2023 Agile Skills Survey – My Reactions

2023 Agile Skills Survey – My Reactions

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The Scrum Alliance and the Business Agility Institute partnered on a client survey focused toward—Skills in the New World of Work that was released in October 2023. You can get a copy of the report here

The key question on the cover – Which agile skills are most in demand in today’s workforce?

But on page #20, the key question is reframed to – Which skills are most in demand in today’s workforce?

While the questions are close, I’m imagining the “agile” drove most of the respondent thinking.

I would encourage everyone to read it, as it contains some interesting findings and insights. That being said, there are some things in the survey (assumptions, commentary, shared data, and conclusions) that I want to challenge a bit. While the overall tone of this article will be constructive feedback, I don’t want to diminish the effort behind the report.

In a recent Moose Herd the discussion surrounded the release of the report and the impact and relevancy of the findings, how it was something interesting, thought-provoking, insightful, and new. I honestly didn’t read it entirely that way. Instead, I felt it also a bit contrived, self-serving, and old news. Now let’s serially walk through the report for my more detailed reactions…

Pages 4 & 5

1) Human skills are just as important, if not more important, than functional skills in the new world of work…

Of course, this has been true during my entire 40+ year career.

2) Organizations are expecting individuals to have multiple deep skill capabilities, not just one

Again, it’s always been true.

3) Agile acumen (practical knowledge and experience) is seen as a crucial skill…

Do I need to repeat it?

My most visceral reaction to this finding is—Yes! I think what’s happened, particularly in specific roles like Scrum Master and Agile Coach, is that they’ve become diluted with certifications with minimal experience.

4) As a dedicated role, demand for Agile Coaches is low…

This disappoints and saddens me.

But I think there is a backstory related to my point in #3. I don’t think a majority of the respondents have actually seen a highly & broadly skilled, well-rounded, and experienced Agile Coach in action. Heck, do they even know what an Agile Coach does?

5) Education pathways need to move toward skill-based learning over role-based learning…

I can get behind this one, although I don’t see a huge difference between the “learnings.”

But I think a more powerful finding would have been—Education pathways need to move away from short-term, certification-based learning to longer-term apprenticeships, mentorships, and cohort-based experiential learning. Now THAT would have been a key finding or conclusion!

Pages 7 and 11

Communication and Attitude Behaviors were the top human skills. Both resonated powerfully with me. On page 11, there was a Going Deep focus on communication, which added emotional intelligence, empathy, and influence to aspects of it.

I can’t argue with any of these revelations or conclusions. That said, none of this is new or modern perspectives, so I struggle with it surfacing on a question that wants to explore skills in a new world of work.

I also don’t think human skills are solely related to “agile”.

One final point: I expect Agile Coaches, or at least the well-rounded ones, to exhibit strong human skills. From an Agile Coaching Growth Wheel perspective, these would be most reinforced in Self-Mastery, Leadership, and Guided Learning competency areas. So, this emphasis amplifies the role of Agile Coaching in this new world of work.

Pages 15 and 16

From page 15—“Overall, education remains a key differentiator in employment opportunities. While all organizations value both experience and education, individuals with proven agile education generally earn more and are able to apply these skills in their day-to-day work.”

From page 16— “Certifications continue to play an important role in both an individual’s career and company hiring decisions.”

And page 16 key takeaway—Certifications, along with demonstrated experience, contribute to higher salaries.

My only response is—really? I don’t think so. I believe this is coming out because of a biased interpretation of results. This indicates that the Scrum Alliance (or any certifying body) influences the interpretation and conclusions.

My experience says that certification value continues to decrease while the value of well-rounded demonstrated experience increases. To be clear, I’m not saying that certifications have no value to the individual. However, the value proposition over time has strongly leaned into learned experience over classroom learning. To see it otherwise is either flawed data or flawed interpretation. At least IMHO.

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