Play Description

The “Fertilization” play in the agile transformation playbook refers to efforts to enrich the mind through formal and informal learning. Examples include formal training, hands-on workshops, seminars, webinars, open spaces, hackathons, Communities of Practice activities, coding dojos, and other types of learning opportunities.

Use When…

Fertilization is best used when:

  • Before the First Sprint. Teams or departments new to agile are about to start their very first Sprint, or about the start using a new agile technique. The additional, focused instruction should help them to understand the framework or technique well before they attempt to use it.
  • Grafting is not possible. Grafting, another transformation play, shifts agile-capable individuals or teams on to teams where there is no prior agile knowledge. Unfortunately, it is not possible to graft if there aren’t any agile-capable individuals. In this case, it is better to build knowledge from the ground up by using one or more fertilization techniques.
  • Enthusiasm high, working knowledge is low. Fertilization works well when enthusiasm about agile is high but working knowledge is too low for team to be effective early on.

Play Authors

  • Donald Patti


The “Fertilization” play has a number of advantages over other plays, including:

  • Impacts both “being” and “doing” agile. In the agile community, we talk about “being” and “doing” agile. “Being” agile refers to a change in mindset to be more agile, while “doing” agile refers to using agile practices, like Daily Scrum or Pair Programming.
  • Builds common knowledge base. One of the challenges often faced during an agile transformation is uneven knowledge from department to department or from team to team. Fertilization activities tend to even out attendees knowledge so that they all share the same terminology and, hopefully, the same levels of understanding after they attend.
  • Increases enthusiasm, confidence. When delivered and facilitated properly, agile training increases enthusiasm among attendees, making it easier to make progress with an agile transformation after the training. It also increases their confidence in applying agile in their work environment, where your transformation is underway.
  • Often achieves quick results. Because well-designed training improves in quality over time, well-delivered training achieves results quickly when compared to coaching or learning-by-doing. In most cases, this accelerates your agile transformation.


There are some potential disadvantages to fertilization, such as:

  • Sometimes imbalanced (being vs. doing). Fertilization activities, particularly informal learning opportunities, are sometimes imbalanced. They cover “being agile” well, but not “doing agile”, for example. To avoid imbalance, experienced agilists should help to select the activity, looking carefully to ensure that the learning opportunity includes both theory and applied knowledge. If, for whatever reason, a learning opportunity emphasizes “being” over “doing, or vice-versa, then leaders of the transformation should find another learning opportunity to re-balance it.
  • Quality varies. The quality of Fertilization activities, such as training, varies significantly. Individuals selecting among learning opportunities are encouraged to find trainers or facilitators who are certified and receive good reviews and feedback from their students.
  • Often mistimed. Fertilization activities, and in particular formal training, is often mistimed. Evidence, including the Forgetting Curve, indicates that knowledge gained on any given day is often lost in a few days to a few weeks. When determining when to provide a learning opportunity, be sure to time delivery so it is used on the job within a couple of weeks.
  • Potentially costly. Depending upon the fertilization approach selected, calling the Fertilization play can be very costly — especially when all efforts consist of formal learning delivered by a paid trainer or facilitator. While learning delivered by a paid trainer is more likely to be high quality, balance delivery of higher-cost formal learning with in-house learning opportunities.


Additional Notes