Certified Scrum Coach Program Formation

An article regarding the formation of the Certified Scrum Coaching Program

11 June 2007

Pete Behrens
Trail Ridge Consulting

The Scrum Alliance created a new certification program in 2007 for mentors who are guiding organizations in adopting, transitioning, implementing or scaling Scrum. The Certified Scrum Coach Program, or CSC for short, is an experience and skills-based program designed to distinguish individuals who have aided organizations in successfully applying Scrum to improve their effectiveness.

Throughout 2007, a dedicated and cross-discipline CSC program team used Scrum in developing the program. An initial draft was reviewed at the Spring 2007 Scrum Gathering in Portland, Oregon followed by a broader review and feedback from the Scrum Community.

The CSC program team consisted of over a dozen members of the Scrum community. These members represent most of the various roles involved in a Scrum coaching client relationship: consultants, trainers, internal employees, and organizational leaders who have experience with implementing Scrum and working with Scrum consultants. I facilitated the program creation as the team’s ScrumMaster. The Scrum Alliance provided the product ownership direction, oversight, and review.

While the initial program creation is well behind us, the CSC program is always growing and changing through feedback both internally and externally. We would encourage you to explore the other documents and web pages which describe the program and are used for applying to it. The rest of this document provides some information background on the CSC Program and why it was created.

Why is the Scrum Alliance creating a Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) Program?

The Scrum Alliance recognizes the difficulties many organizations face in attempting to implement Scrum; Scrum is not a silver bullet with a step-by-step instruction manual, but rather a simple framework that uncovers very difficult challenges within the organization. Scrum also challenges traditional leadership models, roles, and behaviors and requires a culture of discipline which many organizations may have difficulty addressing independently.

The Scrum Alliance recognizes the benefits that organizations have received from dedicated, professional, experienced Scrum practitioners who have aided them in their adoption and transition to Scrum. Having a designation representing proven experience and skills would aid companies that are seeking professional guidance for their Scrum implementations.

The Scrum Alliance recognizes that the Certified ScrumMaster and Certified Scrum Product Owner programs are a critical and necessary first step in educating people in Scrum; however, they are often not sufficient in improving the likelihood of project success due to the very difficult challenges and entrenched traditional corporate cultures faced in most organizations. Experienced practitioners who have guided others through these transitions and implementations often make the difference for organizations through relevant application of practices, enhanced learning, and more rapid and channeled feedback.

What is a Scrum coach?

A Scrum Coach has been trained as a Certified ScrumMaster, is an experienced Scrum practitioner, and has the skills required to transform a client (either as an external consultant or internal employee), helping them to reach their full potential through the use of Scrum. They must have experience and skills in the following areas:

  • Knowledge and experience with Scrum
  • Advisory and consultancy skills
  • Facilitation
  • Agile leadership
  • Organizational development
  • Professional development
  • Scrum community involvement
What does it take to become a Certified Scrum Coach?

A Certified Scrum Coach must be trained as a Certified ScrumMaster or Certified Scrum Product Owner; have experience with Scrum as a Certified Scrum Practitioner in good standing; demonstrate competence in guiding multiple Scrum teams through over 1,500 hours of client engagement; prove coaching experience through client letters of recommendation, evaluation through an application; and contribute to the Scrum community. Please refer to the web pages for a full application and reference letter templates.

How do I become a Certified Scrum Coach?

You must apply to become a Certified Scrum Coach by submitting your reference materials to the Scrum Alliance. Your application will be reviewed against the criteria administratively by the Scrum Alliance to assure the basic requirements are met. Your application then will be peer reviewed in a team-based format by 4-5 reviewers. You may be contacted directly for additional information regarding your experience. You will be notified of your results within three months of your application.

Is the certification good indefinitely?

No. A Certified Scrum Coach must renew their certification every three years. Since experience and skills are required to achieve certification, they must be maintained to retain certification. A Certified Scrum Coach is required to practice Scrum coaching of at least 1,000 hours over three years; continue professional development through education, writing, teaching, or speaking on Scrum related topics; and contribute to the Scrum community.

Does this program affect the other Scrum certification programs?

