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No More CSM by Growing Agile

We get many enquiries for people looking for Certified Scrum Training. As of January 2013 Growing Agile will not longer be offering Certified Scrum Master training. This blog post is an attempt to explain why.

When I was first introduced to Scrum, I read a few books and thought I got it. I then attended my CSM (Certified Scrum Master) with Boris Gloger. Weird interesting fact is that Sam was on the same CSM course as me but we didn’t know each other then and don’t even remember each other!

Boris changed my life. I realized I had gotten so much wrong. I had focused on the mechanics and not the principles. I was inspired to change this and make a difference in the world. Over the next 3 years I worked in various roles in organisations doing Scrum, I did my CSPO, and CSP. I joined the SUGSA (Scrum User Group of South Africa) committee. I started delivering talks on Scrum and agile. I started working with Peter Hundermark to become South Africa’s second CST (Certified Scrum Trainer). It took me about 2 years since deciding to become a CST to actually qualify. I co-trained with 5 other CSTs, on 3 different continents. I organized Scrum Gatherings, I presented at global agile conferences. Finally in February 2012 I was officially accepted as a CST. I was ready to help inspire others as Boris had inspired me.

Around the same time that I became a CST, Sam and I started Growing Agile. When not training CSM classes, we were training and coaching teams either getting started with agile, or looking to up their game.

Over the last year we’ve noticed a pattern. Certification sells. People hear about Scrum, decide they need training, find out there is a certification and sign up for the CSM. That’s great. Often what happens is that they come to the course, understand parts of Scrum, get excited, and then go back to work and try to implement it. Usually a company sends one or two people on the CSM course, with the expectation that they will come back to work and teach everyone else how to do Scrum. I’ve never heard of a case where that worked. The best we can hope for is that someone takes us seriously when we say “get help” and gets a coach to help them adopt Scrum. In my experience this is < 1% of CSM attendees.

After being trained by Boris, I had years to go, with MANY failures, before I was able to help teams get started successfully.

On the other hand, we’ve noticed another pattern. Sometimes senior managers get in touch with us because they are interested in agile. We meet with them and talk about what this means. We check that they have the space for failure before they see results. If so we pick a framework that’s right for them (sometimes its not Scrum), train the whole company, and then coach them through their first few months. We build an on going relationship with them. Our success rate with this is 100%.

Retrospecting at the end of 2012, we looked at how we had helped people and what work we had done that had really made a difference. I’m sure you can guess we prefered the 100% success rate to the 1% success rate. We decided to focus. There are only 2 of us at Growing Agile, and we prefer to do 1 thing really well.

For 2013 we are focusing on coaching and team training. We think this will help us be more successful in what matters to us: helping companies be agile, and deliver great software to delighted customers with happy teams.

We will continue to offer a few courses that are aligned with this, notably our Advanced Scrum Master course and our new Agile Management course. These are aimed at people who have already adopted agile and want to take it to the next level.

We also have an Introduction to agile course to fill a gap we think exists in our market. We think it’s the course many people should be attending when they attend a CSM. It will help you understand what agile is about, if you should adopt it, what’s involved in an agile transformation, and what all the various agile frameworks are (Scrum is not for everyone).

Update January 2014: We no longer offer public courses. Please see How We Help to see how we can help you 🙂

I still believe the CSM is a good course. I still believe it has a place in our market. I believe anyone who is a Scrum Master today should do it to learn about the subtleties of Scrum. But I also know there are other trainers in the world who will train it. I need to follow my heart and focus on coaching.

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