The issue with Scrum Certifications

Ron Jeffries has posted a nice article on CSM Certification Thoughts containing several excellent diagrams describing some of the forces that are in play when it comes to Scrum certifications (or any other Agile certification for that matter).

There are both positive and negative opinions of CSM Certification in the industry.  In my view, a ‘certification’ for completing a course is questionable and misleading.  If anything, its a ‘Certificate of Course Completion’ . Importantly, CSM Certification does not demonstrate an individual’s experience and skill with Agile and definitely is not reflective of an individual’s mindset  for Agile.

But let’s face it, as individuals we love our certifications as it provides some sort of achievement and recognition.  But attending a 2 day training course does not turn you into an expert.

The Agile Alliance position on certification is clear

[…] employers should have confidence only in certifications that are skill-based and difficult to achieve. […] Certifications such as Certified Scrum Master and DSDM Foundation are knowledge-based and easy to achieve. […] The position of Agile Alliance remains firmly that employers should not require certification of employees and that skill needs to be acquired by practice on agile projects not by training alone.

Ron’s article highlights that the core benefit of CSM certification is that you will have ‘CSM-Trained People’, however, this does not guarantee success as illustrated by his diagrams.

I think CSM Certifcation courses are one means to achieve the goal of training individuals and providing minimum competence.  I have attended both a CSM and CSPO class and believe the courses are well put together and are educational.  However, translating this knowledge into practice is a much more daunting task.  I think one of the main challenges with Scrum is that there is no standard or ‘best-practice’.  There are many different ways Scrum and Agile methods can be applied.  After all Scrum is just a framework within which things happen, and its up to the  innovation and intelligence of the team to fill in the gaps.

Speaking from experience, I agree with Ron’s comment that

Troubled projects do generate some demand for coaching

As an Agile Coach I have been called on many times to help troubled projects.  Most of these projects didn’t have the right fundamental training and/or coaching required.  Ongoing training and engaging an experienced Agile coach is necessary to ensure effective adoption of Agile.  I have been down some dark holes in my IT career, but I have learned a lot over the years which has enabled me to be a better Agile consultant and coach so I can help teams and organizations with their Agile journey.   Even with 6 years of Agile experience, I am still continuously learning.

For Scrum success, what is more important than ‘certifications’ is that organisations are committed to Agile, provides the environment, training and the culture for Agile to flourish.

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