Scrum – Beyond the ceremony of certifying

Why would you want to certify in anything Agile, and Scrum especially?

Well… you don’t. The right attitude will make you:

  1. want to learn about Scrum from an expert as a head-start for practicing it. Truly taste it by using the tool to get more Agile.
  2. want to assess your knowledge and experience.

Exactly the needs that is addressing. To think beyond courses. Knowledge, understanding ànd experience over paper certification, which I certainly value more:

  1. For learning purposes there is the Professional Scrum Master course, i.e. a retake of Ken’s former CSM.
  2. But there is a unique set of online assessments:
  • With the help of the communities an open assessment was created. I participated in it at the time it was still called Scrum I. It’s free of charge and you can use it as a quick check on your knowledge.
  • The level I assessment checks the fundamental Scrum knowledge (the cost of 100 $ is also included in the PSM course fee). A score of 85% is required!
  • The level II assessment requires 85% as well, which is not achievable without even more demonstrable knowledge, having applied Scrum and understanding the underlying principles. As I wrote in my blog note “Unsatisfied? Uncertified? Unvalued?“.

And, finally, Ken is assisting the development communities with the Professional Scrum Developer program, holding a course and assessments in a .Net and a Java version.

The knowledge of Scrum is verified against the Scrum Guide from co-founders Jeff Sutherland and Ken Schwaber. Capture their insights!

An highly unserved and underrated audience however are still the Product Owners, although a crucial role in Scrum. The ScrumAlliance offers a Certified Scrum Product Owner course (‘CSPO’). But… no assessment yet. I don’t want to go into CSP, CSC or CST options because I feel they are heavily over-institutionalized. CSD is too unclear.

The ScrumAlliance verifies knowledge of Scrum against the Scrum Primer, from the Scrum Training Institute. I’ve read both and find the Scrum Guide to have the in-depth Vision of Scrum, while the Scrum Primer is more about concrete practices.

Definition of… Scrum

Is there a way to check on the correct application of Scrum?

Most attempts end up in complex questionnaires or big assessments. This is strange as Scrum is a simple process and has distinct definitions of roles, artefacts and meetings. And I also distinguish core principles.

When presenting Scrum as the core process of my My.Fragility framework I always show my Scrum Diamond, a graphical representation of the 3 essential elements for each of the 4 Scrum ceremonies:

It makes an assessment of Scrum simple: check whether the process and the above ceremonies are in place!

And remember: Scrum prescribes a minimal, but tightly coupled, set of ceremonies. Skipping even only one implies affecting the essence of Scrum. Doing so does not necessarily mean that you are not Agile or don’t perform well, but don’t call it… Scrum.


Recently Scrum godfather Ken Schwaber resigned as chairman from the ScrumAlliance, which he co-founded.

Logo - Certified ScrumMaster SealI remember Ken from turning my ScrumMaster certification course in 2004 into a great experience. Not because of the certificate, but for comprehending Scrum. I’ve since then advised people to attend the certification course, but mainly to get in touch with other people and dive into the matter.

Scrum.orgKen launched as a move from ceremony and formal organization to process and community. From certification to assessment (for self-improvement). There’s an online Scrum Assessment (note: no longer available), upon a Scrum Guide. Because… “Unlike certification, assessment makes no public claim of competence and cannot be misused to assert qualifications that may or may not exist“.

I scored 69 out of 80 (86%), which took 25 minutes (1h allowed). This feels okay but the most important aspect was that through the reflection on some missed points I could improve my insights.

“Although there’s value in certification, assessment is valued more.”