If you’ve been in a good Agile shop, you’re well aware of the benefits. If you’ve been in a bad agile shop, you know the results can be just as bad, if not worse, as any poorly managed waterfall project. I imagine them as a tornado and a house fire; either way, you just lost your home.
I recently went on the hunt to obtain tangible proof of my Scrum knowledge. As much as I detest the idea of certifications, there exists many a PM that believe nice looking sheets of paper with a name on it equals ability and experience. In my recent dealings, I’ve witnessed a lot of bad practices that besmirch the name of Scrum. Things that would have Ken Schwaber spinning in his grave. Instead of getting into the gritty detail, I refer to a quote from Mr. Schwaber’s blog:
“Scrum is like chess. You either play it as its rules state, or you don’t. Scrum and chess do not fail or succeed. They are either played, or not.” – K. Schwaber
That being said, I continued my search over the weekend to find what some would use as more hard-evidence of Scrum knowledge. I’ve seen many people tout the Scrum Alliance “ScrumMaster” Certification, and clearly they know their SEO as they sit atop the throne of Google searches. “Surely, they must be valid,” I tell myself. Digging in deeper I saw things that bothered me. I smelled a stench of corporate fluff, buzzwords began to fill the screen. Scrum Alliance touted themselves as being a non-profit organization. Then why can I only find links to training courses from “partners”? Why do these courses all cost thousands of dollars? I knew this stuff well and I’m fully capable of teaching myself anything I need to know (a skill set that I believe is required as a developer) I then stumbled across this:
Can I become certified without taking a course?
No. It is our belief that true learning requires hands-on practice and in-person training. The CSM test is not offered as a replacement for formal training.
Now, in my experience with more standard certifications such as CompTIA’s smorgasbord of networking certifications, any legitimate certification offers the opportunity to take the test no matter where you received training. Naturally, if the test is truly a determining factor in certifying that you have obtained the knowledge that it represents, only an expert in the subject should be able to pass the test, no?
I kept digging down the rabbit hole (as I tend to do) and stumbled on a blog post referring to the legitimacy of the Scrum Alliance certification. To my surprise, it was a post from my ex-manager’s blog. It appears that until recently, you didn’t even need to pass the test, and you were still certified! Seems like people started to catch on.
I came also to find out that Ken Schwaber left the Alliance and instead put his name on Scrum.org, where training courses are offered and materials are online for free, and most importantly; The Certifications set the bar a bit higher with an 85% requirement to pass and the ability to directly take the assessment (with a pretty standard one-time fee of $100 for each attempt, as opposed to the $2000 per course at a Scrum Alliance “partner”.) This was reasonable. It had the support of the founder of Scrum and it didn’t reek of corporate feel-goodery.
I studied up over the course of the weekend and sat down to take the assessment during lunch (60 minutes, 80 questions) and passed with a 91%. I printed my happy little certificate on a happy little sheet of paper and put it happily on the wall behind my happy desk. Does it make me an expert? Absolutely not. While the test was a tad more difficult than I’d expected, knowing the rules of Scrum and actually following them are as different as night as day. I still retain my distaste for certifications, especially the types offered by the Scrum Alliance that appear to be masked attempts at one’s wallet, but in the end I learned a few things and I got some pretty little letters for all the recruiters to run through their resume crunchers.
Will it convince those running waterfall under the guise of Scrum to repent their sins and embrace Scrum? Probably not.
Will they come to me for help on understanding and implementing Scrum? That’s a negative, ghost rider.
Can they argue that their certification means they’re more qualified to speak on the matters? Not anymore, and that’s good enough for me.