Applying to Become a CSC

15 September 2011

Pete Behrens
Trail Ridge Consulting

As many of you already know, I am the program lead for the Certified Scrum Coaching (CSC) Program with the Scrum Alliance. As the program lead, it is my responsibility to facilitate the review process, review teams, and review application. While a relatively new program founded in 2007, our numbers are growing each year with now almost 50 Certified Coaches. However, we believe our potential and need in the industry is 10x that number. This article provides some understanding of the CSC Program and guidance for those who wish to apply.

As one of the founders of the program, I am passionate about clients being successful with Scrum. It is my experience that success with Scrum requires education and coaching. Most difficulties in Scrum don't arise from learning the Scrum framework, rather they arise in applying the framework on an existing organizational structure and culture. This requires hands-on experienced guidance, and not just at the team-level, but at the leadership and organizational-level.

In founding the CSC, we sought out to identify and recognize those industry change leaders who have exhibited these mentorship experiences leading to client success with Scrum. We also sought out to raise the bar above the CSM, CSPO and CSP programs. To review, the CSM and CSPO certifications are achieved through education and the CSP certification is achieved through a peer reviewed experience report in applying Scrum for 1 year. In most cases, an effective CSM or CSP becomes a local Scrum coach for the team or few teams they are working with. The CSC certification, on the other hand, requires years of practice (successes and failures) in Scrum at multiple-levels of engagement and leadership within one or more organizations and across numerous teams. A CSC candidate must demonstrate experiences as an organizational change agent working across multiple team and organizational boundaries and levels. In other words, a CSC is an enterprise agile coach.

The CSC Program receives dozens of applications each year from experienced coaches around the world. Overall, only about 40% of the coaches which apply are accepted into the CSC Program. This is not because the CSC is an impenetrable wall protecting those inside, but rather is due to the lack of awareness and understanding of the depth and breadth of Scrum coaching expertise we are expecting from candidates we certify. We expect those with CSM and CSP credentials to be able to coach Scrum teams. And for many, this is the right level of certification for what they do day-to-day within their organization or as a contractor working with client organizations.

If you believe you are one of the few who have the experience and expertise to become a CSC, I want to share with you a few thoughts about the application process and what will be expected of you. I am intending this message will not provide a "cheat sheet" for the application, but rather help to limit applicants to those who have the proper credentials and help those applicants better prepare them for the review process. We want our community to grow, we are just unwilling to sacrifice our standards to do so. That is not to say we think our application process is ideal or perfect - far from it. We know that our application process has limitations, along with issues of objectivity and bias, and we are working towards continuing to improve it with your help. I have articulated six principles below which I encourage you to consider prior to applying. 

First, take your time. The CSC Application is difficult and time consuming. People tell us that they spend months (and some years) on the application. We intended for this. Sure, you can fill out the application in a few hours, but you will not pass the certification. As a candidate, we fully expect, and hope, for your own growth through filling out the application. So before you begin filling out the application - take the big picture and plan an agile sprint-based approach to filling it out. Do some "release planning" before you begin - read over all of it, look at the sections, read and understand the context of each section, look at the questions and across the questions in each section, evaluate the prerequisites and what they mean, and treat it like a backlog to be approached over a longer term. Every section and question of the application has a purpose and your understanding of that purpose will not only help you through the review, it will help you be a better coach.

Second, overachieve the CSC prerequisites. The prerequisites are included to create an initial bar to achieve, but achieving them does not mean you will pass the certification. The prerequisites include 1) being an active CSP with years of experience in using Scrum, 2) Three years and 1,500 hours of coaching (not as a ScrumMaster) across multiple teams/organizations, and 3) Scrum community engagement and leadership. We expect CSC candidates to not only have practiced Scrum, but to have practiced and coached Scrum in multiple team, product, project, and organizational environments. Experience comes not from the depth of one experience, but from the depth and breadth of varying experiences. Additionally involvement in the community is more than just posting to discussion groups, it means taking leadership in your local agile community, speaking at conferences and gatherings, writing articles and more in-depth reviews, and collaborating with (and more importantly engaging with) other industry leaders and your CST/CSC peers. In other words, it means becoming a leader and active partner in our community.

