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Training – Lessons Learned from Training a Group of Indian Analysts

I recently trained a couple of groups of analysts in India on Seilevel methodology. This was the first time we had done training in an Indian setting and honestly, I have to confess to being more than a bit apprehensive when I set out. My fears, set out in no particular order of importance, included:

  1. How would the Indian audience react to the highly interactive teaching style we apply in our classes that requires a lot of hands on interaction by the students?
    1. Being a transplanted Indian myself, I know that classes in India are all lecture based; the teacher teaches and the students learn. Period. Being an active part of the learning process is simply not part of our learning DNA.
  2. How would the materials that are written by Americans for an American audience play to an Indian crowd?
  3. Will their concerns be similar to what American students typically face? Or will they have a totally different list of issues that we have not thought about at all?
  4. Will they embrace a model driven methodology? Or dismiss it (albeit very politely as Indians will) as some “New Age” nonsense?

Here is what I discovered after teaching these classes.

  1. The students all loved the interactive, hands on teaching format.
    1. One of the classes actually generated more output than any class I have taught anywhere.  This was an extremely gratifying experience for me to see them totally engaged.
  1. I changed the stories we tell to drive home points we are trying to teach to make sense in an Indian context.
    1. I think if we had used the “American” references we normally teach, quite a few of the points would have simply been “lost in translation.”
    1. I believe that  some amount of customization of references must be made for any international audience for them to fully appreciate the richness of what we are trying to convey.
  1. There was some amount of resistance to model driven methodology and quite a bit of skepticism.
    1. I was questioned extensively on its validity and relevance.
    1. This was one of the most enjoyable parts of the training for me – having to defend the methodology and prove to them that it does indeed deliver better results.
      1. It took several demonstrations of showing them actual documentation I have created and explaining it to them before they finally “bought” it.
      2. However, once they were convinced of the utility, they dove right in with both feet and wanted to get as much out of the classes as was possible.
  1. The Elicitation portion of our training was the one where I had to do most customization.
    1. Our training has quite a bit of emphasis on face to face sessions where we train the analyst how to handle and deal with one person or an entire room full of people.  But the problem that the Indian analysts face is an unique one – they almost never do face to face sessions.  All their interaction with stakeholders is done via telephone, email or text messaging.
    1. I spent a lot of  time on the “telephone meeting” portion of our training helping them figure out ways of dealing with stakeholders whom they have never seen in person and will, in all likelihood, never ever meet face to face.
      1. This was perhaps the most exhilarating and rewarding portion of the training for me personally.
      2. I can truthfully say that I  learned more about elicitation over the telephone in the course of  teaching them.
  1. Agile, Agile, Agile.  They could not get enough on responses to questions like:
    1. How do I create requirements for Agile development?
    1. What models  should I use when creating requirements for Agile?
    1. When should I create requirements for Agile?
    1. How do I make Agile work when I am in India and my stakeholders are in USA or Europe and my development team is scattered across India, Eastern Europe and Brazil?
    1. How specific and complete should requirements documentation be for Agile versus Waterfall?  And much, much more.
    1. There were so many questions that I told the class that I will do a special Agile session in the evening after the regular class was finished.  The number of people who stayed back to ask questions or just listen to the discussion really surprised me – almost 60% stayed back.  This number would have been higher were it not for work or family commitments that prevented some of the class attendees from being able to stay back  for the impromptu session.

So, where do I net out on the whole experience?  What did I learn from the experience?

Analysts all over the world struggle with similar issues around delivering quality requirements in a world of tight budgets, tighter schedules and extremely fast pace of change.  It does not matter what our nationality is or languages we speak; we all want desperately to create high quality requirements and make out project teams succeed.

Once we look beyond the superficial differences between us, we are not that different after all.  This was a humbling thing for me, a transplanted Indian, to learn from other Indians.  At the end of the day, I think I got the better end of this bargain – I learned more from them than they from me.