Facilitating the Spread of Knowledge and Innovation in Professional Software Development

Write for InfoQ


Choose your language

InfoQ Homepage News More on Scrum Certification Test

More on Scrum Certification Test

This item in japanese

Mishkin Berteig, a Certified Scrum Trainer, took the Beta CSM Exam on Orlando Scrum Gathering this March, and posted his feedback.

He first described his experience while taking Microsoft Certified Application Developer Exam, with the conclusion that:

They[exams] simply cannot measure any level of competency.  They simple measure people’s ability to pass exams.

Then talked about the problems within the Beta CSM Exam:

When I first became a Certified Scrum Trainer (no TM, this was before the existance of the Scrum Alliance), Ken Schwaber had a clear policy that as a trainer I was encouraged to integrate into my training materials and approach things that I had discovered through actual practice about Scrum.  I loved this.  It meant that Scrum was not a Canonized Body of Knowledge, but rather a living framework for doing excellent work.  When we put in place an exam like this, it changes the nature of Scrum.  Is this good or bad?  I think it has aspects of both.  The clear down side is that it will have the tendency of freezing Scrum which might make it less relevent.

... If a student of mine goes and does the exam, and fails because (in part) I have taught things differently than what is on the exam, then does that mean this person can blame me?  Sure!  Why not?!  So then I am faced with a problem: do I teach what I know works or do I teach what I know will be tested?

And he also gave a solution:

...the exam should be taken before taking the CSM course...And, it will simplify training since as trainers we will know that people coming into the class are already _knowledgeable_ about Scrum.  We can then teach our variations, see the dynamic of people in the class, and offer Certification based on that.

...The long term effect of this is that people will place less importance on the exam (rightly) and more importance on making a good showing in the course (rightly) and then we have a relationship-based Certification.  Since it is based on a relationship, it can live more easily as an organically changing framework rather than a defined (simple) methodology.

Richard Lawrence agreed with Mishkin's suggestion:

I like the test first approach. Two days really isn’t enough to prepare someone for the day to day requirements for the ScrumMaster role. Ensuring a minimum level of knowledge going in would allow the course to go deeper than if you have to teach with the assumption that some portion of the class didn’t do the reading.

The Scrum Alliance has previously answered the question - "Why does Scrum Alliance offer a certification program?"

Certification programs set standards for knowledge, skills and conduct. When Scrum was first introduced, the only available training was in the form of articles, presentations and books. People were able to understand the iterative nature of Scrum through reading, but missed the empirical, incremental, self-managing and cross-functional aspects that provide the pathway and productivity necessary for successful implementation. In response, the Scrum Alliance developed a certification program. Certification is a declaration of an individual’s professional competences and affirms a measurement of knowledge and experience. The Scrum Alliance certifies Scrum practitioners, coaches and trainers who demonstrate Scrum knowledge and skills as well as commitment to the highest standards of ethical and professional practice.

But when we look back to InfoQ's report last November, we can see there have been many negative opinions ever since,

Alistair Cockburn, author of  Agile Software Development, feels the underlying problem runs deeper than just a test. He says that people attend the CSM course looking for a Scrum Bootcamp and so certifying them as ready to be Scrum Masters is beside the point. He feels that "thousands of people have CSM certificates without possibly even knowing basic Scrum rules, the CSM course has become the defacto Scrum Bootcamp course". He suggests that it is in the interest of Scrum community to introduce a Scrum Bootcamp course that is targeted for most people and use that as the introduction to the Scrum Master course that will be of interest to only a few thousand people.

Do you agree with Alistair's idea? And do you think Mishkin's suggestion can resolve the underlying problem?

Furthermore, as a methodology or framework which requires flexibility and be able to adjust itself to different environment, could we define a real universal standard for it? If yes, how could we do evaluation in real life with the standard? There were still many voices questioning the value of Nokia Test,

...All of this begs the question, "What is the point of the test?", or more specifically, "What do you hope to learn from applying it?" Bas, the originator of the "Nokia Test" shared this these thoughts.

Related to the original questions, are these tests useful? It epends very much on what you use them for and to make sure that the people who use it actually understands what it means (as it was only 5 questions...). In general, I do not find "agile maturity model", "Agile assessment models" or "agile tests" useful since they tend to be a simplified view on a complex subject.

So far, we have not seen much to the Beta CSM Exam given at the Orlando Scrum Gathering, maybe there will be some positive opinions, maybe the exam will improve later. To follow similar posts, you can focus on the InfoQ Scrum topic.

Rate this Article