Third, demonstrate a trail of learning and mentoring. While the objective of a Scrum coach is to mentor, one of the best ways to be an effective mentor is to have received mentorship yourself. In reviewing candidates, we look for a history of learning and growing through self-direction and work with others. This includes formal education courses, book reading, conferences and gatherings, user group sessions, and engaging in real work with more experienced agile leaders. This includes learning within and outside of Scrum - we look beyond Scrum because that is where the world of the enterprise coach lives - with leaders and organizations. So we look for learning in other dimensions including other agile methods, consulting, mentoring, facilitation, psychology, business, leadership and organizational development. And while there is only one question in the application on your learning and mentoring, it encompasses a world of exploration to master. This is the Shu, Ha Ri of Scrum coaching - learning is never done and we see the CSC as just one step along that learning path.

Fourth, avoid book answers and use your own context. Often times we say "Scrum is easy, implementing it is hard". The same is true with the CSC Application - answering the questions may be done easily by providing generic or book answers, but putting it in the appropriate context to draw out the breadth and depth of your coaching experience and expertise is hard. The CSC Application is the principle product you have to represent yourself in the CSC review process. Thus, the application is a reflection of you, your experience and your approach. And while it may not appear agile to put documentation over collaboration, we believe that a coaches ability to present their ideas clearly and concisely is critical to their ability to communicate and work with clients. Thus, as you are filling out the application, don't just answer the question - put your coaching context and experience into play.

Fifth, be balanced in your answers. Balance is one of those words to live by - balance in diet, exercise, work, play, etc. Balance is a critical success factor for Scrum coaches as well and one of the keys we look for in candidates in both their work with clients and how they present their work in their application. Balancing clear and concise answers with enough context and detail to bring out your own experience, expertise, competencies and approaches will aid you in the review process. We have found that more experienced coaches have the ability to surface the most critical principles with just enough context and support to demonstrate their importance. Less experienced coaches tend to provide either terse responses or ramble through a series of ideas without a clear purpose. This is actually quite easy to see in a review, but very challenging to write in an application because it is a skill learned from years of articulating to clients these same talking points over and over again. Experienced coaches will not only provide this clarity, but also demonstrate a balance in their thought through presenting multiple viewpoints or competing ideas which may both be true. So choose your words carefully and balance clarity, conciseness and context.

Finally, be open for feedback. Einstein is quoted to say "Problems cannot be solved by the same level of thinking that created them." As to be expected, applicants often react defensively toward negative feedback. As David Rock would say - their status has been threatened and they are responding to protect their self image. Agility is not only for organizations, it applies to people (and coaches) too. We find that the more experienced coaches tend to have a more mature ability to reflect on and reappraise feedback to more quickly move from threat to reward. As an applicant, recognize that reviewers are seeing your application from a different perspective and to better understand their feedback, it often helps to put yourself in their shoes. It is easy to blame the system, the people, and the process, but that doesn't move us forward. Working with us to understand your feedback and help us improve our process while also improving yourself goes a long way. Going back to the third point - demonstrate a trail of learning - it actually shows us a great deal with how you deal with failure. 

This concludes the six principles to consider when approaching the CSC application and review process. Some of these principles may required a year or two of work on your behalf to develop the competencies or experience required by the program, the rest require a thoughtful and reflective approach to filling out the application. Visit the Scrum Alliance Coaching Page to review the application requirements further and download your application materials.

What are your thoughts about the CSC and the application process? I am open to your feedback - feel free to comment here or contact me directly - pete at trailridgeconsulting dot com.

