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Essential Skills – Critical Analysis

In a recent conversation with Tyrrell Basson from Manchester University, we explored the topic of ‘essential skills’ for the future. What skills would be necessary for an organisation to succeed 12 months from today? 5 years from today?

Where should the University be placing an emphasis in their soft skills development?

Traditionally, customers and software developers have been separated, with client services directors or customer service agents acting as a go-between. In our article, ‘customers and developers in the same room?’, we explored how Agile organisations have evolved to integrate customers and software developers, effectively solving that problem.

As the Universities modernise, they are actively looking for skills that transcend the limitations of a waterfall-style project management system and help them achieve true Business Agility.
The question of which skills would be essential in the 21st Century extends to our kids.

How do we prepare our kids for jobs that don’t currently exist with technologies yet to be invented? How do we do the same for our teams?

Evergreen Skill: Critical Thinking

In school, there are answers to questions. Kids aren’t being taught how to think but are being tested on their ability to recall known answers to questions where all the variables are known.

In many cases, school breeds the belief system that there are right and wrong answers to questions. That there is only one correct way to achieve an objective. It also breeds a belief that collaboration with others is cheating, as is researching answers rather than knowing the right answer.

In complicated working environments such as Civil Engineering, there are answers to complicated questions. Over many years of evolution, the industry’s best solution is known, and individuals within the organisation simply focus on great execution throughout the project.

This conditioning has created what Harvard Business Review referred to as ‘an absence of critical thinking and analysis in the workplace’.

Sometimes, we know there are several answers to a question, but there is such a thing as best practice. Our way. The way. With best practice, we don’t need to execute against all of the answers; we simply execute against what is already a known and tested best answer.

What do you do when there isn’t an answer to the question?

What do you do when there are multiple, unknown variables to a specific scenario, each of which have a significant impact on outcomes within a dynamic system?

This is where critical appraisal and critical thinking come into their own.

Critical Analysis

Critical analysis, in essence, is the detailed examination and evaluation of another person’s ideas or work.

Analysis means to break down and study the parts.

Critical appraisal is the process of carefully and systematically examining research to judge its trustworthiness and its value and relevance in a particular context.

Critical Appraisal has four main elements: critical reading, critical listening, critical thinking, and critical writing.

In my opinion, it is impossible for an individual to coach or lead without developing and nurturing their critical analysis capabilities.

In his book ‘Talking to Strangers’, author Malcolm Gladwell explores how frequently we fail to accurately observe and think when it comes to strangers. The book explores how our assumptions create problems, especially in the interpersonal interactions and engagements we have with others.

As a Scrum Master, Scrum Product Owner and/or Agile coach, you cannot succeed without developing a strong critical thinking capability. People are complex. Interpersonal relationships within a challenging working environment make it exponentially more complex.

“The skills that we need in order to be able to think critically are varied and include observation, analysis, interpretation, reflection, evaluation, inference, explanation, problem solving, and decision making. Specifically we need to be able to: Think about a topic or issue in an objective and critical way.” –

Developing Critical Thinking

If you have a University degree, you’ve probably had some kind of introduction to the concept of Critical Analysis and if you’re really lucky, you may have had someone actively teaching you this crucial skill.

The vast majority of people, however, have no experience with developing their critical thinking capability and learning how to integrate Critical Appraisal and Thinking into their work.

If you’re looking to develop this skill set, what should you do?

The Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner courses at Agile Centre focus on developing collaboration, engagement, and critical thinking skills and as such, are a great place to start.

As a Product Owner, especially, you learn how to develop a hypothesis and design tests and experiments to prove or disprove that hypothesis. Working creatively and collaboratively toward discovering the most effective solutions through continuous improvement and experimentation.


This concept is applicable to Scrum Masters and Agile coaches, and as such, our Advanced Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Professional Scrum Master courses build on the critical thinking foundations and help grow the next generation of great Scrum Masters and coaches.

Our Agile Coach Academy and Agile Entrepreneurs Academy take critical thinking and analysis to the next level through coaching as well as focused workshops that teach individuals how to grow their Critical Analysis capabilities.

Each course builds on the foundation of the previous course to help you hone your critical skills and thrive in applications where volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity prevail. Environments where you discover and create answers through experimentation and collaboration.

If you’re looking for a great book that introduces Critical Thinking and Appraisal, check out ‘Critical Thinking Skills’ by Stella Cottrell on Amazon. If you’re looking to learn and embed the skillset within your everyday work, browse through our list of courses.

How can we help?

Do you need support with developing critical analysis skills?

Get in touch to see how we can help, or check out our Agile Coach Academy