Saturday, September 26, 2009

The CSM Exam

As you may know, the Scrum Alliance is implementing a CSM Exam on Oct 1. See for details.

This causes us to make a few basic statements.

First, our real purpose is not certification and all that alphabet soup. It might be helpful, it might not. But the real purpose is improving people's lives. The customers, the workers (which includes the managers), and the stakeholders (eg, the shareholders, those widows and orphans).

Second, we have to comment that in some ways, the ScrumMaster title is not fortuitous. It implies, to some, that a CSM is a "master" of something, possibly Scrum. Almost any intelligent person, with a modicum of investigation, sees that that is not true. But some people want to get wrapped around that axle.

Third, we think the CSM Course is a very good course. And, today, the CSM title means you have taken that course. I think taking the course should be viewed as a necessary but not sufficient condition to becoming a ScrumMaster, and probably even to doing Scrum. Other conditions must be met also.

Ok, now on to the Exam itself.

First, putting together a good Exam is very hard. The Scrum Alliance has my sympathies. Even if the initial version is not good enough (it might not be).

Second, the Exam has some practical benefits. It will cause some people to read more. Good, mostly. (Partly bad, because Scrum is more about action than mere knowledge in the head.) It will cause some people to pay attention in class more. Good, mostly. (Partly bad, since they may be paying attention to things to pass a test, and not to the broader meaning and the interconnections and how to make it work in real life.)

Third, the Exam creates a relatively quick feedback loop. Scrum is all about fast feedback. The Exam is not perfect feedback, but better than none.

The Exam is partly bad also. It puts more emphasize on Explicit knowledge, and implies less importance for Tacit knowledge. Certainly the Tacit knowledge about Scrum is very important; I think more important than the Explicit knowledge.

Metaphorically, the Exam suggests that documentation (knowledge unused) is an important measure of progress. But Agile and Scrum say the true measure of progress is working product. In this situation, putting Scrum into practice. In the case of the test, it is ok to test Explicit knowledge, but we need to say that we do not agree with the metaphor. The more important test is: Can you really do it?

In the real world, potential employees and hiring managers want to see "can this person do this thing well". It is reasonable, as I said, to view having a CSM as a necessary condition to becoming a ScrumMaster and probably even to doing Scrum (or a CSPO for Business types), but it is not sufficient. Only in action can you prove that you can do it.

So, I think the CSM Exam is a small positive (despite its drawbacks). We should not get too distracted by it from the main goal. Let's make people's lives better. We need that just about now.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

To know ourselves

We are in a recession, so we think especially now that money is important.

Some of us are introvert technical guys. People skills are not our strongest skill set maybe. So we think strong technical thoughts are the most important things.

But at the end of the day, I believe we live for other people.

One of deepest human desires is to know others, and also to be known.

The famous quote goes like this: "For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face. Now we know in part, but then shall I know even as also I am known."

To me, Scrum is a journey to know the customers and what they really want. And to know the Team, and what they really can do. And, in the Team, we get to be who we really are, and to be known for what we really are. Well, within the bounds of workplace norms.

This is very important and profoundly satisfying.