Article Rating

Current rating: 5 (2 ratings)

Comments

Arijit Sarbagna, CSP,CSM, 9/16/2011 12:25:08 AM
Thanks Pete. A nice article, very informative. I wanted to share a concern in this regard, as you mentioned about Scrum gatherings/events, quite unfortunately, most of the events are outside South-East Asia region - which in fact, is showing a great passion & growth about Scrum. So, even though there are numerous willing people - who would love to join such Scrum gatherings, it is often too difficult to adjust time in particular to attend those. Why don't we start something in these areas as well?

I have personally been doing Scrum Coaching for about 3 years now & I get amazed to see the kind of interest Scrum is generating in this region (e.g. I am from India & I have been visiting places like Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Kolkata). Will look forward to see more drive from Scrum Alliance on this.

Thanks once again for the wonderful post.

Regards
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 9/16/2011 9:40:15 AM
Arijit, thank you for your comments. While there are fewer events in South-East Asia, there are opportunities. Check out the Japan Scrum Gathering - http://www.scrumalliance.org/events/381-scrum-gathering-tokyo---october----

We do have one CSC in China - Daniel Teng, and we have a couple of others in the pipeline application process. One of the traits we are seeking as Certified Scrum Coaches is your leadership in the community and fostering local events, user groups and gatherings. If there are none such events, it sounds like an opportunity to create some.

Keep up the good work!
Marko Majkic, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 9/23/2011 4:18:52 AM
Great article Pete. You are putting light on pretty vague CSC application process. I did recognize myself in examples you mentioned. My application rejection was the best thing to happen to me - so awakening and directing me to magnificent journey of my coaching education. And yes, I did invest a lot in my coaching education (both time and money), but being on this path was so, so rewarding and still is. I've been given great opportunity to positively influence organizations, teams and people. I intend to re-apply for CSC soon and I'm sure that it will be accepted this time. And I'm sure that I have much to share with the coaching community.
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 9/23/2011 9:25:31 AM
Marko,

Thank you for sharing your experience through the CSC process. We often hear comments like this - from people who are accepted and those who have been rejected. We recognize it is never easy to receive bad news and often candidates get defensive initially. It is our goal to use this certification as an opportunity to grow all of us. We look forward to your renewed application and reflection of your learning through this experience.
Steven Mak, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 9/27/2011 1:09:56 PM
Hi Arijit, Agile Singapore has regular events in Singapore. As far as I know of, it is probably the most consistent and active group in SE-Asia.

http://www.meetup.com/Agile-Singapore/

I know there are many activities in India as well. AFAIK, There's one CSC in India too.
Arijit Sarbagna, CSP,CSM, 10/3/2011 3:12:28 AM
Hi Steven,

Thanks for the pointers. Actually there are quite a few CSCs (if I am not mistaken) in India. But the spread is still quite limited in Eastern India (where I belong). :( Kolkata is the metro city in Eastern India & it has over 100s of SCMs, but we are yet to get into the organization capability state. Perhaps this is not the correct forum to discuss this, but since CSC application does value participation in Agile Events, something happening in close proximity would have been benefitial - both from aspiring CSC perspective & more so from spreading Agile values.
Timothy Korson, CST,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 10/17/2011 3:26:53 PM
Pete, is there a program lead for the Certified Scrum Trainer (CSC) Program? Can you share who that is?
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 10/17/2011 3:57:48 PM
Tim,

Assuming you meant program lead for the Certified Scrum Coach (CSC) Program - yes, that is me. You can contact me at pete at trailridgeconsulting dot com.
Kirill Klimov, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 11/23/2011 7:55:12 AM
Pete, great article, thnx.

I can also see huge difference in popularity of CSC and CST programs. And I don't think the main difference is caused by difficulty of applying to CSC.
As I see it, a lot of people are not applying to CSC at all (while they technically could do) because they don't see enough value behind this certification program. With CST all is clear - it is clear, why you should apply. With CSC it is not - there is no direct impact.