No. The CSC program is designed to complement the current certification programs. The Certified ScrumMaster (CSM) and Certified Scrum Product Owner (CSPO) education programs will continue to be the first step to understanding Scrum. The Certified Scrum Practitioner (CSP) program will continue to develop people’s understanding of Scrum through direct involvement in or with a Scrum team. The Certified Scrum Trainer (CST) program will continue to educate the next generation of Scrum practitioners, ScrumMasters, and product owners.

How does this program relate to other certification initiatives being considered by the APLN, Agile Alliance or others?

The Scrum Alliance recognizes that there are other organizations considering experience and skills-based certification programs designed to better qualify individuals who can make a difference for organizations attempting to increase their effectiveness through agility. The members of this program team have been involved to varying degrees with some of these other programs and recognize their value. However, the Scrum Alliance also recognizes that about two-thirds of all agile implementations are based on the Scrum framework (see recent surveys by VersionOne and Trail Ridge Consulting) and that only the Scrum Alliance is in position to certify professionals who deeply understand and have proven experience in guiding organizational effectiveness through the adoption of Scrum.

How much does it cost?

There will be a fee to become and maintain a Certified Scrum Coach designation; however, the amount has not been determined. Cost considerations include the value of the program to prospective and established coaches and the Scrum Alliance administrative and infrastructure support for the program.

Pete Behrens
CSC Program Team


Opinions represent those of the author and not of Scrum Alliance. The sharing of member-contributed content on this site does not imply endorsement of specific Scrum methods or practices beyond those taught by Scrum Alliance Certified Trainers and Coaches.



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Comments

Matt Truxaw, CSM, 6/19/2007 12:27:04 PM
I like the idea of a Certified Scrum Coach, and for the most part I like the proposal. I do have a couple of comments on the proposal.

First off, it seems geared much more to external consultants than to internal employees. The whole idea of tracking specific hours almost implies a billing schedule kept by a consultant. Internal employees serving as coaches are much less likely to track their time in this way. In fact, working on scrum, they are likely only to be tracking how much time they have left "to do" :-)

The other thing that is not clear is whether or not you have to be a Certified Scrum Practioner to be Certified scrum Coach. Sometimes in the document, it implies you must have significant experience with scrum, but not necessarily be a CSP, other times it states you must be a CSP. I think this should just be clarified more.

That's it for now based on a quick once over. I'll try to do a more careful read through and poston any other thoughts.
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/19/2007 4:06:58 PM
Matt,

Thanks for the feedback. Our program team was made up of both external and internal coaches and this discussion also entered our drafting process. We discussed the ability for internal coaches to provide hours through defining a percentage of their responsibilities contributing toward coaching. We recognize that validating/auditing exact hours will not be possible, nor wanted. Rather, we would look to the clients as providing validation of this and trust the organizations from which we receive this information. We would also likely audit a portion of the data we receive. I believe it would be worth editing the program definition to make this more clear.

With respect to the CSP requirement, you are correct that it has been stated in multiple ways. This was due to the CSP program being under process of change itself. As originally created, it was designated for ScrumMasters practicing their role. It is being redefined as a Scrum practitioner practicing any number of roles. It is our intention that the Certified Coach will have practiced, and that practice will have been quantified through a CSP designation once that designation is more properly defined. However, without redefinition, we wanted to make sure that we were covering others who have practiced, but may not have specifically received their CSP. We will clarify this in the final program definition.

I would appreciate any feedback on whether people believe we should or should not require a CSP prior to CSC, or any other modifications to tracking hours.
Steve Alexander, CSM, 6/20/2007 8:27:45 AM
As a soemone coming in to the agile community, I see this as a great opportunity. I have been recently certified as a scrum master and welcome
the new certification. I like the fact that there has been some requirements added to the certification. To consider yourself a coach I would believe that you must have a certain amount of experience with the process.
Jay Conne, CSP,CSM, 6/22/2007 7:39:20 PM
I like the intention of this CSC proposal. The marketplace values certifications for better or worse. To those thoughtful about the real value of a certification, CSC is a potentially valuable one.

The entry criteria appears well scoped and bounded to the goals. However, the third category, "Contribution to the Scrum Community", has the risk of not serving those who would employ the coach. It seems self-serving to the organization and too restrictive as a requirement. This is not to say that those factors should not be valued, just not as a gate to demonstrated Scrum coaching ability. I say this as someone who has been an ACM volunteer for many years and one who has made an effort to contribute value on the Agile/Scrum/Lean discussion groups over the last few years. Perhaps another form of appreciation or acknowledgment for community contributions could be found. Let's not mix our purposes.

