CSC Program: One Year Later

Results from a recent survey of Certified Scrum Practitioners

21 November 2008

Pete Behrens
Trail Ridge Consulting

The Certified Scrum Coaching (CSC) Program was initiated just one year ago as a designation for Scrum practitioners who are aiding organizations in adopting, transitioning, implementing, or scaling Scrum. In an effort to deliver value early and often, the Scrum Alliance initiated the CSC Program with the understanding that we would regularly "inspect and adapt" the program. In support of this, the program team conducted a survey to find out how the program is currently perceived and what we can do to improve it.

Our targeted audience for the survey was all current Certified Scrum Practitioners (CSP) who are not currently Certified Scrum Trainers. CSPs have the relevant accreditation required to apply and are the most likely pool of applicants in the near term . 23 percent of invitees responded (96 responses out of 423 active CSPs). A few CSTs also responded to the survey; while we do appreciate their feedback, their responses were omitted from this report, as it is focused solely on the CSP perspective.

This article presents the results from the survey and some conclusions the CSC program team has derived from the data. It evaluates perceptions about applying to the program, benefits of the program, questions, concerns and next steps for the program. We continue to welcome any other feedback that can assist in promoting the CSC accreditation.

Evaluating Applications to the Program

The CSC program is new, so the current membership is relatively small compared to the number of active CSPs. The long-term vision is to have approximately 10 times the number of CSCs as we have Certified Scrum Trainers (CSTs). While we expect the program to take many years to develop, we wanted to uncover some of the reasons why more CSPs have not applied in this first year.  The main reasons given for not (yet) applying for the CSC are detailed in Figure 1.

Figure 1. Reasons CSPs have not applied to be CSCs

27 percent of respondents indicated that the reason they have not applied is because they do not yet have the requisite hours of experience. The data indicates that one the program’s basic principles is being upheld: set a high bar of experience in coaching to assure that those who do apply have had more opportunities to see successes and failures in applying Scrum in various organizational contexts. Another promising indicator is that almost a quarter of the respondents indicated they were considering applying to the program in the near future.

On the other hand, almost a fifth of the responses indicated a lack of value in the program to justify the program’s fee. The current fee is $750, 10 percent of the CST fee. The fee was based on the goal of having a potential coaching membership equal to approximately 10 times the number of trainers. Given the newness of the program and the lack of visibility in the marketplace,  the current fee may need to be reproportioned. The program team's position is that the current fee reflects a coach's commitment to their trade and support for a strong Scrum Alliance organization and CSC program.

Figure 2 shows the response to the statement, “I would be more likely to apply if…”.

Figure 2. Factors that would make respondents more likely to apply.

87 percent of respondents would be more likely to apply if the CSC were seen as having more value, either in terms of increased visibility in the marketplace or lower fees. Based on this feedback, the program team will evaluate two avenues:

  • Determine how to add value to the program to increase the benefits for the coach and for clients
  • Evaluate whether the current fee is appropriate to the newness and growth-oriented nature of the program goals.

Evaluating Benefits of the Program

Since the benefits to the program appear to be misunderstood or not well conveyed, we sought out to determine what benefits potential CSCs would seek in the program. The chart in Figure 3 summarizes how respondents rated the perceived benefits of the CSC program.

Figure 3. Perceived benefits of becoming a CSC.

Current CSCs find value in the program in a number of ways.

  1. First, they are a community of peers who share and collaborate on Scrum, coaching, and many other topics they are dealing with in their work.
  2. Second, they have been provided opportunities from clients seeking assistance with their Scrum adoption or application. For example, in one case, a CSC hired another CSC to extend his organization's coaching practice.
  3. Third, in both developing and applying for the program, they have all learned more about their own skills and areas for growth. The Scrum coaching practice, in many cases, was an eye-opening experience to the vast application of Scrum beyond the team level. Thus it provided a professional development path to become a more competent coach.

Based on the results of the survey, the CSC program appears to be driving the appropriate benefits. However, we must improve the overall market's awareness of the program, enhance coaching growth and collaboration within the program, and provide better opportunities for mentoring candidates considering membership in the program.

Questions and Concerns of the Program

Some respondents expressed questions and concerns about the CSC program. We feel that these can be addressed by clarifying some details and history of the program as it currently stands.