Do you see what I mean and agree this is a challange?
As a program lead, could you, please, bring some insights on plans of your team (if any) to improve this situation?
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 11/28/2011 10:01:25 AM
Kirill,

Thanks for your comment. You are correct that there is a key difference between the CST and the CSC in that the former can certify CSM and CSPO through a workshop and the CSC cannot. In creating the CSC program, we recognized this concern and have been working with the Scrum Alliance to evaluate equivalency paths toward certification. Not all people learn best through a 2 day workshop. We often find that through some informal education and appropriate coaching in context, you can educate and prepare CSM and CSPO candidates much more effectively. This is one way we are looking to improve the value of the CSC. What is your thought about this?In the mean time, we are working hard to build the highest quality program with some of the best coaches in the world.
Kirill Klimov, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/8/2011 4:19:22 PM
Pete,
Unfortunately, often I don't see real value after person participated in CSM class. And that is not problem with trainer. 2 days class is nothing by itself. It should be beginning of long learning road (or not beginning). But that not always happens and that devalues CSM and CSPO as programs, IMHO.
Therefore I'm little concerned that making it possible for CSC to "create" CSMs and CSPOs through some other process (than training) would change the picture. Still that is right thing to do, in my opinion. Right now I'm involved in such transition and I could see that through continuous coaching people get much higher value than via 2 days class. They have much more reasons to be considered as CSMs than a lot of class graduates, who has 0 experience and no desire to learn further.
What I think might help, is some PR/marketing program, that might help CSCs to sell their services better, standing them apart from all other coaches. I'm not sure that if some company need Agile coach now, they gonna check if he is CSC or not. If that would happen in most of the cases, I think number of applications would raise significantly.
Michael Jebber, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/12/2011 12:25:30 PM
Thank you Pete for shedding more light on what you are looking for with this certification. I have been a coach at our company for some time now and IΓÇÖm glad to see that the CSC is not earned through a course or classroom event. I believe coaching at its core cannot be adequately defined in a classroom or test-like atmosphere. One of my favorite quotes comes from The Coach Vince Lombardi who said, ΓÇ£Coaches who can outline plays on a black board are a dime a dozen. The ones who win get inside their player and motivate.ΓÇ¥ I like many I know argue that Scrum is not a methodology or process or framework, itΓÇÖs a mindset, so in order to know it you really must experience it. Having access to someone who has ΓÇ£been there, done thatΓÇ¥ helps, but having someone who can motivate you to think past your knowledge, outside of it, yet guide you towards your own best conclusions is really invaluable. As Andrew Carnegie said, ΓÇ£No man can become rich without himself enriching others.ΓÇ¥
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/12/2011 1:36:38 PM
Michael,

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate that quote from Vince Lombardi and agree with the depth of agility as a mindset is critical in our coaching abilities.
Eric Yang, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 12/13/2011 10:14:31 AM
Thank Pete for your information. As I am working to get certified as a CSC, tips here are very valuable and helpful!!
Mohan A, CSM, 12/23/2011 12:30:02 AM
Pete, the article is well articulated and focused to help the prospective CSC aspirants.
Erwin Verweij, CSP,CSM,CSPO, 1/10/2012 9:14:03 AM
Thanks Pete, Great article. It shows that most of us have a long way to go, including myself as I intent to become a CSC on day. I believe that the journey is part of becoming a coach and that even if you are already there, the learning never stops. But this is something you describe here. So all i can say is that i'm looking forward to this journey. Sounds like a lot of fun.
Tushar Somaiya, CSM,CSPO, 2/2/2012 10:27:05 AM
Thanks Pete! The insights here does help a lot in understanding why the process is the way it is. I kinda like it!!

Pete, while going through the CSC application documentation, I read this line:

"No text in this document represents decisions
made by the Scrum Alliance, its board, or its members."

and was wondering about the point you guys are trying to make here. Would you kindly explain what you are trying to convey by this statement please?

Thanks in advance.

