Becoming a Certified Scrum Professional

Follow the Road

Considering the increasing number of companies practicing Agile, getting a ScrumMaster on the rolls has almost become mandatory. Consequently, lot of people (including PMPs) are getting themselves certified as ScrumMaster (or Certified Scrum Developers / Certified Scrum Product Owners) . After two days training and passing the exam, they consider the job done. If you are one of them, then your journey has only started, my friend.

While becoming a Certified ScrumMaster is relatively simple and straightforward, becoming a Certified Scrum Professional is a different ballgame altogether. If you pay attention during the two day training, you can pass the CSM exam with flying colours. CSP, however requires constant practice. If the input for the CSM exam was theory, then its practice is the input for CSP exam. Consider an analogy – most of us would have studied trigonometry in school or college; how many of us can find the distance to an object close by using triangulation. The inability stems from lack of practice.

CSM training throws a lot of jargons at you – product backlog, burndown chart, sprint planning, etc. It all sounds great during the training. You understand it and take the exam. Get certified and then sit back and relax. Not so fast, mate.

The two-day training should act as only an appetiser. You are yet to enjoy your full course as part of the on-job-training when you practice what you have learnt. You may have a product backlog but you don’t’ spend enough time grooming it. You practice sprints but every once in a while you let it extend for a day or two as the team wasn’t able to finish everything they had committed. You estimate stories but the estimates are not provided by the team. I remember talking to a friend who, on knowing that my company practiced Agile, was boasting about the Agile practices at his company. I simply asked, “who estimates the stories”. Prompt came the reply, “the client”! I wish we were talking face to face rather than on phone and he could see my jaw drop.

Even though the title of the certification has only “Scrum” in it, it also requires a fair brush with methodologies that go well with Scrum, for example eXtreme Programming (XP). I don’t really think that Scrum talks about automation or test driven development but you can’t be fully Agile without it. Lean thinking again works well with Scrum. “Lean inventories” is mirrored in Scrum by having stories detailed just enough to drive conversations, to have stories only higher up in the backlog as detailed and the lower ones as coarse grained. Yes, you learnt about it during your CSM training, but are you practicing it?

ScrumAlliance provides a list of books / articles, one should be well versed with before taking the CSP exam. But that is only a guideline (just like the Agile Manifesto). You need to have a good exposure to Agile practices if you want to earn your certification. The questions are not from a theory book. They are based on scenarios. And most of the times, all the options provided are right. Your experience would tell you which option is the best.
When I got certified as a CSM about 3 years back, I thought I knew it all. But today, after receiving my CSP certification, I can say with full confidence that the CSM was only a spark, the noodles were cooked by a steady practice, observing and stirring (or in terms of Agile – inspecting and adapting).

If you have noticed the number of times I have used the word practice in various forms in this article, you would realise what I am trying to tell you. So my humble suggestion to you is to earn your CSP certification by going through the motions of Agile practices. Follow the road amigo, not the steps.

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