In the last month, I’ve occasionally been asked why I chose to pursue my Professional Scrum Trainer (PST) accreditation rather than become a Certified Scrum Trainer (CST). Even more frequently I’ve been asked what the difference is. As a PST I can teach Professional Scrum Master (PSM) classes accredited by Scrum.org rather than Certified Scrum Master (CSM) accredited by Scrum Alliance.
Students often notice that the CSM needs to be renewed every two years while the PSM does not need renewing. The CSM requires taking a class while the PSM only requires passing an exam. Since the PSM exam is generally considered more difficult than the CSM exam, the class is recommended for people who don’t already have a deep knowledge of Scrum. The PSM course has standard materials maintained by Scrum.org while every CST creates and maintains their own course materials, in accordance with learning objectives mandated by Scrum Alliance. A more thorough breakdown can be found in this.
In fairness, there are more similarities than differences between the two. Both classes are based on the Scrum Guide. Both accrediting organizations require changes to course materials to correspond with updates to the Scrum Guide, the official definition of Scrum. Both certifications are highly regarded in industry and show that the credential holder understands Scrum. To answer the question in the header, no that’s not what my business partner, Mike Stuedemann, has. He is a CST so this also gives us the benefit of adding Scrum.org classes to our list of offerings.
Recovering Project Manager
While those comparisons are interesting for potential students, they aren’t the reasons I chose Scrum.org. Like many of our life decisions, my choice is related to failures from my past. I often refer to myself as a “recovering project manager”. I spent a decade of my life managing waterfall projects and building command-and-control habits. I viewed estimates as commitments, I took ownership of delivery, and my professional self-worth was dependent on meeting scope and date forecasts that I had shared with the business. Those habits proved difficult to unlearn.
After getting my PMP and subsequently becoming burned-out as a project manager in a high-pressure environment, I decided to get back into contracting. I was trained as a CSM and had a series of Scrum Master gigs. As a Scrum Master, I applied Scrum through the lens of a project manager, focusing on enforcing the process rather than the values. I mandated the use of Story Points and task estimates because I needed a project plan. (Scrum doesn’t include those techniques, but I required them.) I goaded developers into updating hours remaining on tasks daily so I could see a task-level burn-down chart. When developers suggested eliminating those practices during the Sprint Retrospective, I considered it but then said ‘no’. In short, I didn’t get it. Rather than encouraging self-management from the team, I had created a command-and-control environment where I was making decisions that belonged to the team.
Why I chose Professional Scrum
Scrum.org places an emphasis on “Professional Scrum”. It’s in the names of all their certifications: Professional Scrum Master, Professional Scrum Product Owner, Professional Scrum Trainer and more. It’s more than a marketing tactic: it’s how Scrum.org differentiates itself in the market. This blog talks about how Professional Scrum requires a focus on Scrum Values, a growth mindset, an orientation for outcomes, ongoing learning and development and ethical behavior. Dave West, CEO of Scrum.org, further elaborates on professionalism in this post.
What I failed to realize as a newly minted Scrum Master was the importance of the Scrum Values and Empiricism in creating space for a self-managing team. I love that the PSM course focuses on creating transparency through Scrum Artifacts and Events. The Scrum Values are foundational to create a transparent environment. How can we have transparency without Respect, Courage and Openness? How can we deliver business outcomes without Focus and Commitment? Professional Scrum teaches the Scrum process, but more importantly, it emphasizes the Scrum Values which are really the engine that gives Scrum life.
As a recovering PMP and Professional Scrum Trainer, I look forward to helping Scrum Masters understand what really makes Scrum successful. I’ll be helping them to see the difference between “mechanical Scrum” and Professional Scrum, infused with Empiricism and Scrum Values, achieving valuable business outcomes. In short, to be Professional Scrum Masters