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Certified ScrumMaster Is Not Worth The Paper It Is Written On

by Kelly Waters, 7 January 2008 | Scrum

In my opinion, ScrumMaster Certification isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of Scrum. Huge fan. It’s really helped to transform the web development department I head up.

And I’m not getting at the training companies that deliver Certified ScrumMaster training either. Nor the people that go on the training.

But I do have a problem with the marketing of this training as ‘Certified ScrumMaster’. Because, to me, this phrase is completely misleading.

Over the years, I have come to think of the word ‘Certified’ as implying some depth of experience or knowledge. Maybe the passing of an exam following a period of study. Maybe a vocational assessment of someone’s ability in the workplace. Something that validates a person’s capability in the subject meets a minimum standard.

But with Certified ScrumMaster training, there is no assessment or exam. No prerequisites for attending the course. No previous project management experience required. No study required. Simply attend a 2 day ScrumMaster course and you are a Certified ScrumMaster.

Secondly, the word ‘Master’ compounds the problem further.

I understand the word ‘Master’ in ScrumMaster means ‘master of ceremonies’. That’s completely logical and makes perfect sense. However the word ‘master’ also happens to mean someone of ‘great and exemplary skill, a worker qualified to teach others and carry on the craft independently; an expert in their craft’.

So, would you not really expect a Certified ScrumMaster, or a Certified Master in any craft, to be someone at the top of their trade? Not someone who received a certicate of attendance following 2 days training.

Calling it Certified ScrumMaster is a master class in marketing. And unfortunately I think it undermines Scrum – a methodology that otherwise can offer huge advantages to development teams of all disciplines.

So is Certified ScrumMaster status worth having?

Is it worth going on the training? Of course. Is it worth quoting your Certified ScrumMaster status to current and potential employers? Possibly not.

Sure, as a company practicing Scrum, I’m interested in people with Scrum training and experience. But as an employer practicing Scrum, I also recognise Certified ScrumMaster status for what it is. And in that respect, it isn’t worth the paper it’s written on.

Kelly.

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15 Responses to “Certified ScrumMaster Is Not Worth The Paper It Is Written On”

  1. Peter's mommy says:

    Ha, sometimes I say to my friends that I’ve achieved my goal in life by bearing a title including the word Master.

    But to be serious, I’m also sceptic to this. I fear old PM:s turning into scrum masters, not being transformed but rather disguised. And since they are also the certified individual on the team, they are of course always right.

  2. Nimmo says:

    I am getting “Certified” in Feb. It’s just like any other certification and it tells one simple thing about you – that you got a certification. I think it’s better than walking in and saying “yeah, I know Scrum because I read it on the interwebs”.

  3. AgileJoe says:

    I think they should change it to Scrum Apprentice

  4. Sandy says:

    It makes the situation even worse that the next level of certification is the certified scrum practitioner which actually does require experience.

    I have had people telling me they knew more about scrum than me because they were scrum master certified rather than just practitioners.

    I like AgileJoe’s suggestion to rename to scrum apprentice.

  5. jc says:

    Funny, I just got an email from them today asking me to renew with the Scrum Alliance ($50 a year). I got certified (through employer) about a year ago. It was a great course, but I havent put it on my resume or used it as a reference of any sort. I doubt I’ll renew.

  6. Anonymous says:

    Right on! I earned my certification in 2003 from Schwaber himself, and it wasn’t any better then. It’s a ridiculous money grab. I personally don’t like any certifications, but this is definitely the worst one. At least most of the others have a way to test you and can therefore certify something.

    Do they still hand out the BS license agreement?

    Cheers.

  7. Stephan says:

    As a CSM: You need to understand Zen to understand the goodness in CSMs. What should they certify? That you can lead an agile Scrum team as a ScrumMaster? Huh. Noone can certify that. You either can or you can’t. Zen masters (ha, another master without a master!) would laugh at the fun in the ScrumMaster certification.

    The real fun part is that CSM doesn’t mean anything, practioneer means much more. In Scrum and in Zen.

    Never thought about that, but now everything makes much more sense.