1. How can the Scrum Alliance guarantee the quality of CSC’s?

The certification decision is based on information contained in the application and two references that must be submitted by each applicant. The application was designed to provide enough targeted information to enable a determination. It evaluates multiple dimensions of each candidate, including the candidate’s understanding and application of Scrum in various organizational contexts, his experience in coaching situations, and a number of other coaching competencies. Applicants and references may be contacted if the information is unclear or insufficient. Participants in the program have indicated that the form takes several hours to complete. Certification is no guarantee that a CSC maintains professional quality, but there are professional development and coaching time requirements to maintain the certification. These will be evaluated every three years.

2. How can the Scrum Alliance prevent gaming of the certification process?

The CSC application and review process was specifically designed with a number of specific goals that are intended to promote a useful assessment result. Two of these goals, described here, are relevant to the question.

  • High Bar for Entry: The requirements are purposely set to ensure that a certified coach has 1500 hours of coaching experience, at least two references acknowledging significant success as a coach, and a written demonstration of Scrum and agile domain knowledge.
  • Rigor: Each application is reviewed and scored anonymously by multiple reviewers (all of whom are CSCs). If the result has any ambiguity, the reviewers may contact the applicant and/or ask for additional reviews from other members of the CSC review committee.
3. Can I become a CSC if I work only within a single organization (e.g. as an internal coach)?

Yes. The application process includes a requirement to provide two coaching references. These references can be from within your organization or across multiple organizations. There are existing CSCs who are internal coaches working for a single organization and were so at their time of application.

4. Can the certification process, over and above Scrum knowledge and experience, check for the ability to coach effectively (that is, deliver results)?

The CSC application process consists of multiple components that were designed to provide assurances that the coaching candidate is evaluated accurately.

  • Two or more letters of reference from clients or people within the organization in which your services have been utilized. These letters ask specific questions designed to assess both coaching skills and knowledge.
  • The application is thorough in exposing Scrum knowledge, experiences in applying Scrum, coaching competencies, and scenario-based situations designed to elicit the applicant’s situational knowledge and skills.
  • The CSC certification must be renewed every three years to ensure that the CSC is still coaching Scrum, is involved in the Scrum community, and has maintained professional development.

No direct observation is currently required for application, either on site or in person. The letters of reference are considered to be sufficient proof of past success in delivering results.

Recommendations for the Program

A number of recommendations for program improvement were suggested by respondents.

  • The CSC program [also] should require a period of full-time “pair coaching” by applicants.

While a coaching mentoring approach is certainly supported and encouraged by the CSC program team, it is currently not a required element of the application process. The program was purposely designed to handle growth to the point that on-the-job assessment and in-person interviews were estimated to be expensive for all parties in terms of time and administrative overhead. The references and application form were designed to elicit sufficient information to make a certification assessment and reduce the cost of the program.

In true agile fashion, the originating committee sought to create a useful program in a reasonable time with full expectation that the Scrum Alliance would inspect the results and adapt the program accordingly. This survey is part of the first inspection cycle. Thus, pair-coaching could emerge as a requirement of the program in the future.

Some other specific suggestions were made by respondents, including the following:

  • There should be “coaching gatherings” for Scrum coaches.
  • We should establish a “coach the coaches” group.
  • We should create a Scrum coaching community.
  • White papers should be written about how to coach Scrum.

The current CSC members are an active and collaborative team that discuss Scrum coaching and support other gatherings and communities of coaches. The CSC program team has a backlog item to explore possibilities for developing more tangible benefits for the program. We are currently collecting ideas and will soon begin looking at them.

Conclusions

Our sample represents people who are current or future candidates for the CSC program. Their overall perspective is positive: most see current or future value in the program. The majority of CSP respondents see the CSC as a worthwhile professional certification and wish to see the CSC program become more widespread. Approximately 25 percent of respondents expressed their intention to apply for the CSC certification within the next 6 months. The CSC program team, working in conjunction with the Scrum Alliance board, will be considering some common suggestions from this survey. The top three areas are as follows:

  • Increase the visibility of the CSC program to the agile community and general software marketplace through the Scrum Alliance.
  • Identify and improve the relationship between value and cost of the CSC program.
  • Grow the CSC membership through increased mentoring outreach to candidate members.

If you think that the CSC program might be for you as a professional or for your organization, we would encourage you to inquire or apply. Details are located on the Scrum Alliance website. If you have questions, concerns or criticisms of the program, we'd also love to hear from you.

CSC Program Team: Pete Behrens, Roger Brown, Peter Hundermark, Martin Kearns, and Bob Sarni


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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