Sincerely,

Jay Conne

Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/22/2007 10:08:56 PM
Jay,

Thanks for the contribution and feedback. Contribution to the Scrum Community is something that has been a part of all advanced programs in the Scrum Alliance (CSP and CST). Given that the Scrum Alliance is a non-profit organization and that its growth has primarily been through word of mouth at the grass-roots level, it has been important for the organization to have a "give back" factor. That said, the program team discussed alternatives to "community" and evaluated the greater agile community. Our intention was not to exclude any other community participation, but rather to help Scrum grow in that community. There are many other focused agile practices and disciplines that Scrum is compatible with, but contributing to those areas does not necessarily assist the Scrum Community. And by giving back directly to the Scrum Community, a CSC will also be helping grow the organization he/she is associated with. That said, during our comment review period, we will once again revisit this discussion to determine whether it is best to narrow the focus toward Scrum or open up to a larger community contribution.
Giora Morein, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO,REP, 6/23/2007 8:44:36 AM
In my opinion it is important for a CSC (or a CST for that matter) to further the Scrum community. The danger comes in attempting to evaluate when someone has contributed "enough". The other requirements of the CSC seem less subjective. Furthermore, I feel that rather than having a "give back" mindset, it would be far more beneficial to take a "pay it forward" approach. The difference may be small -- but significant. Writing articles or books; attending in Scrum gatherings; participating on committees are good examples of participation in the community -- but coaches are in a unique position to grow the community. I think this should be a more important part of the CSC criteria. Perhaps there should be 3 "recommendations" of which 2 should come directly from someone coached by the CSC, and the third from a project sponsor. By requiring that at least 2 of the recommendations come from "coachees", rather than someone who had simple involvement, we would stress the importance of hearing from the coached team members.
Jay Conne, CSP,CSM, 6/23/2007 4:16:46 PM
Hi Pete - I'm glad your team is thinking about that. The distinction I'm focusing on may be less than obvious with our cultural assumptions about vlounteerism and altruism which I think is often misplaced. And I appreciate that my view may be too divergent to be heard as I intend it, as I'm questioning fundamental assumptions. My intention was not to talk to wider contributions than the Scrum-specific community. Rather, I'm wishing to isolate the value exchange of the coaching itself. One can characterize it as - there's nothing to give back if one hasn't taken something. The coaching transaction between the buyer and seller can be viewed as fair and complete. Then, any other contributions to the community stands alone as separate transactions. My volunteer contributions have served my career well and I consider it a good investment - otherwise, I'd stop doing it. So the essence I'm focusing on is that certification should be specific to the ability of a person to deliver the value being certified and carry no other baggage. A worst case example of baggage from another context is how are laws are made with lots of deals between politicians. I hope this clarification helps. And I understand if it is considered too radical a thought :-). Regards, Jay
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 6/23/2007 10:53:08 PM
Jay, I better understand your position now. The question I hear you raising is a separations of concerns. Does being a good Scrum coach have anything to do with giving back to the Scrum (or agile) Community? You indicate that "there is nothing to give back if one hasn't taken something" - I believe a Scrum coach is "taking" something by being designated a Scrum Coach. They are being rewarded with a designation that should have value in the industry if the Scrum Alliance has done their job to uphold the integrity of the program. Thus, the Scrum Coach giving back could be in recognition of that. The transaction is between the coach and the client, but having a CSC designation does bring the Scrum Alliance into the relationship because of their responsibility in assigning the designation. Secondly, I believe that we would like to role model desired behavior for other Scrum Alliance members - as you learn and benefit from Scrum, tell others about it and help promote it through giving some of your time to the organization. I appreciate the continued dialog and feel free to continue reiterating your point if I have missed it once again.
Andy Murthar, CSM, 8/2/2007 4:45:57 AM
err.........on a selfish level...i am a scrummaster without any formal programmer\developer skills, my background has always been process\methods, quality and change management, so ........a scrum coach accreditation would be good for my future job prospects. i have to admit, i tend to think this is covered by becoming a scrum trainer, which is my goal, regardless of weather i actually become a full time trainer in my career. but hey, i will go with the majority on this rather than put into the impediment bin :)

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