuous Improvement Obsessive
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CC BY-NC-SA 4.0 Compulsory Basic Training by Martin Burns is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.

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