Warm Regards,
Tushar Somaiya
www.tusharsomaiya.com
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 2/2/2012 11:58:30 AM
Tushar,

I do not know where you are reading this text. I do not remember us putting this text in the document and I do not see it in the CSC Application or the CSC Application Web Pages. Can you be more specific or email me off-line the specific reference?
Juan Banda, CST,CSP,CSM,CSD,CSPO, 4/10/2012 8:04:53 AM
Thanks for this article Pete, really helps to clarify the process for becoming a CSC.

I specially like the part where you mentioned the Shu Ha Ri, it took me years to understand that the same principle that my senseis taught me years ago could be extrapolated to Scrum, funny how the obvious things sometimes are not so obvious.

Also liked the part were you talked about being prepared to received feedback, humbleness is another condition that comes with true practitioners that walk the path of Shu Ha Ri.

Lastly, I consider myself in the Ha stage, I still need to fail more and learn from my mistakes. Also I need to learn how to "break the rule" in more creative ways. Your article really inspired my to continue in my path.
Armond Mehrabian, CSM, 9/18/2012 2:20:29 PM
Thanks for the thorough treatment of the CSC application process. I only wish that the application clarified the expectation of reviewers and their desired level of detail as you have in this post. The exact words used in the application are "[the entire application] may take you several hours to complete." This is very different from "people tell us that they spend months (and some years) on the application. We intended for this." Since many of the questions are open ended, it's useful to know how much content is expected by the reviewers. It would be useful to make this expectation explicit as you have here. You may want to consider modifying the application to make this expectation clear.

I am very glad that the bar is set high on the CSC/CST certifications. A credential is only as valuable as the holder's competence to meet the client's actual needs. I'm very glad that the Scrum Alliance is being very judicious in the professionals that it certifies with these designation. It only makes the serious candidates more eager to attain them.

Regards,

- Armond Mehrabian (twitter: @armond_m)
Harry Long, CSP,CSM, 4/11/2013 1:58:46 PM
I have sent my application in only once - and finally received some feedback. Sadly, the feedback was to re-send the application. I believe I understand and "over-acheived" the goals in the application, as I have been doing enterprise coaching for several organizations - I think that the feedback I would propose is to keep ALL applicants in the loop as much as possible. The worst thing about the CSC is thinking you wrote a large application and it went into a "black hole"...
Pete Behrens, CST,CSC,CSP,CSM,CSPO, 4/11/2013 3:10:40 PM
Harry,

I am sorry that you have to feel like a public forum is the way to criticize the CSC Process. From our records of your application process, you submitted an application on January 6, 2011. On the very next day (January 7, 2011), you received an email stating that your application was not complete as you did not include references. On February 21, 2011 you checked back to see if your references had been submitted, and one week later (February 28, 2011) you were sent an email indicating that no references had been received for your application. After that, there were no more communications until this posting. Thus, your application was never submitted to even be reviewed because it was never completed. I apologize if you feel that we should be responsible for following up with you to complete your reservation - we leave that up to the applicants. While we are not perfect, we do take great pride in being open and communicative during the CSC application process with the applicant.
SenthilVel Marimuthu, CSP,CSM, 11/14/2013 12:45:25 AM
Hi Pete,
Am in the Process of filling up my Application for CSC.....few clarifications..... 1.can you please let know if a CSC Applicant Should always be in a Consulting Company?
2. Related to the Community Leadership , Do we have a minimum number of Conferences to be attend in a yr and so? Why asking , is the Applicant might have organized \Conducted one or Two conferences, could have been active based on his work , and due to work related Time bound he may be hard pressed with time , So can you recommend on how much Hrs is a Measuring\Gating aspect given for the community related Leadership?
3. and the same info reqd for online Articles Submissions and so......

Looking for your guidances here...

Thanks
SenthilVel M CSM CSP
Saravana Bharathi, CSP,CSM, 3/24/2014 2:38:52 PM
Pete,

Thanks for the informative article on CSC application process. Hoping to get CSC certified in the near term.

You must Login or Signup to comment.