    Peace
    -stephan

  8. Mik says:

    I totally agree. Certified Scrum Master is a joke. Yes, Scrum is good. Yes, I like it. However, a certification should have at least an examination or assessment part to it. Preferably both. The DSDM Practitioner certification requires you to write a 3000 essay on your last project and then an oral exam in front of two examiners. That was hard, but at least I can be proud to have attained that certification.

  9. Anonymous says:

    I agree – this is a money making sham that starts at the top. Although Scrum has it’s good points, it is not a methodology and never will be until procedures and processes are written down. In my experience with Scrum, the abscense of Requirements and basic Project Management are a bad formula. I hope Scrum fades away. This is coming from someone who has been a Scrum Master for the past four months.

  10. Kelly Waters says:

    I don’t agree with the previous comment from Anonymous.

    I have criticised the Scrum Master certification, but Scrum has transformed my web development department, which is reasonably large at 80-90 people.

    Therefore I’m a huge fan of Scrum as an agile management methodology.

    Scrum does not say you should work without requirements, in fact it leaves how you engineer things up to you, and just provides a iterative management framework for planning, managing and learning.

    So there it is absolutely a framework for project management. It just does it differently to a traditional gantt chart etc, so it doesn’t suit some people’s experience/preferences.

    The fact you don’t see this, despite being a Scrum Master for the last four months, is exactly the problem I see with the certification programme, and why I don’t value it.

    Scrum, however, I am sure will have a long life and help many development organisations to improve.

    Kelly.

  11. Michael Vizdos says:

    Hi,

    I am a Certified Scrum Trainer and work daily with teams around the world on real issues when implementing scrum in their environments.

    As a trainer, I am also a practitioner too (as all trainers are).

    Is the certification worth the paper it is written on?

    That is up to you. It is an ongoing debate (has been since day one) in the Scrum Community.

    So why do I train?

    No… it is not a great “money grab” for me — it is not a core part of my business. That being said, I actually enjoy teaching this class (or actually facilitating now) and really do personally learn a lot more about Scrum each every class I teach. Eek… sorry for the run on sentence.

    I have never forced a person to attend.

    Nobody is putting a gun to their heads.

    They are there by choice.

    Does everyone leave “getting” Scrum?

    No. I think that is impossible to convey in two days.

    However, they have been exposed to Scrum by someone who actually uses this stuff on a daily basis and learns a lot more about this through the discussions that happen during the two days.

    I have written a lot of controversial (if that is the right word — maybe “edgy” is better) information at my site. A specific blog entry and comic strip on this topic (one of the most popular on the site lol) is located at:

    http://www.implementingscrum.com/blog/2007/01/03/csm-training-reality-check/

    Hope this comment helps. Or opens the door for more people to either comment on or think about this topic more.

    - mike vizdos
    http://www.michaelvizdos.com
    http://www.implementingscrum.com

  12. Kelly Waters says:

    In response to Michael, I did say in my opening words that “I’m not getting at the training companies that deliver Certified ScrumMaster training… Nor the people that go on the training”…

    I think Scrum has huge value. And to get full value from it, people really do need to be trained in it.

    It is simply the ‘Certification’ bit that troubles me.

    Kelly.

  13. Surya Avantsa says:

    Mike,

    Don’t take it personal. As Kelly pointed out, it is the word certification that is misleading. Somebody has used this word in a very loosely defined manner.

  14. Anonymous says:

    i have my csm and the only value it has is that people who know nothing about it think it means something. for example, hiring managers or ceos. to them its big stuff, i got interviews becuase of it even though i am a software architect. its the same as the ms certs when they first came out.

  15. Kenny Cruden says:

    Training of some sort to teach people Scrum is good … but I know of people who have had this training and have no idea how to implement it in the real world.

    The concepts aren´t rocket science and so can be picked up over two days, the real learning starts when you try to use it and meet the obstacles in the way of achieving success.

    So yes, I think the name should actually be changed, as I see the title on so many people´s CVs now that it could actually lessen the importance of someone with the certificate and (the more valuable) experience … and also those without it but who have the experience (like myself :-))

    ´Scrum Certificate´, that´s sufficient.

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